There is a Bible verse of just two words, at least in some Bible versions, where and when a whole lot is said about a moment in Jesus’ life. It is said in just two words. Do you know which verse I am talking about? It is “Jesus wept. “ Do you where it is in the New Testament. It’s in John 11:35.
I want to preach a whole homily on that verse: “Jesus wept.” In the Greek language it is spread out to three words, translated: ”Jesus shed tears.”
I can think of two specific times Jesus is said to have cried. The other is when He looked over Jerusalem, and cried, as told in Luke 19:41-42. That example is for another homily. But Jesus certainly cried in His earthly life among us. Luke 19:41-42 tells of another moment, when Jesus cries as He approaches an indifferent Jerusalem…
What about now? Is Jesus crying? I think so. Over what? He is crying over some things going on in his Church, for instance. He is also crying over abortion in the land. He is crying over lost souls, who resist His love and grace, and remain in darkness. He is crying over people not having His passion to save souls, which is a key part of His Presence in the believer. These should be things that His followers would be tearing over, too, right now, and sharing Jesus’ tears, and longing for action through themselves to help heal the world. Jesus did say: Blessed are those who mourn. He was speaking about us, not just Himself weeping over humanity.
In relation to the Bible verses proclaimed today, The Lord cries over people choosing the many ways of vanity (in imitation of Solomon’s foolish turn); Jesus is sad to tears over people lost in the possession of their riches, or under deadly sin, as in greed, or lust, or such. That list of sins in the epistle today, too, is a sad one, too, describing many ways the sinner falls down. The Psalm pleads the sinner to make a choice for God, and not let our hearts be stony.
What is the context of this short famous verse of “Jesus wept?” It’s found in John 11:35 at the death of Lazarus story, on that fourth day after Lazarus had been buried. Jesus is come back to Bethany, on that day, but we see Him as outside the village, where He had just met Martha, and told her; “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” For she had wondered –if He could have come quicker, to heal Lazarus!—but she had added on: ‘Because of Who You are, Jesus, I plead You to do whatever You can do now—that would be good. Thanks for coming.’ And He had asked Martha: “Do you believe that I Am the Resurrection, Who holds the power of life over death?” She had said: “Yes, You are the Christ, after all.” It was a great moment of faith, even amidst the many tears on her face and of the pain in Martha’s heart. We just had St. Martha’s feast day on July 29th. We also had a gospel on a July Sunday about her hospitality to Jesus, along with Mary, and we’ll presume of Lazarus too.
Back to the text—Then after Martha had this exchange with Jesus, she went and got her sister Mary to come and see Jesus, there at that spot outside Bethany. Mary is upset as she comes by to Him, and her face is full of tears, as John 11:33 says: “Jesus saw her weeping and so He was deeply troubled in spirit.”
Then verse 35 will go on and comment of the scene: “Jesus wept.”
I think one sure meaning I get from this short verse in the Gospel is that Jesus weeps and He is upset, too, because He so greatly dislikes death. It is an affront to God—the God of life—and Jesus does see its impact on the earth, now dropping a dear friend and upsetting the man’s family and his whole Bethany town. Jesus weeps at what death does. He wants to wipe death away, along with all the tears over it, to someday never be. He wants to do this work, while keeping humankind’s free will intact. He can be the healing remedy. A Perfect Sacrifice of love gone into death would do it. This decision evokes many tears on Jesus’ Face. “So He was deeply troubled in spirit.”
There is another verse in John’s gospel that goes: “No greater love than this—for one to lay down his life for a friend.” Jesus surely chooses in this moment—through these tears– to do just that. He will go forward to that Cross awaiting Him in Jerusalem. The Cross will triumph. The Rising will come.
One other clear meaning that I get from this short verse of “Jesus wept” is that when others are weeping, then Jesus weeps with them and for them. Mary of Bethany’s drops of heavy tears, then, does then bring on Jesus’ heavy tears. Jesus cries with her. They are good friends and she is a good follower. So is Martha. This is their dead brother Lazarus whom they are crying over. It is really something of how The Lord God, as come in Jesus the Christ would weep in these women’s company, meaning, God cries with us, and His Son, the God-man, IS come to share our sorrows and losses.
Jesus cries for another reason, too. He cries of how Mary and Martha and some others don’t understand of His delay coming back. They don’t understand Him; He must always go about the Father’s will, not His. They don’t truly grasp it, and it brings tears to Jesus. The two women had been hoping Jesus would come soon, even though His coming to be near Jerusalem would be very life-threatening to Him, as all of Bethany’s people did know, since they had heard that there were many traps laid out for Jesus, if He would draw near to Jerusalem. He comes on the fourth day of Lazarus being deceased. Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus earlier of how sick their brother Lazarus was doing. He hadn’t made it back in time. Even the disciples thought that Jesus would likely go in haste to possible do a healing miracle for his Bethany friends. There was this big presumptive wish that Jesus would have been back already to Bethany, even out of friendship to Lazarus and family.
