There is something deeply moving about tears. We see someone weeping and it can have quite an effect on us. The stronger the person who weeps the more powerful the effect is upon us. We are more affected by seeing a man weeping than a child. When the man is a strong emotionally stable man, with tears running down his face, it speaks volumes to us.
On three occasions we are told of Christ weeping. This is not just at a great man weeping, that would be touching enough, but this is the Son of God weeping.
Tears are a window on the soul; they allow us to see what really matters to a person. And it is no different with Jesus.
In John 11:35 we come to the first instance of Jesus’ tears. His close friend Lazarus has just died and Jesus has gone to see Lazarus’ sisters.
‘When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”’
The question we need answered is: “Why is Jesus weeping?”
Jesus is not weeping because Lazarus is gone. He knows that in just a few moments he will raise Lazarus. I want to suggest 2 reasons:
Jesus wept because he loves
Have you ever had a moment when you’ve seen something and it moved you so much that your eyes filled and the tears ran in rivers down your cheeks? Jesus tears were not like the loud wailing of Mary and Martha--a different word is used. Instead these were silent tears running down his face as he looked at the suffering his loved ones were going through.
Jesus is no cold conqueror who comes to dispatch the enemy and to free the prisoners. He is one who weeps as he sees what the enemy has done to his people. His heart is moved by our plight. When we are struggling he is not sitting watching impassively.
The momentary sadness of his people matters to him. Here he weeps at his loved ones having to suffer.
Here we see the beauty of Christ’s tenderness, his love for his people in the midst of suffering. The Saviour who offers himself to us is a most tender caring and feeling Saviour. He knows what you are going through and he cares.
Do you grasp how much he loves and cares for you? As those who surrounded Jesus that day said, “See how he loved him”, can you hear the angels say to each other in awed amazement, “See how he loves them”?
But these tears are not solely tears of sympathy. Jesus was weeping for another reason.
Jesus wept because he was angry
He sees two of his dear friends, Martha and Mary distraught at the death of their brother. He sees their grief and pain and suffering. And another emotion stirs in his heart. It is a surprising one. It is anger.
The phrase ‘was deeply moved in spirit’ (v33) might be better translated ‘was deeply angered’. As Jesus sees the misery and pain that sin has brought to the world it angered him.
He looks into the eyes of Martha and then Mary and sees in the redness of their swollen eyes, and the tear-streaked faces the grubby footprints of sin trampling over God’s creation. Here is all that life is not meant to be. Here is sin exposing its ugliest side.
Sin, like a vandal, has defaced the portrait of a dear friend. And our saviour is angry. Angry at what the results of the fall have done to his friends. He hates to see the suffering that sin causes. These are tears coming from a heart filled with rage. Rage that sin should so mar and spoil the lives of his people.
In Mary’s grief Jesus sees the history of the whole human race. And he is angry.
But his anger is not wild and uncontrolled. It is focused. He approaches the grave of his friend, and we see in his tears a determination to reverse the situation. Sin will not triumph this day. Death will not win. Jesus did not come to leave sin and suffering reigning supreme. He came to defeat them.
Here we see not just a love for sinners and a hatred for sin, but a powerful saving compassion. His victory at the tomb of Lazarus is a foretaste of his victory at Calvary.
Some men go to war not knowing the demands it will make. They go off full of high hopes of an easy victory, and an idealism of what it will be like. Not so this warrior. As he approaches the tomb he knows what it will take to defeat sin, to free his people from death. He knows that there is a price to be paid, a high price, the highest price. He knows the pain and the suffering that his own death will involve, but his desire to defeat sin and to free the hostages is greater.
And because of that he will one day stride to your grave and summon you to a future of no more tears.