Someone told me the other day that her husband’s favorite Bible verse was “Jesus cried.” It is known as the shortest verse in the Bible. It was her husband’s favorite verse because when he was in confirmation everyone was required to memorize a Bible verse of their choosing. So, he chose, “Jesus cried.”
It’s a little verse and easy to memorize. But it holds a lot of weight. It is one of those rare moments in the Bible when we see Jesus’ humanity. We almost forget that while Jesus was divine, Jesus was also human. And maybe because it makes us uncomfortable to think of Jesus as human. If Jesus cried and got angry, than does that mean Jesus had acne and farted?
Jesus was God and human.
So, why did Jesus cry?
Sunday school has taught us that Jesus cried out of grief for his friend Lazarus. His friend died. We too would cry at the grave of our friend. When death has wrapped itself around us, all we can do is cry.
But some have suggested that Jesus was not only grieving the physical death of his friend, but the spiritual death of his people. They were still waiting for the Messiah to ride in on a grand, white horse and stomp out the evil Romans. But the Messiah who stood before them crying was not about war, but about love.
In a few chapters, John will be telling us how Jesus knelt and washed the feet of his disciples. He was a servant to the end. Yet, here were God’s people who were spiritually blind (dead?) to what God was up to.
I imagine that there are still moments when Jesus cries. Perhaps when students are being shuttled into cold, school buses because of a bomb threat, Jesus cries. When a student lashes out in rage and harms others at his school, Jesus cries. When leaders chose hurtful words to make a point, Jesus cries. When his word is used to keep people out, Jesus cries. When a pastor publicly criticizes another church on social media, Jesus cries.
Jesus’ tears, however, turns into a shout. He shouts, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus was the original walking dead. The episode must have been an astonishing site! The stone is rolled away; the stench of death breezes out; the dead man hopples out with the grave clothes still in place. Jesus is the giver of life.
Frances Taylor Gench, one of my New Testament professors from seminary, has written:
If actions speak louder than words, Jesus could have provided no more radical demonstration of his power to give life – both in the present, on this earth, and as a promise that on the last day he will raise the dead.
There is still spiritual death among us today. We could call it spiritual immaturity. We could call it spiritual fatigue. Whatever you call it, Jesus calls us out of it into life.