Well and good. The ten year-olds have a corner on “the shortest verse in the Bible.”
I encountered this verse the other day, of course in the larger context of the eleventh chapter of the Book of John. In this chapter, John’s narrative describes the death of Jesus’ friend Lazarus, and the reactions of those impacted by his death… Jesus, of course, Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, and some of the neighbors in Bethany where the “Lazarus Family” lived. The tale talks ultimately about Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. We know that Jesus’ intent was to do this because early in the chapter, when told that Lazarus is very ill, He says, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. (v4).” Jesus knows at the outset that He will have this opportunity to bring glory to God through the miracle of resurrection… he delays his departure to Bethany for four days… in essence assuring Lazarus’ passing… and yet, when the reality of Lazarus’ death actually confronts Jesus in Mary’s tears, Jesus too “weeps.” The question that arose for me was, “Why did Jesus weep?” Certainly not just to provide ten year-olds with a short verse.
Prayer, reflection, and some discussion led me to a more revealing conclusion. Let me offer the context of verse 35:
30Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. 31When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. 32When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34“Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Then Jesus wept. 36The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
38Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39“Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” 40Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
Two facts spring (at least for me) from the page... one, as the 10 year-olds note so well, "Then Jesus wept." When confronted with the pain and anguish of Lazarus' sisters and neighbors, I beleive His heart overflowed with compassion, and He wept with them. This short, tiny verse speaks volumes about the heart of our Lord, and his true empathy with, and compassion for us.
John also tells us that Jesus was angry. Verses 33 and 38 attest to his ire -- so we're left with a question for the next post... Whay was Jesus angry?