As a girl, I knew this as the shortest verse in the Bible, but I didn't understand it's significance. I knew the story, but His weeping didn't mean anything to me personally. It was something that happened long ago, and I couldn't relate. After all, Jesus was living on the earth, and those around him could see and touch Him. But I couldn't. How was a story that happened so long ago supposed to help me now?
You may remember the story. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was sick. The two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling Him. But Jesus didn't go to them right away. And when He arrived, He was informed that Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days.
Martha was the first to go out and meet Jesus. She said, "Jesus if You had been here, my brother wouldn't have died." and "But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask for." Her second statement showed that Martha had faith, but I'm not sure it occurred to her what Jesus could and was about to do. When He says, "Your brother will rise again," she replies, "Yes, I know he will rise again on the last day when everyone else rises." I've wondered if she knew Jesus could raise her brother from the dead but was too afraid to hope. Jesus had not done this kind of miracle before.
Mary had stayed behind. We aren't told why but when Martha returns and tells her, "The Teacher is here and wants to see you," Mary went right away. Is it possible that Mary was so disappointed that she couldn't "see straight"? That she began to believe some lies that the enemy was telling her about Jesus and why He had stayed away so long? Maybe Mary thought Jesus didn't love her anymore or care about her brother since He took so long to get there. Maybe she was so heartbroken that the thought of seeing Jesus was too difficult until she found out He wanted to see her. She fell at His feet and said the same thing Martha had said, "Jesus, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." The difference between Mary and Martha was Mary was distraught and weeping uncontrollably.
At this point, Jesus is deeply moved in His spirit and troubled. We aren't told why. The people, who were also crying, had followed Mary when she went to find Jesus and He asks them, "Where have you put him?" They said, "Come and see, Lord." This is when Jesus weeps. Was He overcome with grief? Did Jesus hate to see the people, and particularly Mary, in so much pain? Jesus knew what was about to happen so why is He is weeping and why is He is troubled?
Jesus knew their pain and sorrow would be over soon. He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He also knew that they didn't know what was going to happen. This caused Him to have compassion on them. He entered their pain. He knew they had no idea...not even Martha. He knew in a few moments, their sorrow would turn to joy. But for this moment, He wept with them. Would they understand why He had done it this way? Would they see that this is what brought the greatest glory to the Father? Would they get that Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing?
This story tells us something about Jesus. Just like He entered the pain of Martha, Mary, and the people back then, He will enter our pain now. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our grief at seeing a loved one walk away from the Lord is painful. It hurts! As a mom, I know this is true. Jesus is still loving and compassionate today. He cares. The psalmist says in Psalm 56:8, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."
But this story also tells us something else. Just like Martha and Mary, we don't know what Jesus is about to do. But we do have the benefit of seeing how Jesus turned their sorrow into joy. We have an encouragement that they didn't have. We have the advantage of seeing how their story ends. It's intended to bring us hope in the midst of our sorrow. If Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead for the glory of the Father, will He not bring our loved one back to Himself for the same reason? Will He not have compassion on us while we are waiting?