A God Who Weeps
Have you ever seen someone who you admire, someone who you think of as being indestructible, cry? When this occurs we are left with one of the greatest feeling of helplessness possible. I mean, what are you supposed to do to help someone who seems invincible?
Arguably the most profound, powerful, and pertinent verse of the Bible is only two words long. However, these two words surrounded by the context of the narrative they’re found in, give us some of the most insightful information we have on the character of God. This verse is found in John 11:35, where it says,
On the surface, we might look at these two words and not give it much thought. “Jesus was a man wasn’t He? Why wouldn’t He cry?”
This is a valid point to be made. It isn’t too odd to think of a man crying, it isn’t unusual or out of the ordinary to do so. In fact, especially in Jesus’s context, it would only be natural for someone to cry. But, then again, since Jesus is God, we also have to wonder why would God cry?
In John chapter 11 Jesus has received a report that one of His closest friends, Lazarus, has fallen sick. We are told at the beginning of this chapter that Jesus had a deep love for Lazarus and his two sisters. He was close with them. He cared for them. As result, despite His disciples cautioning Him against returning to the place where people had tried to kill Him, Jesus decided He would go anyway.
So, Jesus arrives in Bethany (the place where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha all lived), but it is already too late. Lazarus was already dead. In fact, he had been lying in a tomb four days upon Jesus’s arrival. As Jesus approaches near, Mary and Martha rush out to meet Him and say what is on all of our minds,
“21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
Martha’s statement of faith brings an important truth to this entire situation: Jesus had the power to prevent Lazarus from dying, and He also has the power to bring Lazarus back.
Anyone who believes in the divinity of Christ and the ultimate sovereignty of God knows that Jesus has the power to bring Lazarus back, and that He could have easily prevented Him from dying in the first place. However, this fact of Jesus’s power is what makes our earlier question so important.
If Jesus could have healed Lazarus, and since He knew He was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead, why does He still weep when He stands before Lazarus’s tomb in verse 35?
Moreover, Jesus’s tears in this situation aren’t simply for show. He isn’t straining and forcing Himself to cause a single tear to fall from His eye the way actors do when they’re filming a movie. Jesus is crying crocodile tears here. He is sobbing. Jesus is ugly crying, and He is doing it in front of everyone.
Jesus is authentically weeping and is visibly overcome by grief, even though he is about to bring Lazarus back to life. But, why? If God knows our past, and if He knows what He is going to bring forth in the future, then why does He weep with us in the present?
I think it comes down to this: In being human, Jesus felt what we all feel in life’s most difficult times, Jesus felt uncertainty. Even though Jesus, since He is God, knew what the outcome was going to be, He still felt the finite nature of fear. He felt the feeling of sorrow, of doubt, of grief. And these emotions caused Him to weep.
Jesus understood what it feels like to be human, because He was human.
The unfortunate truth of humanity is that we don’t know how situations in life are going to turn out. We aren’t omniscient like God. Everything there is to know, God already knows. Really, there was no reason for Jesus to weep, because He already knew the ultimate outcome. But He wept anyway. He weeps along with us.
In a reality where we have to be okay with not knowing everything. In a life where we have to accept that things happen beyond our explanation. In a faith that we have to trust that God is there even when we may not be able to see Him working. It is so incredibly uplifting to know that God weeps with us.
We may have questions of why we are going through what we are going through. We may want to know what is causing all of the turmoil in the world. We may even wonder how we could possibly be able to get through it all. In all of these questions, not only can we trust that God knows the answers, but we can also know that He feels our pain, hears our cries, knows our sorrows, and is lamenting right along with us.
1. How does this event with Lazarus correlate to the “meta-narrative” of the fallenness of humanity?
2. A lament is defined as a “passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” The Bible, especially the Psalms, is full of laments. Read Psalm 38, and see how this lament applies to your life. How is God active within this lament?
3. How does this narrative of Jesus weeping provide peace in the chaos we are facing in the world today?
If you'd like to hear a full sermon based on this passage, Judah Smith recently recorded one. Click here to watch it.