A lot of people joke about this verse of scripture found in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” But it really is one of my favorite verses of the bible, because there is so much depth to it simple two-word sentence. If you are not familiar with the verse, this is the point in Jesus’ story where here arrives on the scene of a close friends wake of sorts. See his friend had died several days before, and on the property of this friend He is greeted with disappointment. “If you had only been here, he would not have died.” These were Jesus’ friends. He was friends with many people, but I imagine that Lazarus and his family were like kitchen table friends. They were not disciples in the sense that Jesus’ was responsible for them as a teacher. They were probably one of the few who actually ministered to Jesus by providing for him and giving him a place to stay on occasion. Needless to say, they knew Jesus well and were well aware of his ministry and miracles. This is why they knew that He had the ability to heal the sick and even bring people back from the edge of death. But in their eyes now, it was too late.
So the question we have to ask is, why did Jesus cry?
He didn’t show up on the scene and cry, but only after seeing how the family was grieving and having two women mention to him how they had wished he could have been there before Lazarus died and seeing an entire community there grieving as well. The bible says that Jesus was moved by their sadness and was greatly troubled. Not that He too was sad with them, but that He was sad because they were so sad. Some translations use the word “angry”. Jesus wept because he was upset. They were grieving like people who have no hope in resurrection. Jesus had already encouraged one sister that Lazarus would one day rise again and her response was so typical of our weak faith, “Yes Lord, I know all that heaven stuff, but in my reality he is dead.” (in so many words) Jesus wept because He knew that His time was short and looking out on this crowd, no one, not even His close friends, really understood who He was. They were standing in the presence of the “Word who became flesh”, the one who was there in the beginning of creation, who had power over every element of existence, and they didn’t have real hope in resurrection. They had a traditional faith and theological belief in their eternal existence, but it wasn’t real to them. Jesus wept over their inability to understand who he was. He didn’t use tricky words when he told them that there isn’t just a resurrection, but “I am the resurrection and the life.” Yet they mourned as if this was the end.
Jesus does the unexpected.
Everyone knows how this story ends. Jesus does what is probably the most disturbing miracle of his ministry, but also the most profound. He asks that they roll back the grave stone. “But he’s been dead for days, he will stink!” the sisters exclaim. Jesus reply, “Have you not been paying attention, I am telling you that God is doing something!” (again, my paraphrasing) They roll away the stone, and Jesus say’s a brief prayer and then yells out dramatically, “Lazarus, come out.”
The next part of the story is a little more than my imagination can handle. A man who has been dead for three days. Who’s body had surely already started to decompose. Rigamortis had definitely set in, so his body was probably stiff and sore. I have no doubt that in Lazarus’ perspective, that his resurrection was a traumatic experience, no doubt also for the witnesses there. I imagine that observers there were first shocked and in awe, but then followed a deep fear of God and a complete reevaluation of who this Jesus fellow was.
What does it mean to us?
It’s easy to make faith a story that we tell and not the foundation of our reality. Of all the influences in our lives, it’s easy to place Jesus down the list. He was so humble, so kind and good-natured. Teaching so much of forgiveness and love. We think that if Jesus is third place in our life, then he will just be happy that he is there at all. But he wasn’t and isn’t. He wept. He was angry. And then he proved himself in a way that was gut wrenching and frightening. Placing Jesus as the core to your life and faith and letting that lead you means that you understand that this life and existence is not the end. Jesus has power over death, but outside of Lazarus, he let many others pass on. Because this life isn’t suited for us forever. This life is full of turmoil and sadness, brought on by sin and separation from our Heavenly Father. Jesus came to fix that, but not by mending our reality with a band-aid of healing and Lazarus miracles, but by resurrecting us from death and into an eternal life with him, in a place that he has made for us. A place that is suited for us to spend forever with him, no more sin, no more separation.