Rethinking Jesus: Jesus wept

by Kyle
published May 23, 2015


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Over the past couple months, several people rather close to me have passed away. When I stop to think about it, I hurt.

I know I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one close to these friends of mine. Not only that, but people die day, and the people close to them suffer for it. Husbands lose wives. Mothers lose sons. Children lose parents. Friends are parted. Death hurts and life hurts even more.

Even Jesus was not immune to the grief of loss.

One of my friends asked me about heaven what heaven is like in light of this kind of loss. The hope of heaven is powerful. The idea of our loved ones being in a place where there is no suffering or pain, but only joy comforts a lot of people. It doesn’t stop the pain, but it provides a salve to rationalize the pain. But it’s a cheap hope. The only way hope can be realized is by dying ourselves. I think the way Jesus handled his grief might be a more durable kind of hope.

Some of Jesus’ closest friends lived in Bethany, right outside of Jerusalem. He stayed with them when he was in Jerusalem or in the region of Judea. Martha was the one who complained when her sister sat to listen to Jesus rather than help make dinner (Luke 10:39-42). Mary, her sister, was the one who washed Jesus’ with perfume and tears the week before he was crucified (John 12:1-8).

The two sisters had a brother named Lazarus. In John 11, Lazarus got sick and died. Jesus wasn’t able to make it to Bethany in time before he died, but Jesus went to the funeral. Before he left for the funeral, he told his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up (John 11:11).” It’s important to remember Jesus knew in advance and understood he would raise Lazarus from the dead before he ever arrived in Bethany.

As Jesus approached the village, Martha saw him first and ran out to meet him. She said the same thing Mary would say when he got to their house: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11:32).” But Jesus responded to both women differently. He gave Martha information on the resurrection, telling her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this (John 11:25-26)?” Even after physical death, those who have believed in Jesus can look forward to physical resurrection because they never experience spiritual death. Jesus identifies himself as the solution for death.

Jesus’s response to Mary was very different. When he saw Mary, “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled (John 11:33).” When Jesus followed her to where Lazarus was buried, “Jesus wept (John 11:35).” That’s the whole verse. It’s the shortest in the Bible. In fact, it explains the Bible.

Remember, Jesus knew what he was about to do. He knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. If he knew the immediate problem would soon be fixed by just uttering a few words, why was he so sad?

Jesus wept because he also knew Lazarus would die again. So would Mary and Martha. Jesus knew he never intended anyone to die — death is the result of sin. He knew what it would cost him personally to defeat death and to fix this world. Namely, his own death.

Jesus didn’t just cry a little bit. He lost it. Please don’t think of a composed, peaceful Jesus with a tear rolling down his cheek. Don’t think of uncontrollable wailing, either. Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, Jesus broke composure and grieved deeply and sincerely. He grieved all the things he knew about death and sin. He grieved how different the world was from what he wanted it to be.

And he still does. Even with death defeated, it’s effects are still heavy on this world. His grief over death explains the whole story of the Bible. God had created a perfect world, humans in league with Satan had ruined it and God set about executing a plan to restore the perfect world he created in the first place because he hated — and still hates — what this world has become.

Do you want real hope? It’s not in heaven. Heaven is good, but we were not made for heaven. We were made to live in a perfect world.

Real hope comes from knowing how badly God hates what has just happened to your loved one. It comes from knowing death is not the end of the story. It comes from knowing how hard God is fighting to fix this world and God will win the battle in the end. Hope is knowing the end of the story is already written and the author and victor are one in the same, and he is good.

It will still hurt. It will still hurt a lot. But God Almighty himself will still fix it because it hurts him more than it hurts you. Jesus’ answer to grief is his eventual and utter victory. In the end, Jesus will raise the dead more permanently than he raised Lazarus. Death will be completely canceled.

Do you believe this?

What do you think?

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