When Jesus saw [Mary] 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.”
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?”
Before my grandmother’s funeral in Newtownards a couple of years ago, I unintentionally wandered into the room where her body was being kept- the coffin was unsealed and I saw her body that was once warm and full of hugs and generously-buttered toast lying lifeless. I knew she was with the Lord, but I couldn’t stay there for more than a few seconds.
Similarly, the other night, I heard news that someone, a good person, whom I knew, was dying. My reaction was initially a groan, followed by a strong desire to punch a wall (I didn’t).
John 11:35 may be the shortest verse in the (English) Bible, but it’s packed full of significance. Jesus had heard of Lazarus’ illness and stayed where he was a couple of days before going to see him- by this point, Lazarus had died, but Jesus had a plan to show his glory.
When he arrived in Bethany, the dead man’s two sisters both came to him and said the same thing.
If you had been here, my brother would not have died.
Already emotional, seeing the dead man’s tomb was too much and so he cried. Even though he knew that he was going to raise the man, he cried.
God cried with us.
He could have said “What are you talking about? Roll away the stone from the tomb and you’ll find he’s alive.” (or something a bit less trite) with the same outcome, but he didn’t.
Instead, in crying, he showed he was human, that he’s compassionate, and that he fully identifies with our condition. Death wasn’t part of God’s original plan, but sin has meant that it’s a grim reality in our existence. Jesus’ grief shows us how much God wants us to be with him and not have to experience death.
Jesus still cries with us today. He doesn’t want us to think he’s above our suffering, he feels it with us.