“Jesus Wept” (John xi. 35)
When the Jews saw the grief of Jesus at the occasion of the death of Lazarus, they concluded that he sorrowed because he felt keenly the loss of a well-loved friend. This was a natural assumption; but in weighing up spiritual matters connected with the conduct of Jesus, it is not wise to be guided by the conclusions of those styled “the Jews” in the records. The Jews, as a class, had an almost complete lack of spiritual insight, which it is no place of ours to condemn, seeing that it served the purpose of helping to produce some living teachings on the part of Jesus, which can be to our advantage. The Jews were ever ready with their opinions and they were usually in need of correction.
Did Jesus give way to tears, because he was overcome by his personal sense of loss for the dear Lazarus, and the weeping of Martha and Mary? The record seems to provide another, rather more adequate reason. We do not suppose that Jesus was above human emotion, but he had always resisted personal feelings when of a selfish kind, even in the instance of his own mother and brethren. We should expect to find, in regard to Jesus, a deeper and more substantial cause, sufficient to move him to tears. Jesus had no misconceptions about death and he alone at that time had a full understanding of resurrection. He could look upon Abraham, Isaac and Jacob though dead, yet living by virtue of God’s power to raise them, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Jesus also knew that in himself was placed the power to raise the dead.
It is clear that the whole incident related to Lazarus, was made known to the mind of Jesus beforehand, because he explained, (verse 4), that “this sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God.” Far from expressing sorrow at the news of Lazarus’ death, Jesus said that he was glad that he was not present to prevent it, in view of the forthcoming object lesson, designed to help the belief of the witnesses (verse 15). Martha and Mary were prepared to credit Jesus with the power to have prevented their brother’s death, “Lord if thou had’st been here my brother had not died.” When Jesus declared that Lazarus should rise again Martha, not unnaturally, thought this to be a reference to the resurrection at the last day. In correction, Jesus uttered some of the most thrilling words on record, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
Something caused Jesus to weep when he saw the dejected mourners, and Mary with them; he was deeply moving, groaning within himself. At the cave, Martha raised an objection at the apparently futile opening of a tomb, four days after death had taken place. Jesus reminded her of his earlier words, that the sickness of Lazarus was not unto death, but would be a means of glorifying God. When Lazarus was led forth, alive from the dead, many believed. It was indeed a proof of the power of God manifested in Jesus; it shows, also, how difficult it was for believers, such as Martha and Mary, to exhibit a lively faith.
Martha was capable of believing in a resurrection in the vague future, but it was too much for her to believe, that beside her, stood one who was the resurrection and the life. It would have given great satisfaction to Jesus to have seen a ready faith on the part of his friends; its absence was the cause of his grief. The test of faith was not the correctness of a belief in future resurrection, but the capacity for a present and living conviction, which unhappily, was not in evidence in the behaviour of those in the presence of Jesus.
The present-day friends of Jesus have a dominant belief in his literal return. Is this belief a mental acceptance of a future event only, or is it the truth perceived therein, translated into present behaviour? “Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone.” (James ii.17)
“After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets; and have hope towards God, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both just and unjust.” Paul
Bro J T Murrell