Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town
of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord
with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus
was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold,
he whom You love is sick." 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness
is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may
be glorified through it."
20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and
met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now 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 of 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 at the last
day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He
who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever
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 to come into the world."
28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly
called Mary her sister, saying, "The Teacher has come and is calling
Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at
His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would
not have died." 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews
who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
34 And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord,
come and see."
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" 37 And
some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind,
also have kept this man from dying?"
38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, 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 him who was dead, said to Him, "Lord, by this
time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said
to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see
the glory of God?"
The shortest verse
in the Bible is recorded as John 11:35, "Jesus wept". These
two words have said a lot to many who believe. They have also become
words of derision by many who do not understand their significance.
In many countries such as the UK, Ireland and Australia, the phrase
‘Jesus wept’ is used as a common expletive, curse or minced oath spoken
when something goes wrong or to express mild incredulity. The term has
also been used by many writers as an expletive in their works.
What I would like to reflect on are two questions. The first I will
hopefully be able to shed some light on. While the second I would hope
to leave hanging for you to contemplate and search out the answer to.
So the first question first. Why did Jesus weep? There have been a range
of interpretations and answers given for this. In Matthew
Henry's Commentary it is suggests that there are different constructions
have been put on Christ's weeping. The candid interpretation of this
act of Christ is that it was a showing of a deep affection for the departed.
Especially as it was not someone directly related to him(Jesus).
Notes it tells us that Jesus wept out of sympathy for those who
were lamenting the loss of Lazarus their dear friend. Wesley's Commentary
continues by expressing the concept that within this grief is a sense
of the misery that sin had brought upon human nature. In Gill's
Exposition of the entire Bible it states that Jesus had wept as
he was walking to the grave. This was a part of his private meditation
upon his dear friend Lazarus. As well as the distress his (Lazarus')
two Sisters were experiencing. Added to this Gill's exposition continues
to express a sense of the greater damnation the people present would
experience when they reject the miracle that would be performed to glorify
God. This expression or explanation is also described as the sense that
Jesus felt a deep sorrow for all of mankind (the generative tense is
used here). Oddly it is Wikipedia
(a sometimes lamented research source) that explains that the death
and resurrection of Lazarus may portent the death and resurrection of
Jesus the Christ.
But for me it will take a closer look at the verse within context to
those that precede it. WE are informed that Lazarus was sick. At this
point there is no emphasis that this is an illness that may lead to
death. In verse 4 Jesus tells those that are with him that "This
sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of
God may be glorified through it". Jesus is than described as lingering
or staying where he was for two more days. We read in verse 11 Jesus
informing the others "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that
I may wake him up". Sadly the Disciples didn't catch on to what
they were being told. The were thinking in terms of natural sleep. It
is in verse 14 that it is made plain to them "Then Jesus said to
them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead…".
So the question still needs an answer. Why did Jesus weep when he knew
that he as going to wake and raise Lazarus from the grave? The Disciples
had been close to him and had seen many of the miracles first hand.
He had given sight to the blind, cleaned the leper, and had woken several
from the sleep of death. One such event is recorded in Luke 7:11–17.
The Disciples were with him constantly and yet were lacking in pure
faith. This lack of faith was told when they were unable to Matthew
17:14-21 that these Disciples had lacked the needed faith to cure the
possessed child. Jesus compares this lack of faith with the Centurion's
faith as written in Matthew 8:8-10. When he sates "Assuredly, I
say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!".
Faith seems to be in short supply. When the fire is hot the people need
no encouragement. Yet if things are not as they expect, people tend
to start doubting and questions. Moving quietly from faith to disquiet.
Back to the verses. Jesus explains to Martha what is about to happen.
He stated openly and clearly that Lazarus would rise again. Yet Martha
was lacking faith. She referred to the resurrection of believers. This
is despite the fact that she had already said that she believed that
whatever Jesus asked God would provide. The ability to believe that
Lazarus would be raised up at that time was not within Martha. The Disciples,
Martha and even Mary lived in constant grief and sorrow. They were essentially
confused and misguided as to who Jesus really was and what to expect
or look forward to. So to say that Jesus wept out of compassion for
their grief and anguish despite the fact he knew he was going to raise
Lazarus can seem somehow limited in scope and understanding.
It would be perhaps more correct to understand that he wept out of pure
frustration for their continuing doubt about Him, His ability to heal,
and their lack of faith and vision. He wept because time and time again
he showed them the truth and they continued to forget and blindly think
the worse. Placing limits on their understanding and acceptance of Jesus
as the Christ and as the Salvation of all humanity.
The second question that I have deliberately left unanswered is found
in John 11:28. Where we are informed of what Martha does after encountering
Jesus. "And when she had said these things, she went her way and
secretly called Mary her sister, saying, "The Teacher
has come and is calling for you". Perhaps within this one question
are really two parts. The first is to ask why Martha secretly called
Mary. What was there to be secretive about? Jesus was well known to
the Sisters. He was known to count them and Lazarus as dear to him.
So why was there a need for secrecy? The second part is to ask when
did Jesus ask for Mary by name? We do not read this instruction in the
preceding verses. Perhaps an accepted sense that Jesus had said something
that was not recorded? Perhaps, but really two parts of a question that
needs you can research and discover the answer for yourself.
I beg of you.
Help me overcome,
My hardened heart,
My forgetful nature.
So that I may stand firm,
When frustrations come,
When doubters taunt me,
When times seem dark.
I pray these things,
In your precious name.