Drinking Deeply

Friday, September 02, 2005 at 11:43 PM

Jesus Wept

Another part in my "rethinking memory verses" thoughts. Be warned, this is a little long, mostly because it includes huge chunks of a chapter from John, which tend towards the long side.

So another thing that I came across in my studies which kind of (much less so than the previous) blew my mind was “Jesus wept.” This is one of the passages I like most, some because it’s easy to memorize (and touted as the shortest verse in the Bible, but both the NIV and the ESV have comparable ones, brownie points if you find other two word verses), and the second reason because of my common interpretation of that verse, which basically amounted to “Jesus feels for you bro.” This gave me a great deal of comfort, but while I was reading over that passage again, another interpretation came to mind that I think fits the text and the Bible as a whole a little bit better.

Now, the text John 11:

1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." 4But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

One thing I’ll highlight here is that it says in verse 4, “But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’”

5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." 8The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?" 9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." 11After saying these things, he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him." 12The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." 13Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus has died, 15and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." 16So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

Here are another couple points I would like to highlight.

Verses 5-6 are particularly awesome. Two reasons: 1) because it demonstrates another place where the ESV sticks to the text better than the NIV, for the NIV says, “5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” This makes it sound like in spite of Jesus’ love for Martha and Mary, he stays, but the ESV says because of His love, he stays. 2) Jesus clearly has an ultimate plan in store. His omniscience is evident in the fact that He knew exactly what He was doing here. On a side note, this passage in itself seems enough to disprove Open Theism, which states that God doesn’t foresee human choices, thus must grow and adjust with the circumstances.

Verse 11-15 echo what Jesus said back up in verse 4. He is doing this for their sake.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

17Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." 23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."

Verses 21-27 are a great demonstration of Martha’s faith in Christ. She has almost a complete affirmation of who Christ is. She believes that Christ is omnipotent (v. 21), a mediator with God (v. 22), the key to resurrection on the last day (v. 24), the Son of God, who is coming into the world (v. 27). Though one thing she lacks, and this is what I caught on, and this is why I feel that another interpretation for why Christ weeps is possible. She does not affirm that Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead right then. She instead believes that Jesus will raise Lazarus on the last day. While she does say that “Even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” But this seems to be more just an affirmation that “oh, he died, but that doesn’t shake my belief in you as the Son of God.”

Jesus Wept

28When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." 29And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?"

Now we get to the center of the passage. In verse 32, we also see Mary’s affirmation of Christ’s power, much like Martha. Now, Mary doesn’t seem to go into the drawn out affirmation that Martha does on whom Christ is and what that means, but we can’t really draw much from that. What we do see is that Jesus sees her weeping, sees the Jews who had come with her also weeping; he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. This leads to my memory verse 11:35 “Jesus wept.” Now the Jews take our traditional interpretation “Jesus wept because he loved him. Jesus feels for Martha and Mary and the Jews who are weeping.” But I propose that is isn’t necessarily with them that he is weeping for (though I’ll get into the details at the end).

Instead, my idea is that Jesus is weeping for their doubt. Though both Martha and Mary have affirmed that they believe him powerful enough to heal Lazarus had he been there when he was alive (in fact, his healing powers were all over the book of John), and Martha had affirmed his power over life and death in the future, no one affirmed his power over life and death today. Rather they thought that all was lost and so wept. I see (and I’m not 100% on this yet, of the commentaries I’ve checked I think I’m alone, so its very likely that I’m wrong) Jesus weeping over their doubt and lack of trust.

Jesus Raises Lazarus

38Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." 40Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." 43When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." 44The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Verse 38 seems to point back to verse 37. If it had said, “Then Jesus came to the tomb and was deeply moved again,” I think I’d go with the traditional interpretation, because then it would be obvious that he was moved with the rest of the people over the “death” of the man he loved (v. 3). But because it isn’t structured like that, it feels like it points back to verse 37, which is another expression of doubt at Christ. Jesus then rebukes that doubt in Martha (v. 40) and proceeds to demonstrate that He has power over life and death even today.

Thus Jesus fulfills all that He has planned out ahead which he foretold in verse 4 and raises Lazarus from the dead so that those around him might believe that God sent him. I also see a great deal of symbolism in the fact that Jesus makes a point to say “unbind him, and let him go.” It seems like Lazarus’ waking from the dead clearly echo’s our rise from the dead (Eph. 2) and the unbinding physically echo’s our unbinding to sin spiritually (Romans 6)

To sum up I’ll lay out what I would see as the arguments for the traditional interpretation and mine.

1) Traditional interpretation has Jesus weeping in a show of compassion. This would still be consistent with Scripture, for Paul does say, “weep with those who weep.” And we also have all the Psalms that say “those who sow in tears will reap with joy” as well as Eccl. “there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.” The strongest argument for this interpretation would be the fact that Jesus seems to be responding to Mary and the Jew’s grieving. We also have the Jews pointing out “see how he loved him” which Jesus leaves unaddressed.

2) I believe the fact that Jesus is weeping instead of signifying Christ weeping with those who weep (though I will agree that one can make a decent case for that), is Christ weeping over the doubts of the people. Both Martha and Mary affirm Christ’s power to heal. Martha affirms Christ’s power over the dead, but when Jesus says that Lazarus will rise again (as he foreshadowed in v. 4-6), Martha doesn’t believe that Jesus will raise him up right then, but she believes that he’ll raise him up on the last day. It also seems to me that Jesus is moved once again by the doubt that the Jews show in v. 37, and finally he rebukes Martha’s doubt in v. 40. All of these together seem to lend a decent amount of weight to the possibility that Jesus isn’t weeping with those that are weeping, but rather for those that are weeping, because they weep in doubt of what He had already promised them.

Once again, I in no way want to be dogmatic about this, this was just something that crossed my mind as I was reading that passage and I thought I wanted to share. I’d love to hear my reader’s opinions and thoughts about it as well. I do suspect that there’s a large possibility that I am wrong, simply because the 3 commentaries I checked all take the first interpretation.


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