And Jesus Wept

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John 11: 28 – 37

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 

31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.  32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

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33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind manhave kept this man from dying?”

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In the last article, we took a brief look at one of the most powerful statements that Jesus ever spoke.  He declared, “I am the Resurrection, and the Life.”  This is such a profound and deep theological truth.  One of the major worldviews among western people today is that we live within a closed system, that there is no God, that life began as just a chemical process over great millennia of time.

But Jesus’ words greatly challenge this worldview.  He claims that He is the true source of Life.  And Scripture backs up this claim.  Take a look at what John said in the first chapter of his book, realizing that “the Word” is a reference to Jesus who came into the world:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John is not alone in this view of Jesus being the source of all life.  Paul puts it very clearly for us in Colossians chapter one:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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This is all important background as we see what happens in our passage above.  When Mary heard the news that Jesus had come and was nearby, she immediately got up and ran out of the house to go and meet Him.  The people thought that her action was a reaction to the grief she was feeling over the loss of her brother.  Yes, she was experiencing grief, but with Jesus’ presence now, I believe she had hope that Jesus could make a difference in the situation.

It’s interesting that the words she spoke to Jesus were identical to that of her sister Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  But Mary is also not trying to challenge Jesus or be critical of Him.  In fact, we see Mary demonstrating both faith and worship as she fell at Jesus’ feet while speaking to Him.  And then we see what we may have been expecting all along, Mary breaks down and weeps for the loss of her brother.

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What happened next is very powerful.  Jesus was deeply moved by the emotional pain that was displayed, not only by Mary, but by so many of the people who were also there at the time.  And their grief touched His heart.  And Jesus wept.  When we realize as we stated above that Jesus was the Author of Life itself, then it is extremely significant when we read, “Jesus wept.”

This statement, “Jesus wept,” is so instructive.  There are many false opinions and beliefs around that even if there is a God, that He is not a God who cares.  No, Jesus demonstrated for us that He shares in the pain of someone else who is suffering emotional pain.  And we learn about the heart of God by looking into the heart of Jesus, who was God in the flesh.

And this statement, “Jesus wept,” is also so comforting.  Jesus was so completely human, sharing in all of the range of normal human feelings.  I know that He understands me and my emotions.  He can identify with where I am emotionally.  And being God, He is not only fully aware of what my emotional needs are, He will be able to come and help meet me at my point of need.

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Now I need to ask you to consider your relationship to Jesus.  Have you come to recognize that He is God, who came to live among us as a human?  I pray you have.  That is a good place to start.  Have you bowed in recognition before Jesus as the Son of God, like Mary did so long ago?  That is the path that leads to eternal life with God as Jesus stands as our Saviour, redeeming us from our sins against God.

In this article though, I want to suggest we go one step further.  I encourage all of us to see Jesus as our Friend who will stand by our side in life and who will empathize with us in our times of greatest need.  We all know how important it is to have someone to turn to when our hearts are grieved.  Wouldn’t it make sense to turn to the One who made our hearts?  Just remember these words, “Jesus wept.”

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Jesus Is The Resurrection & The Life

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John 11: 17 – 27

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

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24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God,who is to come into the world.”

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As we look into this passage, we will need to keep in mind the cultural and religious background of the Jewish people of the 1st century.  The very first thing we need to consider is the process and issues involved when a person died back then.  There were some cultural groups, such as the Egyptians, who regularly practiced the embalming of dead bodies.  But even for the Egyptians, it would have been done only for the royal families and very rich people.

For a Jewish family then, when someone died, it would be necessary to immediately take care of the body and place it in a grave.  But this would not be a six-foot hole in the ground that we are used to in the West.  So much of the ground of Palestine was rocky ground that it was much more common for the people to dig out caves into the rock face of a hill.  Corpses would be wrapped up in linen clothes along with perfumed spices, and then within the cave/tomb, the bodies would be placed upon carverd out ledges.

We see from verse 17 above, that Lazurus’ body had been in his grave/tomb for four days.  Obviously, the body would have decayed quite a bit by this point and had quite a bad smell.  What is not obvious to us unless we know ancient Jewish culture, was the belief that a person’s spirit might remain nearby for up to three days before finally departing.  And so when John wrote that Lazurus was in the tomb for four days, it would be understood by readers that there would not be any chance for Lazurus’ spirit to rejoin his body and produce a “resurrection”.

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There is no question then that Lazurus was very, very dead.  And yet we see in Martha, who ran immediately to Jesus when she heard that He had arrived close to her town of Bethany, a very strong faith that He had the power to overcome death itself.  Her statement is what is called a “contrafactual” statement and might sound like she is critical of Jesus.  It would read more completely like this: “If you had been here [but you weren’t], then my brother would not have died [but he did].”

Jesus tried to reassure Martha that her “brother will rise again.”  To her credit, Martha agreed that Lazurus would rise again from the dead “at the last day”, which refers to when God would resurrect all people and have them stand before Him on the Day of Judgment.  But Jesus had been given power by God to have control over life and death even now, not just at the end of time.

Jesus went on to speak one of the most powerful statements in all of Scripture, “I am the Resurrection and the Life!”  Wow, what a statement.  But do we really understand all that Jesus is saying in this one statement.  I think not.  Mainly because this statement contains nouns “resurrection” and “life”, and for most of us, we understand verbs (or action words) more than nouns.

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Let me try to unpack this statement by using verbal language then and see if it will bring home better for us the meaning of Jesus’ words.  One way we might translate this could be, “I am the One who causes people to rise again after they have died, and I am the One who causes people to really live.”  The source of real life, both here in this world and in the world to come is found in Jesus.  And access to this life is made possible when one puts his/her faith in Jesus.

Jesus then challenged Martha directly to see if she did possess this kind of faith.  And she did.  As a good Jewish person, she had awaited the coming of the Messiah, the “Promised One of God”, the One who would rescue the nation of Israel, and ultimately all people of the world.  Martha went one step further to recognize that not only was Jesus the coming Savior, He was the Son of God.  Other than Peter, no one else within the Gospels, prior to the resurrection, had made this statement of faith.

What an incredible moment that must have been.  In the midst of great grief, faith rose up within Martha as she stood in front of the One who is the Giver of Life.  She recognized that death was not final, and that Jesus was the One who could overcome death and grant the promise of a resurrected life.  What she didn’t realize was that she would see this come to pass right in front of her that day.  But that part of the story will be next week’s article.

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