I was reading the account of the resurrection of Lazarus in John when I came to that familiar verse where John describes Jesus approaching the tome. I have always read these verses as a perfect example of Jesus’ humanity.
John 11:33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
When Jesus saw Mary weeping He “groaned” in His spirit. The word embrimaomai expresses that He was “deeply moved” with respect to both the present circumstances and those in the immediate future. Isn’t this something that we have felt more than once in our life? And, like us, there are many who believe that His groaning was in response to the weeping of those around Him. Some relate it to another translation of the word meaning “indignation,” in referring to the hypocritical mourning of the Jews. Still, others relate it to the temporary triumph of Satan, who at that time still had the power over death.
But when added to the following verses my mind was opened to something else.
John 11:34-35 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
His next action was to disregard those around Him and to go to the tome, where upon we have the “shortest verse” in the Bible.
The word for wept is klaio, which means “a loud expression of grief,” to which the Jews said, “See how He loved him.” Yes, Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, but this is where I saw something different. Why would Jesus “weep” loudly if He knew that in just a few short minutes, Lazarus would come walking out of the tome, fully restored to his family and friends? And then it hit me!
He was weeping because He was going to be bringing Lazarus back from paradise, where he was surrounded by all the saints and untold hosts of angels. He had entered into complete rest from all his earthly woes, standing there with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in a place where time has ceased to exist. Jesus wept because He knew that Lazarus had just gotten there and was probably in the midst of having an untold number of questions answered. He wept because He was going to call him back into a world of sin, filled with anguish and pain. A world that I am sure Lazarus had no desire to return to.
That is why I think Jesus groaned and wept when He approached the tome. He was saddened for Lazarus, but at the same time He was to demonstrate to all that it was He who would have the ultimate say over death. And we need to constantly remind ourselves that Jesus’ victory over death is reflected in the Promise that He has given to us… eternal life. When our time comes, we will hear Him speak those awesome words… Enter into the joy of your Lord… eternal life!
We will enter into that joy and never have to fear being brought back into this fallen world. That is a Promise we are reminded of every moment of every day in this world because of the presence of the “earnest,” the “down payment” that we hold as His bride… the Holy Spirit.
Yes, Jesus wept because He was going to call Lazarus back and the fact that he would eventually have to die once more in order to return to the place from which he was recalled. But that is a pain we will never have to suffer, and the thought that Jesus will not weep for us is of great comfort.
So let’s not forget the price He paid for our future as we look ahead!