The shortest verse in the Bible presents in Jesus one of the most common of human emotions, the shedding of tears. This release of feelings during the aftermath of Lazarus’ death reveals an aspect of Christ’s real humanity. Such an emotional display stands in stark contrast to our cultural perception of manhood, which believe to act in this manner shows weakness. One is perceived as being less than a man is and often ridiculed with terms such as “wimp, sissy or crybaby”.
We’ve been raised to believe that to withhold the need to evoke feelings such as crying during moments of sorrow shows forth strength of will. In reality it denies a part of what makes us human with the ability to express a variety of emotions. Often in one’s attempt to put up a tough façade to impress others he soon become cold and detached in his relationships. There are those who when trying to live by the macho code of conduct fall short of expectations and try to cope with problems that overwhelms them. They resort to indulging in drugs, alcohol and violence as a means of dealing with failures in their life. Some abandon their homes, marriages and children as they drift through life with no stability or purpose.
When viewing Jesus as a man, who wasn’t ashamed to cry, it teaches us that as men we should be willing to express ourselves freely without feeling embarrassed. Sensitivity and empathy to others shows Godly character and consideration. Paul says in Romans 12:15,” weep with them that weep”. The events of the 11th chapter of John’s gospel illustrate Jesus’ response to the news of his friend Lazarus’ grave sickness and impending death.
We are told about the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus who lived in the town of Bethany. They were close friends of Jesus that accommodated Him with hospitality when passing through the area. Here, He would rest and be refreshed in the company of one of His most devoted followers. Now sick unto death, the sisters of Lazarus sends a message to Jesus, while He was still in another place. Being informed of Lazarus’ illness He declares in verse 4, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”.
He stays two days in the place where he currently resided, then decides to go to Bethany. His disciples expressed concern of his going to Bethany because of hostilities from the Jews that seeks to destroy Him (verse 8). Jesus reveals courage to go to a place where danger awaits Him; His determination to fulfill a task made Him fearless when necessary. He declares to the disciples that He will go to Lazarus to awake him out of sleep; they misunderstood His statement thinking of arising from natural rest (verse 11-13).
Jesus plainly speaks to them of Lazarus’ death, and by delaying His coming to Bethany; they would witness the glory of God (verse 14-15). Still outside the city, Jesus is met first by Martha who laments, “ Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (verse 21). Jesus reassures her that her brother will rise again, while her response was based on a future hope. She believed that her brother would be seen in another life as she stated, “ I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection of the last day” (verse 24). Jesus declares that it will happen in the here and now by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (verse 25). Martha turns and calls her sister Mary, and when she comes to Jesus, Mary echoes the same grievous sigh as Martha wishing that Jesus had been there (verse 32).
These grieving sisters who knew and loved Jesus had witnessed the miracles that He performed, but for Him to raise their brother Lazarus seemed a daunting task. As the people gathered around Martha and Mary to comfort and weep with them, Jesus groaned in the spirit and was troubled (verse 33). He was moved by the people’s grief and sympathizes with their sorrow, but He knew what He would do concerning His friend. The prophet Isaiah, in his book speaks of Jesus’ mission in prophecy saying that He would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
His tears were not so much a lament for Lazarus than it was for the unbelief found in them that stood by, who has seen Him do miracles on other occasions but would not accept Him as the Son of God. The shout of the people in response to His crying presented a challenge to him, because their reasoning was, if He were here Lazarus would be alive. Jesus put to rest all doubts among the skeptics when He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth”, raising his friend from the dead (verse 43). Just prior to Jesus raising Lazarus, we find Him praying to His Father asking for his help and to prove to the people that God sent Him.
One thing should be noted about Jesus is that He had a consistent prayer life and depended upon His Father for guidance. The self-centered man of today thinks of himself as not needing help. He feels that he is self-sufficient and independent to make his own decisions in life. This common attitude persists even in our churches concerning our brothers, as they fail to resolve their problems by not expressing them to qualified believers. “ Confess your faults, one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”(James 5”16).