Jesus wept. — John 11:35
It may seem odd to use that particular verse for a devotional. It’s just two wordsâ€”well, three words in Greekâ€”but it has a great deal of meaning. I think that we frequently miss the point in our discussion of this verse. So often we find ourselves debating why Jesus would weep if he knew he was going to raise Lazarus.
The basic idea is that if it is all going to come out right in the end, why be sad? I have heard similar things about Job. Some people are so anxious to avoid the deeply troubling and sorrowful parts of the book that they quickly point out how everything was restored. In response I have to ask whether it would be OK with you if all your children died, but that God gave you some replacements. Put that way it doesn’t look so great, does it?
Similarly, when a Christian loses a loved one there will inevitably be someone, filled with faith, but with perhaps a bit less good sense, who will tell them that they shouldn’t grieve, but should rather be joyful because their loved one has gone to be with Jesus.
But here Jesus, who knows that it is only a few minutes before he will bring Lazarus back, weeps!
Why? I think that when we talk about how soon Lazarus will come back, we’re missing the point. Here are some things that might have made Jesus grieve at the time:
- The disruption of Mary and Martha’s lives as they go through the loss of their loved one
- The suffering of Lazarus in his illness
- The fact that such suffering was commonplace in the world he had come to redeem
- The suffering that was coming up for himself and for his disciples, family, and friends
I’m sure there are many, many more things that might have caused Jesus grief at that moment, and he knew that not all of them would be fixed in the moment when he raised Lazarus.
What should make us different as Christians is not that we don’t grieve, that we don’t feel loss, or that we put a happy face on everything, but rather that we know that all of this is, in fact, temporary, and that we can move through the grief to peace, and yes, even joy.
Joy won’t result from denying the grief. Joy results from living your experience with Jesus. Following Jesus doesn’t mean avoiding the hard parts; look at what he did. But it does mean that we live ready to burst into Easter morning. We grieve, but we don’t do it as though we had no hope.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. — Psalm 30:5 (ESV)
PS:Â This week Jody and I are posting a discussion on Grief and her book which we videotaped in our dining room on our Energion Publications announcement blog.Â I’m going to embed the first part of that discussion below.Â It’s less than 5 minutes of video, and there will be three more sections of similar length posted through Saturday.