Twenty something years ago, Keith and I experienced painful rejection, shocking betrayal and the death of several relationships with people we dearly loved. I distinctly remember waking up one morning and thinking I would never, ever experience happiness again because the pain ran so deep. It was a devastating, dark period in our lives that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
I think Martha and Mary experienced that same kind of joy-robbing, immobilizing pain when their beloved brother died.
John 11:28-37 records the story of how Mary, upon hearing that Jesus had arrived, quickly got up to go meet Him and fell at His feet, lamenting her loss.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
”Where have you laid him?” He asked.
”Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Two words. Jesus wept.
Many theologians have tried to surmise why Jesus wept. Some say perhaps He wept at the state of humanity. Others suggest He wept because of what Satan had done to Jesus’ creation. Perhaps He wept over those who refuse to believe. He could have wept because He knew that Lazarus would be returning to this life and postpone his eternal life in heaven. A lot of “perhaps.”
Jesus’ tears were evident but not explained. And maybe He wept for a combination of reasons but, in my mind (and many, many others), He wept because of His compassionate nature. He loved this family and stayed in their homes many times when He was ministering in their area. He had a thriving relationship with them. Martha and Mary hurt so He hurt. Jesus wept.
He knew what He was going to do days before He arrived. He knew that Lazarus would breath again and that His loved ones would soon rejoice. Yet He must have been overcome by the sorrow that accompanies death. So Jesus wept.
Much can be revealed by these two words. Deity, wearing the mantle of humanity, wept. Our God is not cold and aloof. He is engaged and compassionate.
I believe that Jesus compassionately reached out to Keith and me when we were broken-hearted with grief because of the loss of relationships we considered precious. I’m convinced He entered into our dark, lonely, depressed space and mourned with us over the loss.
God always knew that, in time, He could and would do something miraculous with our brokenness. He would resurrect what appeared to be dead and use it for His glory. He drew both of us into an intimate, sacred place with Him as He taught us where our truest treasure lies. He turned our mourning into gladness. Today, Keith and I will both tell you that we would never want to go through that painful season again but…we would do it a thousand times to be where we are today spiritually.
Yes, if we skip ahead in our reading of John’s gospel, we learn that with the command of Jesus’ voice, Lazarus would live again. But Jesus had a motive that reached beyond His compassion for Martha and Mary. Before He commanded life to arise from the grave, Jesus looked up and prayed aloud. His words revealed that His compassion extends to all people and that His motive for the miraculous is “that they may believe that you sent me.”
In a very brief measurement of time, the village of Bethany experienced gut wrenching sorrow, immeasurable joy and astounding amazement at the revelation that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life…and that His great desire is that “they may believe” so we may live.
Two words. He wept.
Thought to ponder:
For whom am I feeling compassion? What am I going to do for the broken-hearted?