Jesus Wept Tuesday, October 17, 2017
By James L. Thornton
John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”
We want to look into the incident which brought Jesus to tears and try to understand His emotional feelings as He wept in the view of onlookers. Grown men don’t cry in public.
The incident involves a man who, but for his death, we would have never heard of him. We would never have known that he existed. His voice is never heard. He never speaks for our benefit. The gospel writers pass over him almost completely.
Lazarus of Bethany comes as near to being like Jesus of Nazareth, both in his character, and in his services, and in his unparallel experiences, as mortal man ever came.
Lazarus’ name is never mentioned in the New Testament till the time appointed comes when he falls asleep and dies, and is raised from the dead “for the glory of God.” (John 11:4)
Our Lord and His twelve disciples often found a place to rest and dine at the home in Bethany where Lazarus lived with his two sisters, Martha and Mary. They all seemed to have found a place to lay their head in Martha’s house, but where Lazarus laid his head at such times no one ever asks.
The evangelists pass over Lazarus as if he were a servant or one of the domestic animals. They do not give him the place of a man in his own home. But Lazarus never takes offence at that. We know far more about his sickness, and death, and resurrection than we know about his life.
We are introduced to this family in Luke 10:38-42 when Martha invited Jesus and the twelve into her home and served a meal to them. On this particular occasion the whole train of the Evangelist’s (Luke) thought is upon the two sisters, Martha and Mary, they are the only ones mentioned in this incident.
Martha seemed to be so cumbered (burdened) with preparation and serving the meal that she became aggravated because Mary was not helping her. Mary was enjoying sitting at the feet of Jesus listening and hanging on to His every word.
Martha, in her exasperation, interrupted our Lord and asked the Lord to send Mary to help her. Then we hear the gentle rebuke of Martha by our Lord, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
But we ask, “Where was Lazarus during the time when all this group of people crowded into his home?” At least thirteen grown men, and possibly more, were there for dinner. The evangelists pass over Lazarus as if he did not exist, but I feel that he was there, as we learn later, all the disciples, along with Jesus, knew him and loved him.
I feel that Lazarus was busy keeping the fire going for Martha, turning the roasting lamb, washing all the guest’s feet, seeing that everyone had everything to make them feel welcome and comfortable, he was servant to all. Lazarus was the first to come with the towel over his arm.
Lazarus loved his Lord far more than they all—but it was a silent love. It was a worshiping love, only his love could not escape His eyes who “knows what is in man” without man testifying to the fact. Jesus knew how deeply Lazarus loved Him, and He loved Lazarus back again, and expected all His disciples to love Lazarus also.
The first time Lazarus comes to our attention is in John 11, and if we are not careful we will leave him out and focus our attention upon the vocal Martha and Mary. But if we keep our mind focused upon Lazarus we will be able to understand why Jesus wept. We will be able to understand why Jesus groaned and wept all the way to his grave.
Let us follow Jesus as He makes His way to the grave where Lazarus was buried.
JOHN INTRODUCES US TO LAZARUS:
John 11:1. “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
John alone writes of this event that takes place shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion. Many feel the reason the other evangelists did not write of this miracle, great as it was, because Lazarus was still alive when they wrote, and to write about it would put him in greater danger of being persecuted by the Jews.
This miracle, and the resulting after events, takes up more space in our Bible than any other of Jesus’ miracles, all of chapter 11 and the first few verses of chapter 12 in John’s Gospel.
Bethany is about a mile and a half from Jerusalem, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. The village has become well known in the circle of evangelic narrative from Luke’s reference to Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Being close to Jerusalem, Jesus resided here on several occasions when He came to visit Jerusalem.
The information concerning Mary in the second verse had not, at this time, happened, but John would record it as it happened later in chapter 12 of his Gospel.
LAZARUS IS SICK:
John 11:3. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.”
A messenger was sent to Bethabara beyond Jordan, where Jesus had gone to escape the Jews at Jerusalem who were trying to apprehend Him. The Jews, on several occasions had threatened, or attempted to kill Him (John 5:16; 7:1; 7:19; 7:25; 8:40; 10:31), so Jesus had retired to this region close to where John had baptized Him.
Somehow these sisters knew where Jesus was, it was a great way off beyond Jordan, The messenger was bearing news from Mary and Martha telling Him that the one He loved was sick. Jesus knew who they were referring to without them calling him by his name.
This lets us know that when one of our loved ones are sick to let Jesus know about it.
Jesus would want to hear it from us. We have great encouragement in our prayers for those who are sick, if we have ground to hope that they are such as Jesus loves; and we have reason to love and pray for those whom we have reason to think Jesus loves and cares for.
Now we all know that Jesus loves all people, but his human nature, like ours, drew closer to some than others. John claims the Lord’s love for himself on more than one occasion (John 13:23; 19:26). Lazarus must have been a person who was easy to love because Jesus Himself used the phrase, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” (John 11:11). This indicates that Lazarus was the disciple’s friend also.
John 11:4. “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
This seems like a contradictory statement by our Lord, but death to Him only came to those who were sinners. The sickness of good people, howsoever threatening, is not unto death, for it is not unto eternal death. The body’s death to this world is the soul’s birth into another world. Remember Jesus said of the maid whom he proposed to restore to life, “The maid is not dead, but sleepeth.” (Matthew 9:24)
Then Jesus added another statement that this sickness happened, “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” He had made a similar statement when asked about a man born blind. (John 9:3)
We never know but what some of the things God asks of us, that we don’t understand, may be only for His glory.The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the last of Jesus’ miracles, and would cause a great stir among the people, and Jesus and Lazarus to be hated even more by the Jews. (John 12:9-10)
LAZARUS IS DEAD:
We know that Lazarus died not long after Jesus received word from his sisters that he was sick. Jesus informed his disciples, “our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (John 11:11-14). (Jesus knew all along that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.)
