“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died,” so said Mary to Jesus through tears of grief. Her brother Lazarus had passed away, and she knew that if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would live still. They had sent word; they had watched for his coming; they had watched Lazarus die. Jesus had not come.
And so Mary cried. I understand Mary’s reaction. I have wept at the loss of loved ones, too. I have seen grief on a hundred faces, and I have felt the emptiness that it brings. I understand Mary. Jesus, I do not understand.
“Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
When Mary saw Jesus she collapsed at His feet. Through tears, she told Him that her brother, His friend, had died. And Jesus wept, too. He grieved in His spirit and was troubled. The reason I find this surprising is because Jesus already knew that Lazarus had died. I find this strange because Jesus tarried so that this very event might come to pass. Jesus had come, not to heal a sick man, but to raise a dead one.
So why does He grieve? Why does Jesus mourn Lazarus? Why does the sight of Mary’s tears and grief move Him so deeply. The magician does not panic when the rabbit vanishes, nor does he gasp when he saws a man in half. Surely, if Jesus knew that He would raise Lazarus, He should not have been so disturbed. Yet, His grief was real and apparent to all who attended the funeral that day. The people said, “See how He loved him!”
I freely and happily confess that despite my studies I do not understand everything. Not even close. I also confess that this ignorance does not discourage me; it grips me. I see a mystery in John 11, and it thrills my soul. For a moment, the curtain that divides the mystery of God from the eye of man is drawn aside, and I see the heart of God.
Jesus weeps at the tomb of His friend because death is real and ugly. Jesus weeps at the sight of Mary because He loves her and knows her anguish. Jesus weeps because Lazarus’ stinking corpse is no cosmic magic show. It is the result of sin, and it brings misery and emptiness and hopeless. Jesus weeps because God hates death, and He hates it with a passion. Jesus came to put an end to it. Jesus came so that no one who loves Him ever need fear it. He came to conquer it once and for all.
It is so easy to reason a scene like this away. It’s the natural tendency of the human mind, I think. The reasoning goes something like this:
Jesus knows everything.
He knew that Lazarus would die.
He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.
Therefore, He couldn’t really have been mourning at that tomb.
Or how about:
God is holy.
God hates sin.
I am a sinner.
Therefore, God couldn’t love me.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. And that is the beauty of the mystery of God. We have a holy God who loves sinners, and we have a Savior who wept over pain and trouble, even when He had all the answers.
So, beloved of God, whatever thing you have in your life that you feel that God cannot possibly understand, whatever sin you believe is beyond forgiveness, or whatever hurt you have that you believe the Savior cannot feel or heal; know that you are wonderfully and completely wrong. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8.
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