Tuesday, June 14, 2016
"Jesus Wept" Sermon: John 11:28-37
June 12, 2016 Second Reformed Church
We continue with the history of the death of Lazarus.
We remember that Jesus received word that His very close friend, Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, was desperately ill. And Jesus’ response was to tell His disciples that they would not go to see Lazarus for two days. He did that so when they arrived, Lazarus would be dead – in fact, four days dead – very dead – for the sake of what was going to happen.
Jesus arrived on the outskirts of the town where the cemetery was, and Martha heard He had arrived and she ran to greet Him. She expressed her frustration about her brother’s dead, while acknowledging Jesus’ Sovereignty over life and death, and that He is God the Son and Savior.
This morning, we continue the history and as we look at the next section of text, we especially look at the famous and shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.”
After Jesus met with Martha, He sent for her sister, Mary, and waited on the outskirts of town. And we may wonder why Jesus waited outside the town – that He did not go to their home where they were mourning.
The reason that is implied by what happened is that Jesus wanted there to be as many witnesses as possible to what was going to happen,
“When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.”
Martha ran back to the house and told Mary that Jesus wanted her. And she rose and ran to where Jesus was. The Jews had seen Martha run off to see Jesus, but they stayed at the house – probably in keeping with the character of the sisters: Martha was a take-charge, everything in its place kind of person, while Mary was more of a contemplative emotional type. The Jews stayed home when Martha ran off, because it was Mary who needed them more than Martha.
So, when Mary ran off to Jesus, they thought that she was coming apart – running back to the tomb to cry out there. But she was going to her Rabbi. She was going to talk with Him as Martha had. And all the Jews ran after her, so there was a great crowd that arrived with her at the place where Jesus was.
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
Mary arrived where Jesus was and fell before Him in a posture of respect and offered, as her sister had, the frustration of not understanding why her brother had to die, given Who Jesus is and all the others that He had healed.
Was that the entirety of the conversation? We don’t know. But we can see that Martha and Mary were of the same mind about Who Jesus is and what He is able to do.
As we continue, we see, first, Jesus was sorrowful and sympathetic.
“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.”
We need to remember what the Scripture tells us: Jesus is 100% human and 100% God in one person. How that is possible – it is a mystery – but we can understand the necessity of it being true for salvation.
Here the point is to understand that Jesus has the same human emotions as we do. Jesus truly loved His friend Lazarus. He truly loved Mary and Martha. He felt the pain of loss in His friend’s death. He understood and sympathized – even empathized – with Mary and Martha about the death of their brother – after all, Jesus had brothers and sisters, too.
Any of us who have experienced the death of a loved one will understand that we can come to the funeral or the house of mourning with a steady face, but when we see the family and friends and others who are there crying, our souls join with them in mourning – in weeping for the one who has died.
You may remember in our funeral liturgy, we mention that God the Father understands the sorrow of death, even though the Father has never been a human, because His Own Son, Jesus, died on the cross, sending shockwaves through Heaven.
The author of Hebrews explains, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV).
Our God and Savior has a human body – a human nature – so He understands our sorrows. He knows what it is to suffer – more than any other human, in fact. He knows what it is to mourn the death of a loved one. He can sympathize with us – and He does sympathize with us – which is why we can come into the throne room of God in our pain and distress and confusion and cry out to God and He will give us the grace we need in that moment. The Father loves us so much that He sent His Son as a human that He would understand everything about being a human – so He could perfectly understand and love and comfort us as we follow after Him in faith and obedience.
Do we cry out to God in our pain and loss? He is there. He loves us. He understands everything we go through, because Jesus has gone through it all – except for sin.
Paul reminds us that as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, we are also to sympathize – to feel what others are feeling – and to be supportive and encouraging in the good times and in the bad: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV).
Paul goes through a lengthy explanation of how each of us is a different part of the body – all needed, but differently gifted. He concludes by saying, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26, ESV).
We are to be happy for our brothers and sisters who receive a blessing, not envious or coveting of what they have received. We are to recognize the sorrow of our brothers and sisters suffering loss without recrimination or uncaring. If we tell those who are rejoicing that they don’t deserve it or that we are deserve it more, we sin against them. If we tell people who are mourning it was no big deal or that they deserved what they got, that is a sin against them. (Of course if someone is rejoicing due to sin or sorrowful due to sin, that is another matter.)