It would have taken at least two days for Jesus and his disciple to reach Bethany from where He was when He received the news that Lazarus was sick. This would account for Lazarus to have “lain in the grave four days already.”
John 11:20. “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.”
Upon Jesus’ arrival Martha was informed that He was near and she went out to meet Him, but Mary remained in the house. Probably Mary did not hear the news that Jesus was near. Mary’s profound feeling that made her a better listener than Martha makes her a more helpless sufferer now. Martha was capable of shaking off her depression better than Mary.
LOOK AWAY; LOOK MUCH HIGHER THAN THE SCENE BEFORE US:
And once again, if we are not careful, we will leave Lazarus out of this chapter and dwell on the vocal Martha and Mary. That has its place, but in this study we want to dwell on Lazarus, and think where he is. We want to look into heaven itself, and have our eyes opened to the ascended Lazarus, and to his glory.
We want to look away, and close our ears to the conversation between Jesus and the two sisters. Then we will be able to understand why Jesus groaned and wept all the way to where Lazarus’ dead body lay decaying in the grave.
Our Lord did not leave Lazarus out. No, not his glory either. Our Lord knew what He was on His way to do, and He took to heart what He was on His way to do, and it bothered Him to the point of groaning that could not be uttered, to work His last miracle, for the awakening of Jerusalem, at such a cost to Lazarus.
He knew all the time how it would end. He knew what Caiaphas would say, “Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:50). “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;” (John 12:10).
And He knew what Judas and Pilate and Herod and the people would do. And He groaned in His spirit because He so clearly foresaw that His friend Lazarus, like Himself was to be made a spectacle, and at such a price. And “Jesus Wept” over it.
Yes; and if you saw a friend of yours in glory, and then saw that he was to be summoned to lay aside his glory and to return to be a comfort to so many of your friends, you could not but weep also. Our Lord wept because Lazarus, who had been but four days in glory, was to be summoned to lay aside his glory and to return to this world of sin and death.
An old tradition says that when Lazarus died our Lord was glad; but when He came to raise him to life, He wept. For though Mary and Martha and His disciples gained by it, yet Lazarus himself lost by it, by being re-imprisoned, recommitted, and re-submitted to the manifold inconveniences of this life.
JESUS COMES TO THE TOMB:
John 11:32. “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
33. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
34. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35. Jesus wept.
36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
38. Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Two of these verses tells us of the deep inward feelings Jesus had by His groaning, and then the sadness when He wept. John standing close to his Lord noted the deep feeling Jesus displayed throughout this difficult and painful experience.
John 11:39. “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.”
41. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.
43. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
And thus it was that Lazarus had scarcely sat down in his Father’s house; he had his harp of gold in his hand, getting ready for the Hallelujah choruses, when the angel Gabriel came up to where he sat, all rapture through and through and said to him; “Hail! Lazarus: Thy Master calleth for thee. He has some service for thee still to do for Him on earth.”
And the sounds of heaven ceased for the moment as they saw one of the most shinning of their number rise up, and lay aside his glory, hang his harp on the wall, and pass out of sight, and descended immediately to where their heavenly Prince still tarried with His work unfinished.
Lazarus’ soul descended straightway into the grave, where for four days his former body had lain dead. The first words that Lazarus heard were these, and the voice that spoke was the voice of his former Friend, “Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes; and his face bound about with a napkin” (John 11:43-44).
Jesus wept at the contrast between heaven and earth, from robes of celestial glory moments before, to grave clothes now. And Jesus, “saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” We are not told by John where Lazarus went but most likely like his Lord into hiding for the next chapter tells us that the Jews went into council about putting him to death because this miracle caused many to believe on the Lord. (John 12:10-11)
WHAT THIS MEANS TO US:
God’s great demands that He sometimes makes on His great saints is the great lesson that Lazarus teaches us. As, also, that great lowliness of mind, and great meekness, and great self-surrender is our greatest of sainthood.
God made His greatest demands on His own lowly minded Son, the meekest and the most emptied of all men (Philippians 2:5-11). And after Him, on Lazarus the friend of His Son. A demand on Lazarus that made his divine friend mourn and weep for him, as he came down to earth in answer to the demand.
Lazarus was the most Lamb-like of men in all the New Testament, next to the Lamb Himself. And his services and his experiences were not at all unlike the services and the self-surrender and the emptying of his Master. For Lazarus also laid aside his glory.
OUR OWN COMMITMENT, SELF-SURRENDER:
Who will offer themselves, to take up and relinquish themselves, some humiliation, some self-empting? Some surrender, as of heaven itself in exchange for earth, may be demanded of you as your contribution to the glory of God, and to the glory of the Son of God.
God may have as terrible a service to ask of you, when you are ready for it, as when He asked His own Son to go down to Bethlehem, and to Nazareth, and to Gethsemane, and to Calvary.
Some self-empting and self-sacrifice like He asked of the glorified Lazarus also, when He sent him back to Bethany which was nigh unto Jerusalem.
Are you able? Are you ready? Are you willing to be made able and ready? Let your answer be the answer of Jesus of Nazareth, and of Lazarus of Bethany; “Lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do thy will. O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart.”
We hope you enjoyed this study on an incident in the life of Lazarus and the emotional impact it had on Jesus.
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By James L. Thornton