Jesus wept. (John 11:35 NIV)
I always knew that this was the shortest verse in the Bible. However, I was not always aware of the circumstances that made Jesus weep. Why does Jesus weep?
Jesus had good friends, Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, who lived in the village of Bethany. Lazarus became ill. Martha and Mary sent a messenger to Jesus to tell him that Lazarus is sick. You would have thought that Jesus would come immediately to try to lay his healing hand on Lazarus. Instead, Jesus waits 2 more days and says this.
When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ (John 11:4 NIV)
Lazarus did die. He was in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus came to Bethany. Both Martha and Mary say the same thing to Jesus when he arrives.
‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ (John 11:21 NIV)
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.’ (John 11:32 NIV)
After talking to his friends, Martha and Mary, and seeing the people weeping for Lazarus, Jesus was overwhelmed with grief. This is where John tells us this. Jesus wept. As we read the passage, we can see that Jesus wept because the human plight of death was too great for him. He truly felt the loss of his good friend, Lazarus.
We have a natural tendency to postpone the thought of death as much as we can. When I was in my teens, I did not think about death that much. My grandfather and a close uncle of mine passed away. However, they were in their 70’s and they both had lived long lives. Then we found out that a friend of ours, at high school, who believed in Jesus, was suffering from lymphoma. He went home to be with God within 6 months. It was at my friend’s death that I realised that death is real. I realised that I was not invincible.
Death is inevitable for all of us as human beings. It was real for Lazarus. It was real for Jesus. It is real for us. Jesus is about to do the 7th sign in the Gospel of John. Before he does the 7th sign, this is what he says:
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26 NIV)
Jesus says that he is the resurrection and the life. He does not say he gives resurrection, or he gives life. He says that he IS the resurrection and the life. “If you want to see true resurrection life right now while you are alive, believe in me. If you want life when you die, trust me. Do you believe this?”
With these words, Jesus calls out to Lazarus to come out from the tomb. Lazarus comes out with this hands and feet still wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth round his face.
Each one of us as human beings will need to face this question: What do I believe about death? I will experience it some day. Jesus makes a bold claim that he is the resurrection and the life. Can we trust Jesus with our life? Can we trust Jesus with our death?