Yes, it’s the shortest “verse” in the whole Bible of around 1,300 pages – the shortest of a total of 31,173 “verses”.
At a funeral service in St Lawrence Parish Church recently a man cried. The deceased man was not a blood relative of his. Why did he cry? For loss of a friend, of course. And, yes, when Jesus wept (see above) he was at a death-event – the dead man was not a relative but a friend. The dead man’s two sisters were friends also. Was it for the sisters that Jesus wept – as well as for the loss of his friend? The answer seems to be ‘No!’ Read on.
Cold statistics indicate that Jersey’s death rate is 575 per annum per 100,000 - slightly lower that the England average of 610. (Jersey’s annual suicide rate is very high at 12.8 per 100,000 compared with the UK 7.9.) As has been often remarked, however, Jersey’s actual death rates are 100,000 in 100,000. This is “normal” and there is a natural tendency to take the “normal” as being fixed and unchangeable.
Consider the possibility that Jesus was crying because the “normal” was not what he wanted - that he wept because the “normal” was so distressing to him.
The section of John’s biography of Jesus that contains “Jesus wept” tells us that, when the serious illness of his friend was reported to him, he was 50 miles away. When he heard of it he said to his key followers, “This illness does not lead to death.” Jesus then stayed two more days before starting out for the home of his three friends, saying that his ill friend “had fallen asleep”. After further discussion Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus has died.”
When he arrived at the home of Lazarus and his two sisters (after two further days travel) Lazarus had been dead four days. His body was in a burial cave covered by a stone. Jesus said to one sister who greeted him, “Your brother will rise again.” She agreed that this would take place “at the last day” but Jesus said that he, himself, was “the resurrection and the life”. She did not understand that at all. Resurrection now? Life now? That’s not “normal”.
But it was when the second sister came that Jesus wept. Weeping herself and with others weeping around her, she said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”
Then Jesus wept. Why? It can’t have been for the loss of his friend because he was going, shortly, to raise him up. It can’t have been for the sadness of the two bereaved sisters because he was about to restore their dead brother to them.
Why then did this man cry? What do you think? The biographer John records that Jesus was “deeply moved again” when he came to the tomb – and when he said, “Take away the stone” - and when the sister said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odour, for he has been dead four days.”
The odour of corruption. That’s another “normal” thing, isn’t it? Corruption. Yes, we’ve all got used to it. So that’s just like death – normal. Corruption - after death – and before death. Neither can be changed.
But this may well be the reason why this man wept: notsorrow for the man who died; not sorrow for the bereaved sisters; instead, sorrow for corruption and sorrow for death itself – although both were “normal”. Those have, of course, continued since Lazarus was raised. And even Lazarus died again a few years later and was buried.....
Immediately after reporting the raising of Jesus’ friend, John the biographer discloses that, when the religious, national and judicial leaders heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, they decided that Jesus himself must be put to death – as well as Lazarus. Their leader reassured them, “It is better for you [because of the threat that Jesus is to our position and our nation] that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish”. Corruption and death were there.
Had Jesus been present he would have wept again – not for himself but because this decision was “normal”. And would be repeated many times.