“Jesus Wept.” John 11:35
MARY OF BETHANY AND THE ECLIPSE IN HER SOUL.
This is one of the most human stories of the Bible; its counterparts
may be found in every city in the world. Tragedy has lain bare the noble
soul of Mary of Bethany for two crushing blows have fallen upon her. Her
brother died; and Jesus of Nazareth has failed her. "Now a certain man
named Lazarus was sick . . . . Therefore his sisters sent unto Jesus, saying,
Lord, behold he whom thou lovest is sick." And with that statement went
the hopes and prayers of two sincere hearts.
THE STRANGE DELAY
"When Jesus had heard therefore that Lazarus was sick, he
abode two days still in the same place where he was." The messenger was
permitted to return alone, and the apparent indifference of the Saviour
surely dealt a most painful blow to those who anxiously awaited His coming.
When Lazarus died, the grief of his sisters was greatly intensified -Jesus
had failed them. To them, His action seemed both heartless and inexcusable.
Each time Mary considered the problem, the tendency to become bitter increased
in her soul.
Perhaps only the people who have similarly suffered will
appreciate her anguish. The problems of sickness and suffering are ever
before us; but when eager, anxious prayers remain unanswered, even the
strongest faith can be shaken. The Lord Jesus deliberately stayed away,
and in her acute disappointment Mary forgot to consider that His action
might have been dictated by wisdom.
THE SUGGESTIVE DELAY
"Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into
Judea again . . . . Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming,
went and met him; but, Mary sat still in the House." Why did she linger
at home? Her sister went to meet the Lord, and the entire world knows of
the confession that soon fell from her lips. But When asked about Mary,
Martha had to explain the cause of her sister's absence. And is it not
significant how Jesus abruptly discontinued His walk toward the beloved
home! When Mary eventually came to Him, "Jesus was not yet come into the
town, but was in that place where Martha met him" (verse 30). Why did He
not accompany Martha and so save time? The Lord Jesus was very wise. The
raising of Lazarus would not be as difficult as the healing of a wounded
soul. Was Mary a little bitter? Was she still hurt because Christ had failed
to respond in the hour of her greatest need? The new delay, the delay in
Christ's entry into the town, is most suggestive. When Mary heard that
Jesus was calling for her, her great love swept aside all hindrances and
she arose and came quickly.
THE SUBLIME DELAY
And when Jesus came to the tomb, "He lifted up his eyes,
and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." The prayer of
the Saviour was all-embracing. The vision of man might have been limited
to the tomb and the possibility of a miracle; He looked beyond, to the
transformation taking place in the hearts of His followers. Until that
day, He had been to the Bethany family a Friend and a possible Messiah;
but Martha had now exclaimed, "Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ,
the Son of God which should come into the world." Some day, Lazarus would
die again; but if Jesus be the Son of God, new meaning might be found in
His message, "Let not your heart be troubled . . . . I go to prepare a
place for you . . . that where I am there ye may be also." The victory
won in their souls that day far exceeded the triumph obtained at the tomb.
It was for this reason that Christ delayed His response to the prayer of
the two sisters. Had He immediately responded, they would have lost their
greatest blessing. The eclipse was but a shadow; it passed away, and Mary's
path to the sunshine was clearly revealed. This pathway has never become
overgrown. It remains open for all weary travelers.
GOD IN TEARS!
The shortest verse in the Bible is probably one of the greatest.
Every student of Scripture appreciates the wonder of the miracles, yet
it is problematical whether any supernatural display of healing power could
ever present a greater sight than that of tears on the Lord's cheeks. It
surpasses understanding that the King of angels should weep, and it is
almost incomprehensible that He who had known eternal splendor should become
acquainted with the heart-breaks of sinful men. There are three instances
of such weeping recorded in the Word of God and a study of these texts
reveals Progression of thought.
HE WEPT BECAUSE SIN HAD HURT THE WORLD
The death of Lazarus brought great grief to his sorrowing
sisters and it is easy for us to appreciate the poignancy of the scene
described in John 11:33, "When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews also
weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled."
And within a few moments the watching crowd saw that "Jesus wept." Some
of the greatest thinkers of the Church have advanced reasons for this expression
of grief. (1) He wept in sympathy for His friends. Yet this reason can
hardly be acceptable, for why should Christ weep in sympathy when He knew
that Lazarus would soon be restored to his sisters? (2) He wept because
He was about to bring Lazarus back into a world of sin. It is difficult
to accept this explanation, for the Saviour had already said that this
event would bring glory to His Father. (3) He wept because of the irreparable
suffering which had been brought to God's fair world. Many graves would
be in the vicinity of the tomb of Lazarus, and Christ knew that behind
each burial place was a tale of woe. Disease and death had appeared to
mar man's joy, and the scene around Christ was anything but what God had
intended. Sin had hurt the world, and the contemplation of the tragedy
hurt the Saviour. He wept.
HE WEPT BECAUSE SIN WAS ABOUT TO HURT HIS PEOPLE
"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept
over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day,
the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine
eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast
a trench about thee, and compass thee round . . .and shall lay thee even
with the ground . . . because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation"
When the Lord Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, the
crowds ceased their shouting, "Hosannah to the Son of David," and as they
slowly went away into the streets, the disappointed disciples realized
they had lost their greatest opportunity of establishing the Kingdom. The
tears of their Master had banished thoughts of glory. He wept because Israel's
rejection of their Messiah would bring inescapable destruction to the city
of David. The Lord knew all that would shortly take place, and the fact
that their fate seemed to be thoroughly deserved could never take the pain
from His heart. Had He been able to save the people, He would have done
so; but, alas, there were certain things which even Christ could not do.
HE WEPT BECAUSE SIN WAS BEGINNING TO HURT HIM
"Christ . . . who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered
up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him who
was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews
5:7). In describing the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke declared,
"His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
The writer to the Hebrews added the significant detail that tears mingled
with the blood. Already the Lord Jesus was feeling the weight of a world's
iniquity; already, He was beginning to taste the bitterness of His cup
of sorrow. The garden conflict was the introductory stage of the triumph
of the cross. The greatness of His desire to save the lost carried Him
through that night of agony; but we shall never know how much our sins
hurt the Son of God. It is significant that the epistle to the Hebrews
mentions "strong crying and tears." His anguish was not expressed in silent
weeping but in agonized sobs. How greatly Jesus must have loved us.
Nothing can hide the amazing wonder that He who had been
responsible for the creation of the universe, He who was so divine, so
strong, so omnipotent, was also so human that His cheeks became wet with