I’ve heard several sermons on the famous shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept.” So many preachers have sought to elaborate on the meaning behind this tiny verse. For those of you who don’t know the story, here it is:
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
John 11:17-44; ESV
This is a moving story filled with human emotion not just from Martha and Mary but from Jesus himself. Jesus is “deeply moved” by what he sees. This all leads up to the verse “Jesus wept.” As the question always goes, why did he weep? As I wrote above, I’ve heard many explanations for this, but the one that I cling to is that Jesus was seeing the consequences of sin in the world.
The world is not as it should be. We live in a fallen world. There is starvation and famine. Homelessness and suffering. Sickness and pain. Those things were not part of God’s creation, they are the result of sin.
Here, in this story, Jesus is seeing firsthand, as both God and man, the suffering that sin brings to the world. The death of one of his closest friends. He sees how Mary and Martha suffer at the loss of their brother, even though, as Martha says, one day they will see him again. It’s amazing to me how Jesus was deeply moved, moved even to tears, by the suffering of his friends. It is this that leads him to raise Lazarus from the dead.
These past few days have been filled with that kind of suffering. My friend, Brent Rogers, passed away on Monday morning. He was a good man who dedicated his life to God’s kingdom. He loved Japan and the Japanese people. Even as he was sick in bed he was studying vocabulary cards with Japanese kanji on them, always improving his language ability to communicate more effectively with the people he cared so much about.
I am thankful to have known Brent. What I am more thankful for is the hope that we both shared. We worship a God who did not stand by while creation suffered. We worship a God who came to us. A God who came and faced suffering and defeated death. Because of that, I know I will see Brent again one day.
That is the hope that Jesus brought us. If we follow him, death and suffering is but a momentary affliction. That is why these verses give me tremendous hope. Our savior came, he saw and understood the suffering and death this life can bring, and he did something about it. That’s amazing.
Until the day Jesus returns, I will miss Brent. Please pray for all of us here in Kojima. Please pray especially for Brent’s family.