For those of us who have spent any time studying the Bible throughout our lives, we’re well aware of the it’s shortest verse, at least in English. In the 11th chapter of the Gospel of St. John, verse 35 uses just two words. “Jesus wept.” This short verse demonstrates a God that is on earth as fully human in my opinion more than any other verse throughout Scripture. However, the feeling in which St. John describes may catch you off guard.
The author tells us that Jesus wept, but he leaves us with only speculation as to why. Like many others, I have always just assumed the tears were brought on by the loss of a close friend. When Lazarus’ sister sends for Jesus to inform Him her brother is ill, she even uses the words, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” That was all the explanation I needed to hear. Jesus’ close friend died of a sickness. That would have caused me to weep myself.
What did it look like for Jesus to weep?
Maybe I was bored the other night with nothing else to do after my wife and our daughter had gone to sleep. Maybe I spent way too much time thinking about this. However, there was something about these two words that bothered me.
There has to be more to it. I read the story over and over again, trying to figure out what would lead the Creator of the world and everything in it to weep over a death in public openly. Yes, no one passes away and loses their life without God knowing in advance, but this story goes a little deeper. Not only did Jesus know that Lazarus was going to die, He purposefully waited for two more days before He even started the journey to see the tomb in which Lazarus was laid in.
We know from previous stories in the Bible that Jesus could have saved the man’s life without going anywhere. He could have only said something, and Lazarus could have been miraculously healed before death was even a part of the story. Jesus was informed His friend was sick and about to die, and Jesus wanted to make sure it had happened before He made His way to Judea.
Using a different approach.
With this fresh in my mind, I have a difficult time accepting the death of Lazarus led Jesus to tears. I think it would have been just the opposite. With the crowd of Jews and religious leaders who were present to comfort Mary and Martha, I would imagine Jesus wouldn’t have been able to hide somewhat of a smirk, knowing what was about to take place.
Keep in mind, Jesus was known for making some quick remarks here and there. Don’t believe me? Read some of the words He would use to correct His disciples. Jesus had a wittiness about Himself. Yes, I could imagine a small smirk as He was on His way to prove everyone wrong.
But instead, we get the shortest verse throughout the entire Bible. Jesus wept. Before you allow your mind to fill with thoughts of a teenage girl watching the “Notebook” in a pair of sweats sobbing into a handful of Kleenex, this word wept doesn’t mean what we see it as today. According to many theologians and biblical scholars, it was a word that was commonly used to describe intense anger. Some Greek scholars will even use the word rage.
Why was Jesus so angry?
So my question again, knowing about the death before hand, even waiting for it to take place, what could have possibly caused Jesus to become so upset the words anger and rage would be used to describe the scene? Before I go any further, I am not basing my thoughts on a commentary I have read. The night I spent so much time and focused on the verse, I looked over three of my favorite commentaries, none of which could provide any meaningful answer. I think this story has a lesson we each need to learn, one other than the fact that Jesus was able to bring someone back to life. We have already learned that from a few other stories.
I am sure you have your own story which will relate but bare with me for a minute. I thought I would be better off to provide an example from my own life to back up what I see when reading this story, what I believe the lesson is we’re meant to learn. This is why I picture Jesus becoming so angry.
How I relate to the story.
Back in 2012, I was a wreck. I had allowed alcohol to ruin my life. When my mother and I sat in her office trying to determine where I would go to start all over, she made it very clear that I was not to be 1000 miles within the city where she lived. For the record, she meant what she said. I hadn’t spoken to my kids in several years. I couldn’t keep a job. There were no friends in the picture, even the ones who drank as I did couldn’t stand to be around me. I had lost everything that held any value in my life whatsoever.
I ended up in a detox facility in Jacksonville Florida. Now, I don’t want to give the wrong idea. I didn’t leave Indiana with the decision to fix things. I went to Florida and continued drinking, making the situation even worse. The day I ended up at Memorial Hospital, I had walked over six miles to get there, after skipping out on a hotel bill that was due. When my five days at the detox unit were over, I made the decision to move into a faith-based halfway house. Let’s just say it was a pretty easy decision. I had nowhere else to go, and I was too good to be homeless.
Causing Jesus to weep.
Yes, I had always believed in Jesus, but I was one of the many who felt this way without knowing Him. I started going to church and participating in every small group I could find. The better I began to know Jesus, the more I started blaming Him for everything. It was His fault I wasn’t a part of my son and daughter’s life. He was to blame for the way things had ended up. Jesus could have miraculously changed the situation at any moment over the previous ten years. But, He chose to sit there and do nothing, probably with a smirk on His face knowing Him.
The life I have been blessed with since September of 2012 has been far more amazing than anything I could have dreamed. However, after meeting Jesus, excitement for the future isn’t what consumed me. I wasn’t trusting Him to provide me with what I needed. There was no willingness to trust Him for what was about to happen after everything I had learned about Him. Instead, I blamed Him for everything. If He had just done something, things would be different. Sound Familiar?
John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11:32 Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Here are the two sisters of Lazarus, who knew exactly who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing. Yet, their first response was to blame Him for what was wrong in their lives. There was no excitement to see Jesus, knowing He had the ability to raise their brother from the dead. It’s hard to say there was any level of trust when they were blaming Jesus for what had gone wrong. I believe this is the source of the anger and rage that Jesus was experiencing in the story.
A miracle that led to the cross.
Here Jesus was, moments from performing the miracle that would ultimately put Him on the cross, and He is receiving blame for circumstances and situations, rather than being trusted for what lays ahead in the future. The New Testament is filled with questions and disagreements between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. But, it was after raising Lazarus from the dead when the religious leaders made a plot to actually kill Jesus.
So, my question to you is, what is going on in your life that is causing Jesus to weep? What do you continually blame Him for instead of trusting Him for something far greater than you could ever imagine? Maybe a better question, what is it that you need to accept that can no longer be blamed on Him?