Friday, February 4, 2011

Jesus Wept: why?

"Jesus wept", John 11.35, is a notable verse for several reasons. Many people talk about it because it is the shortest verse in the bible, but we remember it because it is such a profound display of emotion on the part of Jesus.  We believe Jesus loves us and died for us, but we expect powerful people to be strong and not display emotion, so when we read that Jesus cried we ask "why?"  What could move someone like Jesus to tears?

Years ago, in Colorado here in the States, I was talking to brother Bill Parker and he asked me why I thought Jesus cried and I gave a common answer: Jesus was moved by the sadness of Lazarus' sisters and the people around him.  He loved Martha and Mary, how could he not be touched by their tears?  Brother Bill could only read the bible in English, but he had a problem with that interpretion; Jesus had come to raise Lazarus from the dead, that should have made him happy, what was he crying about?  If we went to a funeral and everybody is crying, but we knew we can raise the dead person wouldn't we be happy?  He had a good, point and I knew there were some other problems with the common interpretion.

I said brother Bill could only read the bible in English for a reason; if you can read John 11.33  in Greek you may have noted that one of the words is odd.  In the NIV it reads "When Jesus saw her weeping, and Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled."  The word "deeply moved" is embrimaomai and it means to "scold, censure..warn deeply moved..." (Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich).  They go on and say it is "an expression of anger and displeasure...." So, Jesus looks at Mary weeping and the Jews weeping and he is moved to anger?  Yes.  When brother Bill asked me about this passage I knew this, but I didn't know how to understand it. 

Brother Bill didn't know anything about the Greek words, he just wanted to understand why someone that was about to raise Lazarus from the dead would be crying.  He believed that Jesus cried because of the lack of faith of the people closest to him.  Jesus loved Martha and Mary.  Mary had sat at his feet and listened to him teach, but now she was at his feet and she said  "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."  But how could she have believed Jesus could raise the dead?  Because it had been done before.  Elisha raised the dead in 2 Kings 4.32-35.  That boy's mother believed Elisha could raise the dead.  Martha and Mary believed that Jesus was greater than Elisha, but all they believed was "...he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (John 11.24).  Jesus told Martha, he was the power of the resurrection (John 11.25) 

So, when Jesus saw the people around him crying he was moved to anger and he was troubled by their lack of faith.  This may not be the common interpretation, but I think brother Bill was correct in believing that there was a reason someone who was about to preform such a great miracle would cry.


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