tears | John 11.33-37
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”- Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” John 11:33-37
Jesus stood there, watching her convulsive sobs. Then he looked up and saw those tears mirrored on the faces of the local Jerusalem crowd standing behind her. Anger built up inside him that he released like the snort of a bull seeing red. He let himself feel it – all of it. Calming himself a little, he asked, “Where have you put him?” They replied in unison, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus followed along, tears streaming down his face. Some in the crowd, noticing that, muttered loud enough for him to hear, “He can open the eyes of the blind man, but he can’t make it so this man didn’t have to die?” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Standing on the edge of our pain as an open invitation to approach when we’re ready.
And then we come.
Perhaps like Martha we affirm our faith in the midst of our disappointment; perhaps like Mary we just collapse at his feet with our tears and registered complaint. Perhaps we only have the tears.
Now observe what he does.
No “How dare you question me” moment.
He stands with us in the moment.
He takes in our complaint, hears our distress, absorbs our grief.
He lets himself feel all of it with us.
Let’s get this straight.
The Resurrection and Life has shown up in the presence of death to reverse it miraculously (sorry, spoiler!), and Jesus doesn’t tell these women or this crowd to stop crying, that it’s going to be okay as he strolls over to the tomb and produces their living brother right before their teary eyes? He’s here to raise Lazarus from the dead as a display of the beauty of God in this dark world, but instead of rushing to it he takes time to enter into their pain – and to allow it to enter his own heart?
He honors them.
He honors their pain and heartache.
And then he lets himself feel it with them.
He allows himself to feel it so deeply that he snorts.
That’s more or less the picture conjured up by the word translated “deeply moved.” One translation renders it “he snorted like an angry bull.”
So that’s what Life does in the presence of death and pain.
I always thought the “last shout” before the final resurrection was going to be a happy, triumphant one – and I’m sure those elements will be there. But encountering Christ in this text tunes my ears to an equally pained and anguished cry over all the waste and destruction of death.
“Creation groans in the pains of childbirth, waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed…and we also groan…and the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings that words cannot express.”
This is what God does at funerals.
He isn’t just cracking jokes or leading us in “No Tears in Heaven”;
he doesn’t try to suppress our grief any more than he suppresses his own.
He doesn’t just move the stone from the tomb,
he helps us roll away the one in front of our own hearts.
When have you experienced this kind of “absorbing” presence from God or another human being?
When have you been this for someone else? What did this look like?
Lord, you tell us to “weep with those who weep.” Thank you for modeling this with me. Thank you for absorbing my grief and pain rather than simply insisting that I “get over it” or look at the bright side of things. Thank you for walking with me to the tomb, and for rolling away the stone covering my own heart. Through Jesus.