This post is dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Maria Rodriguez (Titi Meri) who, 4 years ago today, went to be with the One who wiped away her tears, while we wait for Him to wipe ours, too. Also, for all those for whom the Holidays are not so Happy because you miss someone so very much.
John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible.
I’ll admit, while I always found it interesting that the Bible stops to mention Jesus in tears, I never paused to think about why.
I could always imagine myself as the All-Powerful Savior of the world, who has the ability to raise people from the dead (I’ve done it before, right?), arriving at a funeral with excitement about what I’m about to do next. “Wait till they get a load of this!” I say to myself. Wouldn’t you? I would. At least, I think I would – or maybe that’s the sinner talking.
It’s confounding to me that Jesus doesn’t do this, if I just take a moment to think about it. What’s interesting to me is that, initially, He does what many of us do or tell others during times of grief. We give hope, or at least we try.
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are [f]the Christ, the Son of God, even [g]He who comes into the world.”
Martha did not understand Jesus to mean that He would raise Lazarus from the dead in those next few moments. She understood that she would see him one day in the humanly very distant future. I’m not sure if the situation surprised him in some way as I wonder why He wasn’t more blatant about what He had planned to do. Maybe it seemed wrong to bypass grief.
But something happened.
We already know from Jesus’ first miracle that Jesus doesn’t seem to have much of a problem going “off plan.” I honestly have no idea if that’s what happened in this case or maybe it didn’t happen in the way He thought it would. All I can observe is His behavior according to what’s written in the text.
30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and [h]was troubled, 34 and said,“Where have you laid him?” They *said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, [i]have kept this man also from dying?”
Jesus was troubled.
Whatever Jesus’ plans were, one does not plan on being “troubled.”
Another translation uses the word angry. This makes sense to me because he then seems to urgently ask where they laid him the way an angry person would.
Then he weeps. His eyes don’t just well up with tears. There is no single tear coming down with cheeks. He’s not fighting His own emotions for the sake of keeping it together for those around Him. He doesn’t stop to consider that His credibility, His manhood, nay, His Deity might be at stake.
No. Jesus was overtaken with emotion, with grief, with empathy, maybe even with anger. He experienced the pain of emotional suffering. Jesus’ came face to face with Death, His greatest enemy who, this time, had taken His friend and He wept, audibly.
Yes, Jesus had friends. Jesus needed friends.
I know not if there were perhaps a myriad of reasons Jesus chose to raise Lazarus from the dead. I don’t think He would be opposed to multi-tasking here. Could it possibly be that He chose to raise Lazarus from the dead because some of his closest and loved friends were suffering? Could it be that He raised Lazarus to relieve His own suffering and at the same time give others a reason to believe?
38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, *came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus *said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, *said to Him, “Lord, by this time [j]there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus *said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said,“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the [k]people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.
Again, there seems to be a sense here that Jesus made a request, and God agreed to it. He’s thankful.
And still reeling from that raw emotion, “He cries out, with a loud voice…”
I imagine myself in that scene, with Jesus raising His voice like that, I would probably pass out in awestruck wonder. Emotion, anger, and authority commanding Death to leave.
I think sometimes we confuse our fallen nature with our humanity and we fail to feel the emotions we’ve been given. Jesus had no sin, yet He grieved, He was angered, He loved – greatly. This little piece of writing is not about the Resurrection. This is about being ok with feeling the emotions that we feel are going to break us, and sometimes they do, the grief and the Death and the Disappointment, because if we don’t give ourselves that permission, the Resurrection will have very little meaning and very little power.
Jesus did it. Jesus wept. We can, too.