Summary: This sermon explores the three occassions on which Jesus wept. It is topical and alliterated. Power Point is avaible upon request.
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church
Ella Wilcox once witnessed a strange phenomenon in the middle of a train car. Sitting quietly by herself, Ella noticed a woman near the front of the car who was crying. There was nothing subtle about it either. This wasn’t a single tear rolling down her check; rather, she was sobbing very noticeably. At first, Ella was a little bothered by the persistent weeping, but then she noticed another passenger in the car—an older gentlemen sitting near the rear of the car telling funny stories to the passengers sitting around him. Everybody smiled and chuckled along with the old man. After a while, some of the other passengers in the car started moving. They were getting up from their seats in the front, near the crying woman, and gravitating toward the back near the man telling the funny stories. Out of this experience, Ella Wilcox wrote the well-known adage: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone.”
It is surprising how true that statement can be in our world sometimes. There is something uninviting about a person in tears, something that makes us uncomfortable. And yet, on rare occasion, there are instances when just the opposite is true.
I vividly remember the 1991 NBA finals. After four hard fought years of disappointment, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pipen had just lead the Chicago Bulls to their first ever NBA Championship over Magic Johnson and the Lakers. Spectators, TV crews and journalists rushed the floor. Everyone was celebrating and excited, but all eyes were on Michael Jordan, sitting against the wall in the locker room clutching that Championship trophy with tears streaming down his face. That image is burned into the memory of countless basketball enthusiasts. There was just something compelling about the tear on his face. That outpouring of emotion, just added to his legacy and his greatness in the game of basketball.
Although it was never captured on video nor broadcast in High Definition, there has always been something equally compelling, even captivating, about the shortest verse in the English Bible, John 11:35, which says simply, “Jesus wept.”
Have you ever stopped to wonder what could possibly bring tears to the eyes of God? Can you imagine the face of Jesus moist with his own tears? Are they tears of weakness or of strength? Of fear or compassion?
The Bible actually records three different times when Jesus cried, each time in a different place and for a different reason. Every single tear that Jesus wiped from his cheek is meaningful and significant. I’d like for us to take a closer look at each of these occasions in the life of Christ and see just what it was that brought tears to the eyes of the Son of God!
The first time that we see Jesus crying, as I’ve already mentioned, is here in John 11 and this first set of tears are tears of sympathy.
• TEARS OF SYMPATHY
Jesus was across the Jordan River, where John had been baptizing in the early days, when he got the news that his dear friend Lazarus was sick. The Bible says that Jesus loved Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus very much. “Yet, when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days” (John 11:5-6 GWT). The trip to Bethany (Lazarus’ hometown) was about twenty miles from where Jesus was. Had he left immediately, Jesus could have been at Lazarus’ side by nightfall. Instead, he chose to wait two more days before leaving for Bethany. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was already dead.
Jesus’ decision not to go directly to Bethany would provide him the opportunity, not only to demonstrate his divine power, but more importantly, to connect intimately with Lazarus’ sisters—Mary and Martha—sharing in their pain and bathing them in his love!
After Martha returned from meeting Jesus, she pulls Mary aside privately and tells her, “The Teacher is here and he is asking for you” (vs. 28). Then the Bible says:
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
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. (vs. 32-35 NIV)
John 11:35 may be he shortest verse in the Bible, but it speaks volumes. Over the years this little verse has stirred more than a little curiosity. People wonder why exactly Jesus wept. Some think it was simply because his friend Lazarus was dead. That’s possible. After all, Jesus was fully human and experienced grief just like we do. On the other hand, Jesus had already told Martha that he planned on resurrecting Lazarus, so I really don’t thin that’s it. No, the key to unlocking vs. 35 is found in vs. 33: “When Jesus saw Mary crying and the Jews who came with her also crying, he was upset and was deeply troubled” (vs. 33 NCV).