So a random fact-toid for you the next time you’re on Jeopardy or playing Trivia Pursuit. While the Gospel we just heard is somewhat lengthy one, within that reading was the shortest scripture verse recorded in the whole New Testament: John 11:35 “And Jesus Wept.” In some translations, they even drop the word “and” – which would tie it as the shortest verse in the whole Bible. Those two words: Jesus Wept.
A couple of words that say so much.
Because think about it. What does it means when we say someone wept? It’s more than just feeling sad. It’s more than the act of crying. You weep when you feel deep, intense feelings. Raw emotions for someone or something... You can feel it in the pit of your stomach. Your heart aches. You’re so overwhelmed by the feelings that you’re experiencing that you’re unembarrassed by the flood of tears. On the one hand no one would wish this experience on another, knowing how hard and painful an experience it truly is. But on the other hand, the silver lining can be that when you’ve experiencing that much pain, you know without a doubt that something has touched you that deeply to the core of your being that you realize the depths of love. When someone has wept, it’s because something meant that much to them.
Which is why this shortest of scripture verses is somewhat puzzling. Jesus wept. Jesus? That this is recorded tells us how striking it must’ve been for the witnesses. It’s not like Jesus didn’t know what he was able and capable of doing and would accomplish for his friend Lazarus. He knew he could and would raise him from the dead. He didn’t weep for himself. So why? Why deep he weep? It was probably several things:
Jesus wept over the fear that His disciples still had after all this time they had spent with Him. After all they had seen that He could do, after all they had heard Him speak of a God who would not let anything, ANYTHING stop Him from attending to His children in need... For the disciples, as soon as they hear this news that Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was seriously ill and needed Jesus their response to this news was but Jesus, the last time we were in Judea, people wanted to stone you...it’s not safe - So Jesus wept over that fear that still gripped and grips his followers.
Jesus wept over the distress Lazarus’ sisters had experienced in seeing their brother die and be entombed. Their pain, pained him. Their hurt, hurt him and so he wept.
Jesus wept because he knew that as much as his followers loved him and wanted to believe in Him, and did believe in Him to a certain extent... that it was to a certain extent. Jesus wept because of that doubt. The doubt that came from seeing this dead man who was in a tomb. That this reality made them worried that maybe this was the end, rather than being able to truly trust and believe that it was not... Rather than fully being able to comprehend that Jesus would have power over death.
Jesus wept because he saw that the hoped for future promise of eternal life and resurrection of the dead wasn’t enough to remove all of this pain they were going through. His followers, despite all that was to come, despite his ultimate victory over death in His own resurrection would still experience the pains and sting of death.
Jesus wept because He realized that if the death of Lazarus could cause some of his closest followers such distress, He could only imagine what his passion and death on the cross would do to them. Yet He knew that He needed to endure that passion and death so that God would be able to do even more miraculous, life-changing things for humanity, namely saving them.
Jesus wept because in spite of all of that he would say, all that he would do, some would remain entombed, some would chose to remain dead because they believed their sins were too big, too unforgivable. He wept over those who would refuse to hear His life-giving voice, calling them out of those tombs, rejecting the opportunity to experience newness of life in His radical gift of forgiveness.
Yes, Jesus wept because he Loved.
Jesus wept, because he Loves.
Jesus wept because he knows that for some people, the gift he offers of Himself so freely, so willingly, so selflessly - for some that wouldn’t be enough... Some would simply question, put their trust in other “gods.” Reject the only God ever known to have come down and wept with us and for us, so much does He care for us.
That’s why Jesus wept. And why He still does.
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern