Jesus Wept. But Why?
John 11:35 of the New Testament is one of the shortest verses of scripture: “Jesus wept.” The scene was one where his dear friend, Lazarus, had died. Two days earlier, word had come to him from the town of Bethany where Lazarus and his sisters--Mary and Martha-lived, that Lazarus was on the verge of death, but for much of that time, Jesus pretended to no urgency to go to minister to Lazarus.
When he arrived a tense 48 hours later, Mary accosted him with her tears. “Jesus, why didn’t you come earlier? If you had, you could have healed him, and he’d still be alive.” (verse 32) As Christ saw Mary, Martha, and others of the Jews who had loved Lazarus weeping, he wept, too.
Later in chapter 11 (verse 47) we learn that the leaders of the Jews have begun plotting against Jesus’s life. It wasn’t his direct political challenges that, for which others had been put away by the Jews, that troubled them. They were much more concerned with and threatened by the miracles that he performed, and that these miracles would make many more of the Jewish people turn to Christ and away from them.
This is a clue to one of the reasons why Jesus wept.
Certainly Christ wept because he could see that Mary and Martha dearly loved their brother who had passed into death. At that point in the story they likely may simply were satisfied with their understanding that they would one day in the distant future see Lazarus again, in the resurrection. Perhaps they had an inkling that Christ also had the power to restore Lazarus to life then and there, but I think that was probably too much at that point for them to hope.
But Christ also wept because he knew that the miracle he was about to perform would cause a division among the friends of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. To those who accepted him as the messiah, it would be a blessed event, but to those who were politically threatened by it, Lazarus’ raising from the dead would give them more license to hate the Christ.
Love is the great indicator of the reality of opposition in every facet of life. To be satisfied with our self-centeredness is to be happy to some degree. But to truly love is a guarantee that we will often weep. Those who love will always have occasion to weep, because there will always be someone to weep over, whether it is weeping for joy or sorrow.
To love and to weep is to be vulnerable. During Enoch’s interview with God in the 7th chapter of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, he was surprised to see God weeping. How is it possible that a perfect being can express emotion, Enoch wondered? God explained that despite his love for his children, their agency and their opportunity to learn by their own experience prevented him from putting a stop to their wickedness.
The vulnerability of weeping with those who weep is difficult for most people to deal with. We don’t like to go to funerals because they make us cry. We don’t talk to friends and co-workers during their moments of suffering because we’re uncomfortable that we won’t know what to say. When a spouse or child confides in us that they are hurting, it seems much easier to just encourage them to snap out of it rather than to accept them as they are in their moment of mourning--and to mourn with them.
Perhaps this was part of Lucifer’s weakness--and his downfall--that as he looked over the historic expanse of previous worlds, he wished to prevent such sorrow in our own world. In a similar way, it seems possible that those who choose to reside following this life in a lower kingdom of glory will do so because it will bring them great happiness without the vulnerability of weeping and mourning with those who weep and mourn. It is thus that to choose the highest kingdom of glory is to choose to be forever vulnerable and forever potentially sad.
Eternal life is one eternal round. Life continues to progress. New life comes into being. Mortality is constantly transforming itself into immortality. But just as there will always be an opportunity to experience joy in eternity over those who choose to inherit eternal life through their goodness, there will also be the experience to weep over the offspring who wander--who choose unwisely.
That’s why Jesus wept. Because, despite whether we choose to do evil or to do good, Christ loves us completely. This was his experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, but it was also his experience in Bethany at the death of Lazarus. While the torture of the cross was public and individual, the suffering of the Garden was private and intimate. Christ had the opportunity, in that short moment of time, to step into the timelessness of eternity for each one us--to learn our personalities, our desires, and our struggles. And through that timeless opportunity, he learned to love us completely. Not just those that we love, mind you. He loves even those who abuse us, and even those who abused him. He loved Pilate, the Pharisees, and the Roman soldiers who took his life.
We often think of weeping as a negative thing, something that we should probably not often do because Christ counseled us to be of good cheer. But true weeping, whether it be out of joy or sorrow is something that should actually make us cheerful. Because it is a marker to us of how much we truly love.