32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Growing up, I learned of many different traditions and customs my parents held. One of those customs was during dinner time, as everyone would gather around the table to eat, there was this expectation that we would go around the table and everyone would say a bible verse. The hope was that mom or dad would pick you first because you already knew what scripture you were going to recite…the shortest one in the Bible…Jesus wept!
It relieved the pressure of trying to figure out what verse you were going to share when you were picked first, while others had to really dig.
Today scripture includes this verse, and it tells us just why Jesus wept. It helps us to grasp the fact that Jesus really was fully human and fully divine, and it gives substantial evidence for me of the that it is okay to love so much that it moves you to cry. The Christian calendar calls me to embrace this at least twice a year when we celebrate Good Friday and we share the 7 last saying of Jesus, recall how Jesus cried out, My, God My God, why have you forsaken me.” So today as we celebrate All Saints’ Day, a day as John Wesley put it ,of “triumphant joy”. We remember Christian saints, who have gone on before us, and we offer thanks for their lives and celebrate their witness as they have prepared the way for us and are now resting in the presence of our God.
We have so much to celebrate today knowing that they have fought the good fight and are apart of the great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on as we continue in this fight of faith.
We have so much to celebrate today, but in our text, we find our Jesus weeping.
Anyone ever wept? Have you ever encountered a pain so intense, you began to weep? I am not asking about crying, I mean weeping.
Now weeping is more than tears rolling down your face. Weeping includes moaning, wailing, sobbing, lamenting, even hollering.
It’s more than tears from hitting your pinky toe on the corner of your bed, more than the expression of an Aggie who just watched their football team lose to Auburn University… in the last 4 mins of the football game.
Weeping is an ancient Jewish expression of mourning and grief.
So, Mary and Martha are weeping, and others present, are also weeping. Then hear that “Jesus began to weep.”
Why is Jesus weeping?
Mary, repeating what Martha had already said, tells Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Now that is some kind of faith. Mary and Martha believe in Jesus so much that they blame him for the death of their, brother Lazarus.
Okay, so why does Jesus weep?
Perhaps he weeps in unity with others who are grieving, as an act of oneness and solidarity with those who grieve.
This weeping one-ness, shows us a God who feels the pain and suffering of humanity. As Luke Powery put it, this is a communal holy sorrow. Jesus wept to demonstrate that you and I are not alone in the midst of hurt and tragedy and brokenness.”
It reveal that God is fully present with us even in the midst of life’s most painful situations, even when we feel like we are sitting in the pit of Hell. God is with us! Jesus is there weeping.
As we live in the aftermath of hurricanes like Micheal, you may know some folks in South Carolina, Some who were affected in someway and endured the loss of their homes, flooding, loss of mementos, fire, cars flooded and underwater. We’ve witnessed on the news, entire towns being destroyed by the impact of water.
Or maybe you have encountered other difficulties in your life, the tragic death of a loved one, and you can relate to Mary’s words:
“Lord if you had been here, my brother, sister, mother, father, son, daughter, uncle, cousin, friend, would have not died.”
BUT GOD IS THERE, WEEPING RIGHT ALONG WITH YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE!
Friends, when we suffer, and when we weep, God does not turn a death ear to us, rather God weeps right there with us! And God calls us to bear one another’s burdens and to weep in unity and solidarity, to be a communion of saints, to be a crowd of witnesses through a spiritual weeping.
How beautiful is this passage?! That reveals to us that God joins in our human suffering and opens God’s self up to the perils of this world…Jesus wept.
BUT wait a minute, the text seems to suggest that Jesus wept for another reason.. verse 36:
“Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”
Jesus weeps as a sign of His love for Lazarus. Not just to be in solidarity with Mary and the others, but because he loved Lazarus.
In his 1987 book called Lament for a Son, about the tragic death of his 25 year old son, Eric, philosophical theologian, Nicholas Wolterstorff, writes, “If [one] was worth loving, [one] is worth grieving over.
It’s okay to shed tears, it’s okay to weep, it is not a sign of weakness; rather it exemplifies a holy strength, one that this culture may not fully understand. BUT weeping is a reflection of love. What a Joy it is to Know Our Jesus Wept!
A weeping love is one that flows for those gone from this earth, a mother, father, daughter, son, uncle, aunt, husband, wife, cousin, close friend, colleague, mentor. All saints.
After studying this passage…
Now I better understand why at the first funeral I performed, the wife of a loving husband literally pulled his body out of the casket, while weeping, or even why people try to jump in the casket. This wife was weeping because she loved him with a deep love!
When God weeps, its because God loves. Jesus was weeping to reveal his love in the face of suffering, even as he headed toward the cross.
Jesus began to weep as an act of solidarity with Mary and Martha and others Jesus wept because of His love for Lazarus and the world.
But friends this weeping was in the face of death. Yes, Jesus
Who was on His wayto give himself up for the sins of the entire world, stopped by a little village to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus to put death in its place.
Yes, Jesus is weeping but it is not a weeping of defeat, it is a weeping that stirs up anger and resistance.
It is a weeping that inspires His purpose and zeal.
It is a weeping that moves Him at the very core of His being.
His beloved Lazarus is dead, has been for 4 days, according to Martha and he is already stinking. Death stinks! Somebody say, Death stinks!
Yes, death stinks, and Jesus is not happy about it!
Yes, Jesus weeps, because he recognizes his friend Lazarus is in death’s grip.
Yes, He weeps because he recognizes the weight and bondage of death.
Yes, He weeps, but this weeping is in the face of the aching pain of the absence of life.
Yes, He weeps over death because He knows there is life and liberty on the other side of death.
Yes, He weeps, because death breaks His heart.
Yes, he weeps,
but he does not just sit down in defeat,
he does not curl up in a corner and cry,
he heads to the tomb, and demands that the stone be rolled away! (Perhaps foreshadowing Jesus’ resurrection)
Yes He weeps, BUT
Jesus Is the Resurrection AND The Life!
So He declares, Lazarus, come out! Verse 44:
44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Lazarus who was dead is now alive!
This miracle, is not just about Jesus ability to raise from the dead, it’s about NEW LIFE and freedom!
In this act, God reveals through Jesus that God is All Powerful and is able and willing to defeat death. This miracle reveals that death does not have the final say! It reveals that God is willing and able to give us new life, and just like Lazarus was released and unbound from those garments of cloth, God offers us freedom.
Can you hear Jesus declaring in your life “Unbind her and let her go!”
Will you receive new life and freedom today? Freedom and new life from alcohol and drug addiction, new life and freedom from depression, and from suicidal thought, new life and freedom from prejudices, and bigotry, new life and freedom from illness and disease, new life and freedom from feelings of inadequacy, new life and freedom from feeling unloved.
Today, be free! Today, as Jesus weeps, know He weeps because He loves you, with a love that is unconditional so much so that He gave Himself for you. But in His resurrection, death’s grip was released for a new life of freedom ……
and to think it all began with weeping.
Friends, As Psalm 30:5b declares: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning light!
So as we celebrate All Saints Sunday, we celebrate those who have died in the faith, may we celebrate knowing death does not have the victory!
As the Apostle Paul declares:
I Corinthians 15:55-57
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God!
Let us pray.
Thank you it is okay to cry. It is okay to weep. Jesus, Thank you for what you did in Lazarus. Revealing to us that life’s situations, and pains break your heart too. We love you God and are grateful for your presence in our lives. Thank you for releasing us from places in our lives that have us bound, help us God as we walk in new life and freedom.
Rededication and renewal
Special Prayer for empowerment to release those unhealthy places in our lives.