Twice, Jesus wept. Once, before He raised a dear friend who had just died. And once for Himself, before He died and rose from death.
We all know that death brings on tears; but study the events closely in order to understand what was truly happening. (John 11)
The first time, Jesus had intentionally allowed Lazarus to die before going back to Bethany in order to raise him back to life. Tell me: What kind of friend would do that to a friend and then weep, knowing He could have prevented him from dying? Was He weeping the same sorrowful tears of Martha and Mary who, though they knew and believed that their brother would not have died if Jesus had been there, did not absolutely believe He could raise him right there and then? That Lazarus was dead and that was it – the only recourse was to weep?
If you had a father who owned a company at which your friend, not knowing it was your father’s business firm, took a test in order to apply for a job, but felt sure he would fail if you did not help him review, what would you do? If you knew for sure that you could talk to your father and accept your friend even if he failed the test, would you help your friend? Well, as a practical (and cruel) joke, you could let him take the test without your help; and if he fails, you can intervene with your dad to get him a job anyway. Will you then cry if your friend failed? If you saw him and his mother crying and saying “Why didn’t you help me”, will you cry? You would be a hypocrite. But if you told them you could help get him a job anyway; and, no matter how much you try to convince them, they still would not believe, that is when you can cry out of frustration and disappointment.
That must have happened to Jesus. He had not come to console Martha and Mary but to raise a soul – to remove the source of their (and our) sorrow. He had not come to commiserate (grieve or weep with others) but to eradicate their misery. Yes, people thought of how much He loved Lazarus when they saw Him weep. But He wept only at the moment when He heard and saw Mary weeping and saying, “Lord, my brother would not have died if you had been here.” And with all the people around also weeping with Mary, it was more than Jesus could also bear. Words could no longer convey truth under the circumstances; only action can create truth. Only a miracle could turn weeping into a joyous realization. And Jesus had the power to do it!
Jesus knew the outcome of the crisis. Why should He weep? The people did not – and would still not believe: THAT made Him weep.
Did not Jesus intentionally delay His coming to Bethany in order for Lazarus to die so He can be “glorified by it”, that is, by the resurrection of Lazarus? What “moved” Him and “troubled” Him was the sight of people (perhaps, including His disciples) weeping in spite of His firm desire and commitment to show the glory of God by His ability to raise the dead. The death of Lazarus did not cause Him to weep; it was the “unbelief” of people. Not unbelief in the sense of choosing not to believe but in the sense of “under-belief” or not yet fully believing in the absence of clear and undeniable proof. Certainly, He must have been moved by seeing people grieving, His compassion leading Him to empathize with (or to pity) the people and, thus, wept as well.
But there was more to it than mere sorrow or grief due to physical death. When we visit a funeral wake, we condole with the bereaved and could only offer banal words of sympathy and consolation. Jesus’ visit was far from condoling with Martha and Mary: He had come to teach, minister and encourage by literally giving life – not just to the dead but to all the living. “Whoever believes in Me, though he die, he will live again; and he who lives and believes will never die.” Lazarus was His visual aid for a great lesson; and the people were His clueless students.
Jesus’ grief arose form spiritual death caused by unbelief; and, perhaps, foreknowing His own coming death at the hands of unbelievers, He must have seen an advanced picture of probably some of those same people (including His apostles) who would also weep when He would die on the cross. Of course, many would mock and laugh at Him hanging on the cross – that, too, would cause Him to weep. But to see His intimate friends He had labored hard to teach and lead to trust His words and mission cry that moment and at His death could only bring tears of disappointment.
In addition and, perhaps, more importantly, Jesus was also deeply troubled. By death? Certainly not. He had come to strike a first major blow against Satan’s power – death. By grieving people? Perhaps. He had intentionally come to provide the evidence that people needed to put their total trust in His Divine Nature. Yet, their tears seemed to Jesus like being both pleas and insults directed at Him — pleas for some kind of relief (hence, lack of hope) and insults (lack of faith) at His perceived inability to prevent a tragedy. At that point, compassion and lamentation rushed like wild torrents within Jesus’ heart and led Him to weep.
This was the highest test Jesus could put to His disciples and friends – as well as for Himself. And because they failed the test, He wept. Not because of the fact that Lazarus had died or was dead. Remove that thought once and for all! He had wanted and planned for Lazarus to die so He could show His power over death – and life. He had used words so far to tell people He was the Resurrection and the Life; no, He actually raised others from death and from sickness in the past. This was not entirely different.
