When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
He said to them, “Come and see.”
Jesus began to weep—this we know because of the oft quoted “shortest verse from the Bible”: “Jesus wept.” His tears reveal his capacity for human feeling, for attachment to people he loved and grief over their passing, for reflexive distress over the pain of his friends. We have all felt this way, consumed by a grief which is both deeply personal and a gift for others. It defines us as individuals even while bringing us fully into the company of other mourners. We each experience loss in our own way. This was true for Jesus.
When Jesus begins to cry, the people who came to comfort Mary interpret what they see. Understandably, they assume Jesus is weeping over the death of his friend. But isn’t it possible that, in that moment, Jesus was also feeling ambivalence over his decision to delay his trip to Bethany for two days? Perhaps he felt a pang of regret for his failure to rush to his friends’ house and help them. He may have sensed the pressure of tension in his body because of his decision—his choice to arrive on the third day to demonstrate God’s power by bringing life out of death.
Perhaps there was even another reason Jesus wept. His tears come as he hears people speak the same words he spoke to his first disciples. One of these was Andrew, who first proclaimed “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:43). The invitation the mourners extend to Jesus to come with them to Lazarus’s tomb echoes this early scene from John’s gospel. Isn’t it possible that when Jesus hears the people say, “Come and see,” he is moved as much by joy as by grief, by relief and humble awareness that the people have grown to embrace him and the Way he calls them to? These are his words, his call. Now he hears them echoed by those who will witness and believe in the resurrection of Lazarus’s life. Hearing his own words spoken by the people might have encouraged him that, ultimately, they would embrace his own death and Resurrection when the time came, thus receiving the gift of new life for themselves. Jesus’ tears were tears of love.
If we stand with the Jews who were in the crowd that day, confident in the Teacher who gave the blind man sight, we can watch Jesus cry, bent with grief, intensely himself. We can look at him with amazement and compassion and declare, with the gathered crowd and in our own grieving hearts, “See how he loved us!”
Ms. Karen Jessee, OP
with Herb King