Have you ever wept at the funeral home? Stupid question, right? When you’ve lost the dearest in all the world, you’re not going to cry – nope, not a bit. You’re going to weep. I’ve wept more times at the funeral home than I could ever count – I remember weeping when each of my grandparents died, I remember weeping when a dear elder and mentor died, and I remember weeping when my son’s favorite Sunday school teacher died of breast cancer in her early 40s. After preaching a funeral for a dear friend the mourners were filing past the casket to say their final, and Tammy came up to hug me as I was standing at the head of the open casket. I whispered that I didn’t want her to look at me or touch me – why? I knew I’d break down and cry like a baby.
I’m not alone in grief at a funeral. You’re not alone in grief at a funeral. At the death of His dear friend Lazarus, “Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35). Every child knows John 11:35 because it’s the shortest verse in the English New Testament – thus, this verse, I fear, has lost too much of its richness and meaning. Jesus, four days after a dear friend has died, broke down and wept.
Why did Jesus weep? Surely not over Lazarus – the Lord knows that Lazarus will be walking out of his tomb in a matter of minutes. Maybe He was overcome with emotion when He saw Mary and Martha and the mourners in such deep grief, but that really doesn’t fit the context. The context says that when Jesus saw all that was going on, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (Jn 11:33). In English, you can certainly make the case that Jesus wept because He is overcome with the grief He sees in His friends. In Greek, however, “deeply moved” means to be indignant. In other words, Jesus is angry!
Why would Jesus be angry when He sees the grief of His friends? Is He angry that they are grieving? That doesn’t seem likely – the Spirit whom Jesus promised would guide the apostles into all truth inspired Paul to write that Christians should not grieve as those without hope (1 Thess 4:13), not that we should not grieve at all. I really believe that Jesus was indignant and wept because of death itself.
- Death exists in this world only because of sin (Rom 5:12-14).If Adam had not sinned against God in Paradise, death would not be in this world. Sometimes we talk about death as “natural.” Personally, I don’t care for that language. I understand that in this fallen world people succumb to “natural causes,” and I understand that everyone is going to die if the Lord tarries. However, my God never intended for death to be in this world. He did not create death. Death was never intended to be in this world, and I believe Jesus is angry that people die.
- Death is an enemy of Christ (1 Cor 15:26).Jesus died and rose again in order to seal the fate of death, and He will have the final victory when He returns to this earth and all the dead are raised. We don’t look favorably upon our enemies, and I don’t believe for one second that Jesus looked favorably upon His. He wanted death destroyed. He doesn’t want families torn apart my death. He doesn’t want people to suffer untold pain in their final moments. Death is His enemy, and He was angry at what death has done and continues to do.
Jesus’ weeping shows His hatred of death. The good news for us is that He turned that hatred into action. He died at Golgotha, He was buried in a tomb, He walked forth from that tomb, and appeared to His disciples (1 Cor 15:1-11). One glorious day, death will be no more. Should we cross the chilly Jordan before our Lord returns, when the archangel blows his trumpet, our bodies shall rise to die no more. No more pain. No more weeping. No more struggling to walk. No more need of a wheelchair. No more dystonia. No more cancer. No more MS. No more hsp. Wholeness. Perfection. New bodies fit for the kingdom of God. We will be able to walk hand in hand with Jesus just like He has walked with me thus far.