From the Gospel of John 11:35, we find not only the shortest verse in the Bible, but also a prime example of Jesus’ humanity, and a situation that He considered to be a teachable moment, to show himself as The Christ. This verse, while only two words in length, carries powerful meaning AND consequence. It comes from John’s narrative of the death of one of Jesus’ followers, and beloved friend, Lazarus of Bethany.
"Jesus Wept" by James Tissot (1836-1902)
Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha, send word to Jesus that their brother is very ill and on the verge of death. But, by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been in his tomb for four days. When Jesus arrived, first Marth went to meet him, and Mary eventually ran out to greet him as well. In tears, Mary dropped at His feet saying…”Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”, just as her sister Martha had done earlier. After talking to the grieving Mary and Martha, and seeing friends of Lazarus weeping, Jesus became deeply sorrowful and troubled in spirit. After asking where Lazarus had been laid to rest, and being invited to come see…Jesus wept (The Gospel of John, 11:35). Jesus then went to Lazarus’ tomb and told the mourners to remove the stone covering it. He prayed aloud to his Father, and ordered Lazarus to come out, thus resurrecting his dear friend and follower from the dead.
Food for thought…
Why didn’t Jesus get there sooner? Well, because, instead of sparing Mary, Martha, and the other mourners from this tragedy, Christ may have had a more significant purpose in mind, thus the teachable moment I mentioned at the beginning if this post. If you look back a little bit, in John (11:14-15), we find this…14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him”. When Martha (the first sister to greet Jesus) said “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”, Jesus said plainly to her…"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:25). That conversation with Martha tells us that Jesus’ plan all along was to show those who were there that, through the Father, He and He alone, has power over death, and that He is the path to eternal life.
The powerful meaning...
Many biblical scholars attribute tremendous significance to Christ's deep emotional response to Lazarus’ death, to his family and friends’ grief and weeping, and to His own tears, including the following:
- Crying shows that Christ was truly human, of flesh and blood, with real bodily functions (i.e. tears, sweat, blood, emotions, etc.).
- His reactions, emotions, and feelings were real and genuine…Jesus was not an illusion or a spirit. **Incidentally, Pope Leo I referred to this passage from the Gospel of John when he talked about the two natures of Jesus saying: "In his humanity Jesus wept for Lazarus; in his divinity he raised him from the dead."
- The deep anger he felt toward the tyranny of death over us.
- The sorrow, sympathy, and compassion Jesus felt for all of us.
After seeing Jesus perform this miracle, a lot of the people who had been there with Mary and Martha to mourn Lazarus’ passing, then believed in Him. It was not without consequence, however, as some of those mourners told the Pharisees what they had seen. And the Pharisees, high priests, and Jewish elders, always mindful of how “beholden” they were to the Romans, became very, very nervous, saying about Jesus…(John 11:48) If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.” Beginning then, the Jewish religious elite planned to kill Christ.
Get the printable bible verse for John 11:35 here...
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