Summary: This picture, much less this statement, surprises a lot of people. Some people think a deity ought to behave differently. Gods, so the popular image goes, sit far off, throw lightning bolts, or send angels. What kind of god would get so close to his su
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
John 11:25-27; 33-36
Just two little words. In fact it’s the shortest verse in the Bible. That alone gets our attention. Just two little words. But it’s not just the brevity of the statement that gets our attention. It’s what it says. “Jesus wept.” Listen to the passage.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” … 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. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
Jesus wept! Of course, people weep. You know that all too well today. People weep for all kinds of reasons. People weep for reasons that don’t seem to make sense. People weep when they’re happy or surprised or excited. But mostly people weep when they hurt, either for themselves or for someone else. Jesus wept!
The striking thing about the verse is that it is Jesus who weeps. If he were just an ordinary person, it wouldn’t surprise us. But that’s not how the Bible presents him. That’s not what he claimed about himself. This very book of the Bible begins with the powerful claim that Jesus was the very creator of the universe coming to live among men. He was the only begotten of the Heavenly Father (John 1:1-18). In the chapters of John that lead up to these two words, Jesus does many things. He teaches. He prays. He cleanses the temple. He calms a storm. He miraculously feeds a multitude with a handful of fish and loaves. He turns water into wine. He heals the sick, causes the blind to see, and the lame to walk. He does all kinds of powerful things. He does the things you would expect the Son of God to do. Here he does something totally different. Jesus wept!
This picture, much less this statement, surprises a lot of people. Some people think a deity ought to behave differently. Gods, so the popular image goes, sit far off, throw lightning bolts, or send angels. What kind of god would get so close to his subjects? What kind of god shows such emotion? What kind of god weeps?
The God of the Bible does. As startling as these two words are, they really shouldn’t surprise us. The Old Testament said that God’s anointed would be “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isa 53:3). The old hymn captures the image when it says, “Hallelujah, what a savior! Man of sorrows, what a name for the Son of God who came.” Jesus wept.
Why Jesus wept on this particular occasion may shed some important light on what we go through on days like this. It reminds us that the Lord who also weeps will see us through this “valley of the shadow of death.”
Jesus wept because someone had died. His good friend Lazarus was gone. Jesus had stayed in Lazarus’ home many times. They had broken bread together, laughed and joked, and maybe worked together. Lazarus and his sisters were like family to Jesus. Lazarus died. His sisters, Mary and Martha were grief stricken. Jesus wept.
Death is real. At times like this our mind plays tricks on us. We keep telling ourselves. It is all a dream. We will wake up to find that none of this was real. But it is real. We know that. We just wish it weren’t. All of us will someday fall victim to the Grim Reaper. Everyone we know and care about will die. We all know that. In some imaginary world we might think that since we know death is coming, it shouldn’t hurt as much. But that’s not true. Even a prolonged illness doesn’t prepare us. Death is an unwelcome surprise even when we know its coming.
That’s the strange thing about death and dying. It hurts because it so unnatural. Yes, I said unnatural. The Bible says God has put eternity in our hearts. Everything about the human spirit and soul yearns for life without end. The Bible tells us that the first humans were not made to die. But something happened at the beginning of time. In the Garden of Eden everything changed. Sin and death entered the perfect world that God had designed. Death is unnatural. But it is real. In this world as we experience it now, people die. Even friends of Jesus die. And Jesus wept.