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Friday, October 25, 2013

Why Did Jesus Weep?

The last week saw the death of my beloved mother-in-law. It's like a mountain range has sudden;y departed my horizon, and I have lost my bearings in a world suddenly gone unfamiliar...and a landscape allowing cold winds to blow unimpeded.

It does make one think of life and death. And about the shortest verse in the Bible..."Jesus wept."

Why did He weep? On the face of it, this reaction doesn't make sense. he's God, right? He knows that not only will He restore Lazarus, but that all who turn to Him will rise again.

Well, maybe He was just being sympathetic. He felt the pain of Lazarus' family, and felt is so deeply that it brought tears.

This is also an unsatisfying answer. While a robust "Buck up, kids, I'll set this nonsense right" response would have been out-of-place, the sight of their leader weeping over a single death in a land where death was cheap would not have engendered much confidence in His disciples.

Beyond this, it's a bit condescending. If He could see so much further, beyond death's tragedy, the tears would have been...no disrespect intended...ingenuous.

So, why? Why did He cry?

I think He cried for two reasons. The first is that to truly represent and save us, He had to experience life sequentially, just like we do. He couldn't emotionally jump ahead a few pages and see the outcome. Lazarus' death was a fact. His resurrection was not yet a fact. He was therefore constrained to the Now, and not the Tomorrow.

Did He know that Lazarus would die, and that He would bring him back again? Evidence is that He did - delaying for four days made sure that, under Hebrew tradition, the soul had departed the body (which it was said to inhabit for three days after death). It also made sure that decomposition would be well advanced, which is why there was some reluctance to roll away the stone.

So with that a priori knowledge, why did Jesus weep?

I think that it is because raising Lazarus was a work of faith, and to identify with us, He had to live the feeling that, in the face of a monumental tragedy like the death of a friend, faith can be a slender reed indeed.

Faith is not knowing. Faith is belief in something unseen, and in this case as yet unconsummated.

We have some evidence that Jesus faced a very human struggle with faith, in the garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross.

And that is why I love Him. Because He gives me a shoulder to lean on...and had I been there, two thousand years ago, I could have returned the favor. He's my God.


  1. I am sorry for the loss of your precious mother-in-law. I'm holding you and your wife in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Lynda, thank you so much. It will always be a hole in our life, but knowing that so many care has made a big difference. It's humbling, to be represented to the Almighty by so many lovely people.