There is something deeply moving about tears. We see someone weeping and it can have quite an effect on us. The stronger the person who weeps the more powerful the effect is upon us. We are more affected by seeing a man weeping than a child. And when the man is a strong emotionally stable man, with tears running down his face, it speaks volumes to us.
We are told of only three occasions when our Lord wept. I intend to look at each of them over the next number of days. This is not just at a great man weeping, that would be touching enough, but here we see the Son of God weeping.
Tears allow us to see what really matters to a person. And it is no different with Jesus.
In John 11:35 we come to the first instance of our Lord's tears. His close friend Lazarus has just died and Jesus has gone to see Lazarus' sisters.
'When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"'
The question we need answered is: "Why is Jesus weeping?"
Jesus is not weeping because Lazarus is dead. He knows that in just a few moments he will raise Lazarus from the dead. So why is he weeping? I suggest 2 reasons:
Jesus is weeping because he loves Mary & Martha
Have you ever had a moment when you've seen something and it moved you so much that your eyes filled and the tears ran in rivers down your cheeks? Jesus tears were not like the loud wailing of Mary and Martha, for a different word is used. Instead these were silent tears running down his face as he looked at the suffering his loved ones were going through.
The people around are struck by this. They react, "See how he loved him."
Our saviour is no cold conqueror who comes to dispatch the enemy and to free the prisoners. He is one who weeps as he sees what the enemy has done to his people. His heart is moved by our plight. When we are struggling he is not sitting watching impassively.
Jesus knew that in a few minutes Mary’s tears would be turned into inexpressible joy, that delight would wash away the memories of sadness. That in a few moments time Lazarus would be restored to them. But though he knew all this, still he weeps. He weeps for the pain caused, for the mess that sin has made of what was a perfect creation. He weeps at his loved ones having to suffer. There is no casual pat on the back, no glib “All things work together for good”, instead there is love made silent through tears. The quietness of sympathy.
The momentary sadness of his people matters to him. Here he weeps at his loved ones having to suffer.
Here we see the beauty of Christ's tenderness. Here we see Jesus' love for his people in the midst of suffering. The Saviour who offers himself to us is a most tender caring and feeling Saviour. He knows what you are going through and he cares. He wants us to bring our troubles to him.
Although he is not with us as he was with Mary and Martha, he hasn’t changed. He has still the same heart. And although he knew exactly where the body was, he shows his love to Mary when he asks, “Where have you laid him?” He wants her to take him, to show him, because he loves her. And he does the same with us, he invites us to tell him our problems, to take him to them. He comes gently to us.
What struck me here was how much my saviour enters into my feelings. Do I realise how much he loves me? As those who surrounded Jesus that day said, "See how he loved him", can you hear the angels say to each other in awed amazement, "See how he loves them"?
But these tears are not solely tears of sympathy.
Jesus is weeping because of his anger at sin
He sees two of his dear friends, Martha and Mary distraught at the death of their brother. He sees their grief and pain and suffering. And another emotion stirs in his heart. It is a surprising one. It is anger.
The phrase 'was deeply moved in spirit' (v33) might be better translated 'was deeply angered'. As Jesus sees the misery and pain that sin has brought to the world it angered him.
Jesus sees before him all that life was not meant to be. Pain, suffering, sadness and death only came into the world after Adam and Eve sinned. Jesus hates to see the suffering that sin causes. In Mary's grief Jesus sees the history of the whole human race. And he is angry.
But his anger is not wild and uncontrolled. It is focused. He approaches the grave of his friend, and we see in his tears a desire to reverse the situation. Sin will not triumph this day. Death will not win. Satan will not have the last say. Jesus did not come to leave sin and suffering reigning supreme. He came to defeat them.
His victory at the tomb of Lazarus is a foretaste of his victory at Calvary. And if he strode determinedly to the tomb to Lazarus to call him forth, how much more will he do the same for us, and call his people from the grave into an eternity of unending pleasure? Here is proof that Christ has defeated sin.
How joyful we should be.
Some men go to war not knowing the demands it will make. They go off full of high hopes of an easy victory, and an idealism of what it will be like. Not so this warrior. As Jesus approaches the tomb he knows what it will take to defeat sin, to free people from death. He knows that there is a price to be paid, a high price, the highest price. He knows the pain and the suffering that his own death will involve, but his desire to defeat sin and to free the hostages is greater. And watch here as he thanks his father for this opportunity (v41). He is glad to pay that price.
How grateful we should be.