But not one who was four days in the grave! At least, in some previous cases, no worms had yet eaten their lifeless bodies before Jesus raised them. Lazarus was halfway between biodegradable and biodegraded, between flesh and dust. Nobody could be that good or powerful, Jesus. We know You are the Son of God, the Messiah; and you have performed miracles before. But to raise a clinically, biologically, permanently and gravely dead person is something else. We will wait for the Resurrection Day, said Martha. It’s alright. You came late to prevent Lazarus’ death. But whatever You ask the Father now, He will grant to You.
This must have given Jesus some small consolation and hope for humanity. But everywhere else, He must have been pained by the people’s thoughts: Could He have saved Lazarus if He had been here before? He could not be Messiah if He let Lazarus die. Murmur, murmur, murmur. . . .
Jesus could have only thought: Did I not just say I am the Resurrection and the Life? There is a coming Resurrection Day because I Am here. Did I not say Lazarus will rise again – not in the future but today, Martha? I am performing a preview of what will happen to those who will believe. Stop under-believing, stand and see the mighty work that God will perform for you today!
But up to that point, no one fully believed. Hence, Jesus wept — because of unperfected belief, not because of death. He came to remove sin and death. Why weep for the victory of Satan if you have the power over him and over death? Jesus fired the first big salvo against Satan that day; and after that day, His enemies sought eagerly to kill Him. For the sake of all the people around Him, He prayed to God and God heard Him and raised Lazarus.
Jesus had assured His disciples that Lazarus’ “sickness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it”. Did He, in effect, lie because Lazarus died from the sickness? Who knows? Maybe he was really asleep or his soul hovered over his body. But he was in a grave; so he must have been dead. When Jesus called him out, “Lazarus, come forth,” was he awakened or raised by Jesus or was he already awake or alive by God’s power? Who knows? By bringing Lazarus back to life, He gave glory to God. By believing that Lazarus would rise, by praying to God and calling out Lazarus, Jesus magnified the name of God before people. The most we can comprehend from this marvelous story is that God was working in Jesus and Jesus was doing the work of God. One glorifies the Other and the Other glorifies the One. Maybe that is what we mean by the saying: God is One.
Jesus wept. And now, you know why. Someone had died and people would naturally weep. But the Son of God wept because people did not completely believe or understand His words and His works.
The second time Jesus wept was before He was about to die. Did He know He would resurrect? Of course. Why did He weep then? To show that the fear we all experience in the face of death He also felt. The sting of death is fear. In the case of Jesus, He knew what they would do to Him before He would die – it was all written and known by the prophets and the Israelites. Yes, He also knew and foresaw His suffering and death. What human would not weep out of fear? Or perhaps, because He felt God had forsaken and abandoned Him and had delivered Him to His enemies, Jesus felt the agony of being “unheard” by the Father three times — while His disciples slept through His trial. It was total abandonment from that point on and all the way to the cross and the grave. Jesus carried through and obeyed the Father’s will.
But perhaps, because of the unbelief of people who would reject Him, sentence Him before the Romans and send Him to die on the cross – His very own people He had come to save – He wept bitterly that blood came out of His pores. He wept because people had not believed His words and His works for three years that He taught them. For if they had believed, they would not have killed Him but honored Him instead. But, because complete unbelief (which leads to eternal death) can only be erased through a blood sacrifice, He went through the process of offering His precious life.
Jesus wept, not once but twice. First, He wept because of unperfected belief. Second, He wept because of complete unbelief. Every time people doubt or turn away from God, God weeps. Although we often think of God as a vengeful God, we see His compassion through Jesus Who walked and lived with humans. Remember, Jesus’ tears were vindicated by His resurrection. He lives and reigns victorious today in Heaven.
Still, Jesus feels the fears, sufferings and anguish of people who toil daily and struggle through many trials in life. Certainly, He continues to weep because of millions who reject His pleas to turn to Him for help. While that wide door of grace remains open, enter into His presence and see how you can make the Lord God smile and rejoice over one soul who believes and obeys.
Disobedient children make their parents weep in despair. How can we commit things that cause God our Father to weep until now? Unbelief is the best weapon of Satan. Now we know how to foil his smart tricks and to defeat him.