Driven to Tears? Jesus Was Too
Have you been driven to tears yet? Feeling discouraged? We may be driven to tears when we hear how many deaths are being reported around the world due to the pandemic. We think of those who have lost life in other ways, losing connectedness with others, losing work or schooling opportunities. Even where very few are infected, everyone is affected. Everyone has experienced change and loss. Grief is a normal way of dealing with loss and tears are a healthy part of that grief. Of course there are those who are driven to tears even without the pandemic. Life can be hard and when it is, we may be driven to tears.
We may be thinking, “God, you could have done something about all this, if you had been where the COVID-19 virus started, if you had been where the cancer cells started, if you had been where my loved one lost control . . . if you had been here.” We experience things that are life taking, that seem to diminish our lives or the lives of loved ones. We wonder where God was in those moments.
Lord, If You Had Been Here
Martha and Mary must have been driven to tears. Jesus was their friend and the friend of their brother Lazarus as well. Jesus was well known for his miracles and healings. Yet now Lazarus is dead and buried:
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21 NRSV)
Word was sent by Martha and Mary to Jesus days before that their brother was ill. Jesus could have made it on time, but he didn’t.
When Mary came to where Jesus was, she saw him and fell down at his feet.
‘Master!’ she said. ‘If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!’
When Jesus saw her crying, and the Judaeans who had come with her crying, he was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled.
’Where have you laid him?’ he asked.
‘Master,’ they said, ‘come and see.’
Jesus burst into tears. (John 11:32-25, trans. by N. T. Wright, as found in the “John for Everyone Commentary”)
Jesus was also driven to tears. Was this grief over Lazarus? Was he perhaps thinking that things could have been different if only he made it on time? When we read the whole story we know that this is not the case. Or, is it possible that Jesus could look back, seeing how things could have been different, if only . . .
- Adam and Eve had chosen life, instead of choosing the one thing that would lead to death.
- Cain had chosen life instead of choosing death for his brother Abel.
- Humanity had chosen life instead of violence toward one another in the days of Noah.
- Pharaoh had chosen life instead of ordering Hebrew babies to be killed.
- The Israelites in the desert had chosen life with GOD instead of longing to go back to slavery in Egypt.
- The people had chosen life instead of choosing death in neglecting the law that God had given.
- When God sent the prophets, the people had chosen life and listened to the prophets instead of choosing to remain in the ways that led to death.
“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, KJV). Is it possible that Jesus was driven to tears because he knew how often we chose death? Things could have been different, if only . . .
It is possible that Jesus was driven to tears by the fact that even as he was planning on raising Lazarus to life, the religious leaders were plotting to put Jesus himself to death. Things will be different.
Was Jesus driven to tears because he could look forward to our lives today? How things could be different, if only . . .
- We would choose to love like God, love that brings life to people, instead of choosing hate that brings death, or apathy that fails to prevent it.
- We would choose to develop in the fruit of the Spirit, including love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23), instead of choosing to cultivate the weeds of the evil one.
- We would choose to engage in conversation instead of shutting it down.
- We would choose a posture of learning, instead of always choosing the same echo chambers where our thinking is never challenged.
- We would choose to recognize the impact we have on people, instead of ignoring the hurt we may cause.
- We would choose to get help with an addiction.
- We would choose to not gossip, but lift others up with our speech.
- We would choose to do something about racism, poverty, homelessness, and many other issues that plague our world.
We sometimes lament how things might be different if God would show up. Things could be different, if we would show up.
Was Jesus driven to tears when, looking forward, he would see the many who would choose death over life by rejecting the Giver of life?
Jesus was driven to tears, yet Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25, NRSV). Mary and Martha could say “if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” Jesus could say “I am here now, and because I am, Lazarus will live.”
Jesus told Lazarus to come out of the tomb, and he did. Jesus calls us to come out of our tombs, to choose life over death. Jesus calls us to leave our graves, to listen to him, to do those things that bring life instead of death to us, and others. Jesus calls us to choose life, to choose him. Jesus will someday call us from our tombs to share in everlasting life with him:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4, NRSV)
Until then we have a lot of opportunities to choose life. If we show up, and keep choosing life, things will be different.
(The full reflection can be seen as part of this “online worship expression”)
Originally published on Clarke’s blog. Reprinted with permission.