Monday, July 9, 2007

Good Things -- Small Packages

There’s an old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy man [person!].” I’m also familiar with a corollary axiom, “If you want something done, ask a lazy man [no PC clarifying remark].” The implication of the latter being that someone who is lazy will automatically know the easiest, fastest way to complete something so that the he might return to his indolence. Teaching fifth grade Sunday school, one often encounters the ‘lazy man’ when it comes to memorizing Scripture. 10 year-old boys often gravitate toward a strong sense of achievement, garnered while seeking short and easy verses to remember. I think beyond John 3:16, which seems requisite to any young life aspiring after Christ, then next most popular verse is John 11:35; renowned and appreciated for its brevity, if not downright terseness. In this verse, John writes, “Jesus wept.” Interestingly enough most of the contemporary translations of the Bible set forth this verse in pretty much the same way.

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?


Stephanie said...

Could it be their lack of faith that made him angry and that he wept because he felt bad to witness such a weakness in their faith. He saw them creating their own unnecessary suffering. If they had listened to his words they would have waited joyfully for his arrival. He was sad not for the pain of losing a family member, but for their pain that came from lack of faith.

Which makes you much pain do we create in our lives due to lack of faith and is Jesus weeping still?

Toph said...

I remember remembering John 11:35 for Sunday school. There were prizes for memorizing verses, and I wasn't going to miss a cool toy because I didn't say two words.

Francis Schaeffer notes that this verse gives us a response to Camus' argument, that if God is provident, we can't fight against the wrong in the world, since God put it there. But we see Jesus weeping at the death of His friend, angry at the state of the world, and then remedying the situation by proving his power over death.

Chris said...

i agree with steph's comment...