Jesus wept and so will we

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

by Charles Qualls

The year was 1968 and the little town was Blue Ridge, Georgia. Many child development experts will say that it’s impossible for me to have an actual memory of the event because I was only 3 years old.  Yet, I do.

Anyway, there we were in the mountains of North Georgia at the very first funeral I ever attended. My paternal grandfather had died.

He was estranged from my Dad and my two aunts, having given them away as preschoolers during the Great Depression. Quite literally loaded them into a car and put them out in his own parents’ yard and drove away.

What I cannot recall is whether there was any particular emotion on my father’s part, nor with any of the rest of the family. But, I do remember being there.

The second funeral I ever went to was not long after that. Maybe two years later at most. My Dad’s childhood best friend, and employer, had drunk himself to death and broken my parents’ hearts — the people who may have loved him best. There were tears, and it is the first time I can recall watching my parents openly grieve.

I did not understand what was going on, really. But, do remember wondering what this death thing was all about.

Our loved ones die, and sometimes it just breaks our hearts. When the love has been deep enough, good enough, we can feel physically as though our hearts truly are going to be rendered in two.

Grief at death can feel like physical pain. Grief can feel like fear, emptiness or anxiety. Our grief will often send us into at least a mild depression.

It can feel every day like a bad dream that you wake up to, and it will not go away.

Jesus lost his friend in John 11: 28-37. With glee, as teenagers we touted a portion of this as a memory verse, eager to be sure we had at least one we were confident we would hold onto. John 11:35, the shortest verse in all our Scriptures, weighs in at either two words or four depending on the translation.

“Jesus wept.” Or if they get fancy, “Jesus began to weep.” One translation even renders this “Jesus burst into tears!”

I don’t know about you but, I have been around Christians who try to explain this one off. There are all manner of ways that some believers try to get around the notion that Jesus actually cried.

Let me ask us all a question. When did we decide that a God who cared was a god too weak to guide and save us?

John 11 says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” Richmond pastor Ray Spence says, and I think accurately so, that the Greek verbiage represents Jesus being “all torn up inside.”

Back in August, I mentioned that this was the home where he went to be among friends. Lazarus’ place was where Jesus was safe from agenda, the traps of pharisaical questions. In other words, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were chosen-family. We know that sometimes, chosen-family can be as close or closer in our lives than the families into which we are born.

“Jesus wept.” Then, the text shows those who were around observing that Jesus’ sorrow was because he loved Lazarus. The Greek verbiage in that sentence does not use the powerful, Godly “agape” word for love. Here, it uses “philea,” the brotherly, communal and very human type of love to describe Jesus.

Dr. Anna Carter-Florence says that when we want to get into what a Biblical text is trying to say to us, there are especially a lot of verbs to pay attention to. She says that if time is of the essence, dive into the verbs and you can get into the deep-end quickly.

The verbs here in the Greek lead us mostly to notice that Jesus was seeing the grief of those He loved best. He was in the middle of their most palpable sorrow.

Why might Jesus have cried? Jesus appears to have cried because his very soul had been touched by Lazarus’ death and the grieving over him by people whom Jesus also loved closely. He was humanly touched.

I don’t think Jesus’ sadness here came from much different a place than the deep sadness He showed at Gethsemane when he prayed and sweated blood because of his love for humanity.

“Jesus wept.” If he did, then in our grief I suspect so will we when we are sad.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.