One of the most remarkable moments in Jesus’s ministry is when he arrives in Bethany to see about his friend Lazarus. It is remarkable because it is the only time where Jesus is recorded to have wept about anything or anyone. This is not mean that it may not have happened at another time. However, because this is the only instance recorded in the Gospels it serves to highlight Jesus’s response to the loss of a close friend.
There are many reasons for which we might find ourselves shedding tears. And what makes the act of crying so interesting is that it may be the result of great joy or deep sadness. The fact that tears may be caused by such a varied range of emotions makes it an interesting phenomenon in the human experience.
In the case of Jesus’s weeping over the death of Lazarus, we can see that the instance was that of deep sorrow. We see in the story how both Mary and Martha knew that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death. But Jesus remained where he was for a day longer. We know now Jesus did in fact raise Lazarus from the grave. But at the time there was a lot of uncertainty in the minds and hearts of all those involved.
So what are we to make of the tears Jesus wept over a friend he had the power to resurrect? It could be tempting to make more of it than is warranted. We do not know what was going through Jesus’s mind at the time. But I think if we consider that Jesus’s love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus was genuine then we must grant that Jesus’s tears were as much for the loss the sisters endured as it was for Lazarus’s death.
Anyone who has experienced the physical death and loss of a loved one will know the pain which I am speaking of. There is an emptiness felt because of the finality of the person’s absence. And while we hope in the coming time of the resurrection when Jesus returns, few of us will ever know the joy of having someone who has passed being brought back to life.
Mary and Martha had to face one of the darkest moments of their life and then had the opportunity to see their brother returned to them. And in those days and events, they experienced both the deep tears of sorrow and the excited tears of unexpected joy.
The human experience that we all must journey through will afford us the opportunity to experience both of these extremes. The question is will we be able to hold on to our faith regardless of where or why we might find ourselves weeping.
As we prepare to celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ in just a few short days, may we not fear the tears of sadness or anticipate those of joy that this moment elicits in us. Regardless of the reason, may the tears of sorrow and of joy serve as a cleansing expression of the oftentimes unutterable realities we encounter in life.