What these people didn’t understand, but those of us who read on and know the rest of the story now know, is that, Jesus did not do His own will, but rather, always listened to the Father and waited upon the prompting of the Spirit to act in His Father’s will. Jesus shared about this of His ministry, saying, “I came not that my will be done, but that I would serve the Father’s will. “ Sure, he would have wanted to go and heal Lazarus. But from some reason, the Father said “wait.” It is the similar situation like of when Jesus would trust the Father and not intervene in the tragic beheading death of his cousin John, nor act in power to raise up His foster-father Joseph, when he had died (back sometime in Jesus’ teen or young adult years). Jesus had withheld acting on His own will, but He trusted a greater plan of the Father.
In this case, a much bigger plan of the Father was unfolding, to the benefit of you and me, and our hopes to be called forth out of our tombs and go to Glory one day.
In this scene, of John 11:35, when “Jesus wept,” Our Savior does sincerely weep, as He had for John the Baptist and for Joseph of Nazareth, His mom’s husband, and for the so many others who had died along the way.
The waiting had a purpose, though, so Jesus waited and trusted, like we have to do often, and just cry, and just cry.
Now, when Jesus came to Bethany after the waiting time, He would realize a few things: Chiefly, that this circumstance is a sign for Him that His own death is coming shortly. Mainly, that now He would have to trust the Father obediently unto death, so that He will be very much like in the situation of Lazarus here. God the Father and God the Spirit convince Him to exercise a human-level trust and to call forth Lazarus from the tomb. To say Lazarus, come out! (John 11:43.) Lazarus, come forth!
In this situation, Jesus sees Himself in Lazarus’ position: HE will come forth from the tomb, even on the Third Day.
But it is hard from human beings to think they can conquer death, and Jesus enters into that feeling. The crowd at Lazarus’ tomb is feeling hopeless and lost.
God asks His Son and c0-eternal One Jesus to muster the courage to call Lazarus out of death. It will take great faith. If Lazarus doesn’t come out, then it will be humiliating to His ministry. But Jesus trusts it will happen, that Lazarus will be given breath again, and that He, the Lord and Son will also come forth.
With all those tears on His Holy Face, He calls forth Lazarus—and you and me—eventually—from our tombs.
“Unbound him, “Jesus said. And He would want to say that to us—“be unbound, and experience the resurrection power. Your weeping shall turn to rejoicing, your mourning to dancing. If you but wait upon Me and trust. Or trust the Father and the power of the Spirit. “
In the situation, again, as Jesus has come t0 shed tears, we know He has come from a long way’s away, to head back to Bethany. \\
Yet, as we look at the scene, in a wider picture, and in a deeper pondering of the moment, God has come from Heaven on to earth to be with His friends in their needs, their cares, and to lovingly share their tears. That would be your needs, your cares, and to cry with you in your tears. Jesus weeps with His friends Martha and Mary, and with you, too.
That is, if you come to Him, and spend some time with your friend Jesus, and share what’s going on. In this verse of “Jesus wept,” note that Martha and Mary came to the city outskirts to see Jesus. May we come and meet our new life and hope and friend in Jesus, too.
“Jesus wept.” This short verse tells us much about of Who our God is, and Who Jesus is. Message: God deeply cares about us.
The Master Artist Rembrandt painted a work on this subject. It would be a good image to view and ponder, in applying this homily to yourself, and have the painting look at you, as Jesus crying for you. Or, as you pray to God, feel on your cheeks sometime, some tears for the passion you have found in your Faith, or for what God cares about.
Jesus wept. John 11:35 There is one more source of His tears to mention before we close…
Jesus also has some tears of sadness and concern in His eyes for those who would reject Him.
Going back to the John 11 text. we take a last look, as Jesus is standing by the tomb of Lazarus, noting all the grim faces there, and the mourning din, and the people that knew Lazarus, too—griping, as the 36th verse adds: 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Jesus called Lazarus to come forth, and he did, Lazarus came back from death. A resuscitation. Life again.
But those who had mocked him in this scene, it would be tear provoking to Our Lord, for He deeply is concerned for the lost sinner. It is why we have come up with a September 1st social for Kids to come have some fun here, all about for free, in hopes of some families, looking for a church, will find it here. Our open house Fun Day is to extend a welcome to the many unchurched or out of church families that live in this region around our church. Perhaps Jesus will use it to bring some people home to Himself.