Two Tuesdays ago I ended the message at The Porch by announcing that a good friend and member of our staff was leaving to become a mom, with her baby due that very weekend.
Last Tuesday I had to start the message by saying that her baby passed away on Sunday night.
The funeral was on Saturday. Needless to say, it’s been a week of many tears. It’s just really, really, really, really sad.
As I shared the news with the Porch volunteers, the one verse that came to mind was John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” It is somewhat famous for being the shortest verse in the Bible, and therefore the easiest to memorize. But it also carries a lot of weight when you stop to consider why Jesus wept.
The Rest of the Story
The larger story surrounding that two-word verse is fascinating. Really, go read John 11.
Jesus was away, in a different part of the country, when someone delivers a message from His friends Mary and Martha that their brother Lazarus was very ill. Now, Jesus was well-known by this time as the greatest doctor in history, and it’s not even close. He regularly and instantaneously cured incurable diseases—diseases that are still incurable today—and could do so without even seeing the patient.
So what does Jesus do when He hears that His friend Lazarus is sick? Nothing, really. He stays where He is for two more days. He does comment that “This sickness will not end in death,” which is really interesting when you do the math and realize that Lazarus was probably already dead by the time Jesus got the message, and that Jesus knew this.
After two days, Jesus tells the disciples that they are going to go visit Lazarus to, and I quote, “wake him up.” From death. Because it really is that simple for Him.
Don’t You Care?
When He arrives, and Lazarus has been dead for at least four days, Martha and Mary each separately confront Jesus and say essentially the same thing: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
It doesn’t appear that they were accusing Him, but it would be easy to imagine such a scenario. Where were You, Lord? We called for You! You had the power to save him, but You didn’t. Don’t You care?
We get a clear answer to that last unasked question soon after: “Jesus wept.”
But why would Jesus be overcome with sadness? Consider the facts:
Jesus was on His way to “wake him up.” He knew that, literally within a few minutes, Lazarus would be completely not dead. He would be as good as new.
Likewise, He knew that the people who were crying around Him would very soon be overwhelmed with joy.
He knew exactly how everything was going to turn out. He even said, more than once, that the entire chain of events was designed to serve a larger purpose: people would know He was the Son of God and believe that He had the power to give life to the dead.
For Jesus, who is God, to sincerely weep in this situation is humanly impossible. It was a supernatural occurrence; His tears were as miraculous as Lazarus’ resurrection. It would be like if my daughter Presley, not knowing how the TV worked, accidentally pressed the button to turn it off and then began to cry thinking she “broke the TV.” I wouldn’t cry with her. How could I?! I’d just turn the TV back on.
Yet Jesus truly felt sadness. Deep sadness. It says that He was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” when He saw how sad and hurt Mary and the others were. He felt their pain, and was hurt that they hurt. And perhaps the bystanders were right when they saw Jesus weeping and said “See how he loved him!” Jesus did love Lazarus, as He loves everyone, and felt sadness that he had died—even though it was temporary.
God understands tragedy. When friends lose babies, or we lose friends, or anything causes our hearts to break, He is not indifferent. He cares more deeply than we do. And it seems He chooses to grieve with us even though He has a different perspective: He knows the purpose behind it all. He knows how it all will end, and that even death does not have to end in death.
When a friend experiences the sorrow of loss, resist the urge to say something profound. Remind them that you love them, and be sad with them. Resist saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Instead, just observe with the intention of finding something that you can do proactively.
Though we grieve, we grieve from a position of hope.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
What have friends done to encourage you in times of loss and heartache?