Friends grieve together. They share each other’s emotions and they have compassion on each other. It’s funny that even though they share the same sadness, they often come to it in different ways. This particular passage reminds me, that what makes us cry is not always what makes Jesus cry. When it comes to that emotion there are similarities but vast differences in what causes it.
The first striking thing is when Mary was told Jesus was coming she dropped everything and ran out to meet Him. Her speech made it obvious what was going through her head. She was distraught; and here was this man who could have saved her brother and yet, he did not. Her grief was apparent and deep. Her brother had died; her friend had seemingly dropped the ball.
But Jesus’ take on the whole thing was not limited to the Earth. His plan and purposes are eternal. Ironically, He did not take the stance of one who is all powerful and was just going to undo this little problem. When Jesus saw the grief of His friend and her companions, He wept!
This verse, which is the shortest verse in the Bible overflows with meaning. It shows the compassion of God Almighty. He is not the stern far-off God of Islam or the Deists. He is not distantly waiting to judge us for our every sin. God is in pain when we are. Legitimate or not, the pain we feel affects our God. He loves us! He is our friend! While He is Almighty God, He has feelings, He thinks..and can act. That is the image we share. Our thought, emotions and ability to act are the common traits we share with our God. Our ability to have friendships, love, and create are all gifts that God shared, out of His being, and love for us. What a God! What a friend!
And it is this friendship that we see in Jesus’ tears. His compassion on those He created.
It seems that since He is able to wipe out the problem, that He might be sad for another reason. I know that I am speculating here; however, perhaps He mourns the necessity of a physical death. Remember, it was not His will that we should all die. There is a sense of loss of relationship when one remembers the fissure created by Adam and Eve’s choice to put themselves first, and God last.
I can relate to this sometimes when I see this happen among my children and grandchildren. The ugly choice of self-preservation tears deep gashes in the precious relationships that God created among them. They will not know, until they get much older, or maybe never, what horrible sin this is to God and how it tears the very hearts of their mother and father. Watching your children, who you love equally, be so selfish and mean, and in that selfishness, attack another person that you love is very hard to watch. Selfishness is the heart of all sin. Self-protection and pride is what damages all relationships. It is the cause for all crime and the cause for all broken friendships. It is the very reason that Jesus had to die on the cross. Selfishness pounds a nail into Jesus’ body all over again…time after time after time….I can see why Jesus wept….death was so unnecessary. All of this grief because someone had to protect their ego….and it’s contagious. Jesus’ tears are not just because someone dies, but rather that we chose it because of our lack of love for Him.
In this passage, after Jesus wept, there are two comments. One says, “See how He loved him” noting the love and humility of friendship. The second, trying to spread the virus of pride and self will, using Satan’s accusatory tone, says “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (37)
Do you see how subtle that is? The first was a person who knew friendship. Their true grief about their friend and their humility of spirit let them see the heart of God. By contrast, the other puffed up with pride and judgment, judging God, and putting himself in the place of criticizing the very God who made him. Assuming, that is, that he was high enough to make that assessment of God.
This, for me is what hurts! I see my children, and grandchildren, chopping away at each other in speculation and pride. They don’t care that their words will leave permanent scars on their relationships. Their lack of love for each other shows their lack of respect for their parents as well as God’s love for each of them as made in His image. It is so ugly. They see themselves as God!
Self-righteous victims! How dare that other person hurt them! Doesn’t that offending sibling see how important they are? The offended party is blind to their own behavior. While they realize how their sibling should have put them first, they fail to see that their self-exaltation is just as unjustified. They are, in fact, doing to the relationship exactly what they are accusing the other of doing. They don’t see anyone else but themselves; how ironic. They want their sibling to put them first, all the while putting themselves over their sibling. In each case, I want to lash out at the person who does it. I want to spew the same accusations and hatred right back in their face. It takes strength and knowledge to realize that this is NOT God’s best for His creatures. Even in these cases God wants us to love one another, not ourselves.
Just like in the case of Jesus with Lazarus, those who are responsible for the spiritual nurturing of their children weep over the egregious pride they see in their offspring as they bite and devour each other with words.
The grief of friends is usually shared….but not always for the same reasons….
See Ya Next Time
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Rev Dr. Cheryl A Durham, Biblical Counselor, Discipleship Coach, Above and Beyond Discipleship Ministries, provides services for individuals and groups online and via teleconference. www.abovenbeyonddiscipleship.com