“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
I was feeling hemmed in by the writing workshop format I’d chosen for my blog, when it occurred to me that this page does in fact belong to me and I have freedom to post pretty much anything I want on it. With that in mind, I’ve decided to follow my thoughts down a different kind of rabbit trail this time.
During the past week I’ve been thinking about the account of Lazarus’s death and resurrection in John 11. Mainly I’ve been pondering Jesus’s interactions with the grieving sisters. The most significant point in the passage for me is not Christ’s calling Lazarus back to life, but the fact that Jesus first wept.
We’re not told the reason for Christ’s tears. Were they prompted by compassion for Mary’s and Martha’s sorrow? Their lack of faith? The burden of the cross? The coming death he himself would have to bear? The great cost of sin?
Jesus knew that Lazarus would be walking out of that tomb, and that the mourners’ grief would turn to joy. He had just finished telling Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). And still he wept. And still he weeps with us today.
Human sin introduced death into God’s perfect world. Sin’s by-products are separation and loss. Every time a loss plunges us into sorrow, Jesus feels that grief with us because he carried it.
According to 1 Cor. 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” First Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” When Jesus assimilated the weight of all human sin at the cross, he experienced with it the grief, sorrow, regret, shame, guilt, and entire range of human emotion that accompany sin. At his death, Jesus knew exactly whatever we experience now.
When we are filled with sorrow, Jesus understands it because he absorbed that very sorrow into himself. He knows it not empathetically, but experientially. He has felt our loss, our grief, because it was included in the burden of sin he carried to the cross. When we cry, his tears mingle with ours because he shares our pain in an intimately personal way. He knows it as his own pain.
That is how Jesus is able to comfort us with peace that passes human comprehension. He himself was plunged into the deepest pit of sin and sorrow, but broke its power when he emerged in life. Christ is our promise of restored relationship, renewed life, and eternal joy.
And knowing all that, and having made all that available to us, Jesus still weeps with us as he wept with Mary and Martha. Even while seeing the other side, Christ’s compassion compels him to continue bearing the burden of our pain here and now. I am dumbstruck by the scope of that overwhelming love.