Jesus wept tears of love for Mary and Martha because of their pain. He wept tears of love as He experienced the loss of a dear friend.
Second, Jesus was angered and troubled.
As we read, “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,” we need to understand that this verse can also be translated, “ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply angered in his spirit and greatly troubled.”
Why would Jesus be angered and troubled about Lazarus’ death?
If we remember again that Jesus is 100% human and 100% God in one person, we can see reasons for God being angry:
First, death was brought into the world by the sin of our first parents. Adam and Eve joined together in cosmic rebellion against God at the prompting of the serpent, and their acting against God brought sin and suffering and death into the world.
So Jesus was angry and troubled as He thought of why we die – by the sin that caused death to come into the world and the sin that continues in this world, despite God’s great mercy and forbearance.
Second, the devil, the first rebel against God, tempted Adam and Eve – he put the doubt in their minds against God – and they chose to call God untrustworthy.
Jesus was angered and troubled by the fact that the devil seeks to bring humans to the Hell he is condemned to. As Peter warns: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:8-11, ESV).
Third, Jesus was angered and troubled because Mary and Martha – and much less the other Jews – did not understand that Jesus did not have to be physically present to heal Lazarus. As much as they understood, they failed to fully understand Who Jesus is – at this point. We shall see that Jews did even less so.
And so Jesus wept. He wept for the human condition marred by sin and for those that participated in the fall of humanity. He wept because we are born cut off from the God Who created us, and there is no hope except through the life and work of Jesus – which is why He was there. The Father sent the Son to make right the separation that sin caused – that we might be one with God and have joy in living and dying and rising to be with Him, perfected and glorified forever.
Jesus was angry and troubled because of sin and its effects on the whole Creation.
Are we angry and troubled about sin, or are we angry with God?
Third, the crowd’s observation was lacking and offensive.
“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?’”
Some of the Jews saw Jesus passionately weeping over the death of His friend and merely saw a man who loved His friend and mourned His death. They did not understand that Jesus is God and the death of Lazarus – as painful as it was for Him to bear as a human Who loved His friend – the death of Lazarus occurred for a greater purpose – the glorification of God.
They only saw the humanity of Jesus and did not recognize Him as God the Son and
Savior. They were blind to the fullness of Who He is.
Others wickedly belittled Him – pouring salt in His wounds – speaking of Him in an
accusatory tone, wondering how He could enable a man who was born blind to see, but could not heal His friend. (We see how powerful an impression the healing of the man born blind left on the people.)
We may seem justified in calling out to God and asking Him why He did something a certain way – why someone got ill, why someone died – Job came to the point of telling God that he understood that God has a right to do whatever He wants with His Creation, but, he thought, God at least owed him an explanation for all the evil that befell him. But God told Job, “No, I don’t owe you an explanation.”
Then what shall we do with this?
We need to remember that Jesus understand our sorrow and He is sympathizing with us as we suffer for any reason other than sin. We can come to Him to receive comfort and grace through prayer to be able to live each day, not matter how weighted with sorrow we might be.
We need to remember that Jesus is angry and troubled over the results of our sin, and the Father loves us so much that He sent Jesus to make all those who believe right with Him.
We need to confess God as Sovereign and believe that all things are in His control, and this loving Father has promised us: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV). And the day is soon coming when these words will be reality in every way: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, ESV).
This is our hope – when loved ones die – when anything goes wrong or is painful for us – God is working all things together for our good and Jesus has conquered death – it is cannot hold us – we shall rise in our bodies and become like Him, if we believe.
Let us understand that Jesus is not merely a human and His ways are not our ways. So when sorrow hits, let us comfort one another, turning our attention and our hope to the promises God has made, and they shall sustain us until the day that all things are made new.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for understanding what it is to be a human and for mourning with us in our sorrow. We thank You that Jesus has made the way of salvation and we shall be restored – the day is coming when there will be no more death and suffering and crying. Help us to support each other and turn to You as we suffer, as well as when we have joy. Help us to trust You and not be crushed by our sorrow. And we ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.