Jesus wept

In the face of death, and in the midst of sadness, ‘Jesus wept’.

John 11:35 is famous for being the shortest verse in the Bible and yet the two words ‘Jesus wept’ contain so much that is helpful as daily we hear of far too many who are suffering so badly. Here are just three things we can learn.

1. Jesus is somebody who cares. He wept not only for the death of his friend Lazarus but also as a result of the sadness his loss had caused all those who loved him.

Jesus weeps with those who weep’ [Romans 12:15]. It’s good to know that our God is not a remote deity who lacks compassion but rather one who is a loving Heavenly Father who comes alongside us in our sadness, one who shares in our sorrow. I believe Jesus still weeps today. Whilst it may be that, in this time of war, he knows a particular grief for the people of Ukraine, Jesus’ tears remain every bit as much for all those who, regardless of where they find themselves, know what it is to experience deep sadness.

They are not a sign of his being weak. Rather they are a sign of the strength of his love.

2. And neither are our tears a sign of our being weak. Jesus’ tears reassure us that it’s right for us to weep, that real tears are an appropriate response to real sadness, that Christianity isn’t a religion of the stiff upper lip in which grief is dismissed with insensitive assertions that ‘all things work together for good’ [Romans 8:28] even though that remains gloriously true for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul writes to his readers in order that they ‘may not grieve as others do who have no hope.’ With these words he makes it clear that we should indeed grieve but that we should remain hopeful even as we do so.

As Jesus stood outside the tomb in which Lazarus lay, his tears were no less real for knowing that he would soon raise his friend back to life. He still grieved – but not as one who had no hope. As the conflict in the Ukraine continues and the death toll climbs we too should weep, but we too can do so in hope, confident that there are better days ahead.

3. Jesus’ tears didn’t stop him loving those for whom he wept. As Jesus wept, not only did he know that he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he also knew that he too would himself soon die too. And he knew that his raising of Lazarus from the dead would be the act which would provoke those who opposed him so vehemently to start making their plans to put him to death. [John 11:53].

Their hardness of heart must surely have saddened Jesus further, adding to his tears. Even so, he didn’t flinch from his purpose, the reason for which he came into the world. Such is the strength of the man who was, and is, God, that he set his face towards Calvary in order that he might bear the punishment for our sin. For there on the cross, dying in our place, he dealt with the horror of sin and thereby secured our salvation and guaranteed that, in time, all death and all sadness would one day be brought to an end.

‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ [1 Timothy 1:15].

Jesus knew that the cost of raising Lazarus to life would be his own death. But it wasn’t just the cost of raising Lazarus to life that was paid for on the day that Jesus was crucified. Jesus’ death was the price that was paid to guarantee our resurrection too.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” [John 11:25]. This is wonderfully true, and it is believing this that will enable us to grieve hopefully, sustaining us, not only when those we love die but as we approach our own death too.

Regardless then of how we die, whether it be at the hand of a microbe or a man, whether it be the result of old age or an accident, the consequence of conflict or cancer, there will still be a place for tears – our own, those who love us and, if John 11:35 teaches us anything, those of Jesus too.

But those tears will come to an end – because Jesus wept that we might know eternal joy, because he died that we might have everlasting life.

Until then, however, we cannot allow ourselves to either wallow in our tears or be content that they are in themselves enough. Rather our sadness for the plight of others must motivate us to act, we must seek to do that to which we are called, namely to love our neighbour as ourselves.

The task is, of course, too great for any of us and at times we will no doubt find ourselves simply overwhelmed by the needs of others. But there is no shame in being asked for more than you have and only being able to give all that you can. As those pictures of pushchairs left for Ukrainian refugees at a Polish railway station remind us, though it’s unlikely that any of us will change the world today, we can still make a world of difference to somebody who needs our help whether they be Ukrainian or someone we know who is closer to home.

No act of kindness then is too small to be of value. Let’s not imagine otherwise. And let’s continue to cry out to the one whose help we all so baldly need, to the God who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think [Ephesians 3:20].

And let us take some comfort from the fact that, when it feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, it is God who still holds the whole world in his hands.


The title image uses a photo of a piece of street art seen on a street in Cardiff.


Related Posts:

To read, ‘Light in the Darkness’ click here

To read, ‘Real Power’, click here

To read, ‘Weeping with those who weep’, click here

To read, ‘But this I know’, click here

To read, ‘I’ll miss this when we’re gone – extended theological version’, click here

To read ‘Rest assured’, click here

To read, ‘T.S. Eliot, Jesus and the Paradox of the Christian Life’, click here

To read ‘Hope comes from believing the promises of God’, click here

To read “Suffering- A Personal View”, click here.

To read “Why do bad things happen to good people – a tentative suggestion”, click here

To read “Luther and the global pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross”, click here

To read, ‘True Love?’, click here

To read, ‘The Resurrection – is it just rhubarb?’, click here

To read, ‘Rest assured’, click here

To read, ‘Hope Comes From Believing The Promises Of God’, click here

To read “Waiting patiently for the Lord”, click here

To read “Good Friday – 2021”, click here

To read “Easter Sunday – 2021”, click here

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