For those feeling “greatly troubled” this Christmas. Jesus, too.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
John 11:33–36 (ESV)
For those who have lost. For those grieving. For those feeling “greatly troubled” this Christmas. For those who long for the day of resurrection and wholeness.
This is a heart-wrenching story from the gospel of John, and I love John the most (sh, don’t tell the other gospel writers) because he leans into the uncomfortable moments like this — much like Jesus did/does.
When Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, disheveled, heartbroken, and lost, she exclaimed “Lord, if you had been here…” (John 11:32) Think of your own moments in life when you’ve thought of saying to God or have said, “if only you…”
If only You had shown up sooner.
If only You had stopped the car before it crashed.
If only You had kept her from getting pregnant so she would have never had to experience the loss of the child.
If only You had provided the finances so they could have afforded the surgery.
If only You had given them a second chance.
Jesus’ response to Mary’s “if only” statement was not anger or annoyance. He was “deeply moved”. Strong’s dictionary offers the synonym of “indignant” — which is to say that Jesus was angry at the injustice of the situation. It could be said that his indignation was directed at Mary because it was unjust of her to blame Jesus for his friend’s death or it could be that his indignation was directed at the death in general because it was unjust that Lazarus had to face death like he did.
Either way, this situation — death — as we see from Jesus’ response, is unjust, and Jesus felt its weight. He was “greatly troubled”, and we see in the most simplest words — “Jesus wept”.
Death is unjust. Pain is unfair. This isn’t the world God created us to live in. This isn’t the life He wanted for us. Jesus lived in both realities — He knew Heaven, but He equally experienced the struggles and emotions of humanity.
If Jesus was sinless, then it stands to reason that sadness, overwhelm, indignation, and tears are not a bad thing. They do not separate you from God. They do not drive you into a less-than state of humanity. They might even draw you closer to God as those emotions force you to rely on His strength over yours.
Jesus doesn’t run from grief, pain, or sadness. He understands, steps into it with us, experiences it Himself, and joins us in the discomfort.
What’s mind-boggling to me about this story and the display of Jesus’ deep grief is that He knew what was about to occur — Lazarus was about to be raised from the dead by Jesus’ very hands. Yet, Jesus still wept.
This shows us not just emotions for Himself, but that Jesus was overcome with empathy by seeing how Mary, Martha and the other Jews with them were so deeply grieved.
Jesus doesn’t just feel sorry for us in our painful experiences. He feels the pain with us. He knows what it’s like to love and have lost. He knows what it’s like to grieve even when the outcome is hopeful. Grief is human, but it’s an emotion that brings us wholly into God’s comforting embrace.
I don’t know about you, but there is little else that brings me comfort than someone who is willing to just sit in the moment of grief with me, someone who is willing to carry the burden of the pain for me, someone who doesn’t push away my concerns or get angry with me for having feelings — because Jesus feels it, too.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)