It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept” and yet its implications are huge. When I was a young man going to Christian schools where Bible memorization was a requirement, my friends and I would often joke that since we had memorized John 11:35, we had done all the Bible memorization that was required of us for that week. (Shout out to me WCA and CCS buds…good times) More often than not we were wrong, and while none of the verses we had to memorize were as long as Esther 8:9, oddly enough none of them were ever as short as John 11:35. And while Bible memorization was a good thing for us, very often we entirely missed the meaning of so many of the verses we had to memorize. It hasn’t been until recently that the Holy Spirit has shown me the depths of this verse. Which is why, by the way, you can read the same verse in the Bible repeatedly and come away with a new appreciation of it each time.
Jesus wept, and why did he weep? If we look at the context of the story in John 11, we see that it is the account of Lazarus, who had become sick and died. But if you read the story you notice some very interesting things. When Jesus first learns of Lazarus being sick he has a very interesting reaction. He declares that the sickness that Lazarus was suffering from would not end in his death and was in fact for the glory of God, and then he stays where he is for two more days. At the end of two days he gathers his disciples, tells them that Lazarus had died and sets out for Bethany, a town that was less than a half a days journey from Jerusalem. And when he arrives he is greeted Martha and eventually by Mary as well, and he sees the townsfolk weeping over the loss of Lazarus. And it is here as Jesus is being led to the grave of Lazarus that we find our verse. Jesus wept.
Jesus wept. Not as some have suggested over anger toward those paid “mourners” who had gathered themselves around Mary and Martha. Jesus wept, not because of the physical loss of Lazarus, Jesus knew of the miracle about to take place. No, Jesus wept, because he was not only fully God but because he was fully human as well. Jesus wept, because of his anger toward sin and its affect on the world. Jesus wept, because of the curse than man was living under, the curse of sin.
A Bible verse you often hear misquoted at a funeral is: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” it is said to bring comfort to those that mourn. But the truth is those that stand at a funeral are standing in the midst of deaths sting. And it hurts to be there. It hurts because those of us left behind are left to wonder about the loved one lying there. Wonder about all the “What if’s…” Wonder if they could have done something more before it was too late. Wonder “if only” they hadn’t said “this” or done “that” when they last saw them. Wish they could have at least hugged them one last time. Wonder about the eternal fate of the loved one. That is deaths sting, and it hurts for far too long. It hurts to lose one that is close to you, and the pain can creep in at the strangest times, even years after they are gone. And we can in those times weep, because Jesus wept.
I heard a young pastor say once, “It’s okay to not be okay, just don’t stay there.” And we can’t stay there. We have a hope in Christ that the rest of the world struggles without. Hope in a glorious future, and a hope in time with no more tears, no more pain, no more sickness or death. No more of living under the curse of sin. But for now we can take comfort that Jesus understands our pain and there will be day when it will be no more.
“But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering
There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face,
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always”
There will be a day, Jeremy Camp, from the album: Speaking Louder than Before