Waves of emotion rolled through him, the kind of emotion no man born of woman could have known before. Anger that burned with an undying fire. Sorrow that endlessly ached for the realities of brokenness and darkness. Joy that ever whispered silently of a day when death would die … a day that was coming far sooner than any of the mourners gathered could have known.
He heard the quiet sobbing, the tired cries of grief four days old. He saw them watching him, the silent accusation in their eyes no quieter than the unmistakable point of the words that still hung in the dusty air. “If you had been here … if you had come when we called …”
He turned to look back at Martha, saw the grim resolve in the set of her jaw. She had been steeling herself against the agony for days, but there was still a little hope there. Perhaps senseless hope, but hope nonetheless. He looked back to Mary, met the fierce intensity of her leveled gave with one that spoke a compassion flesh had never felt. Her lip quivered with barely restrained ferocity, love, fear, and pain. His eyes started to fill.
He dropped his gaze. He looked at the dirt at Mary’s feet, dirt she would return to one day. Cursed earth. Earth that had already claimed his friend.
“Where is he?,” he asked her, his soft voice breaking. He started to cry, tears running down his face into his beard.
One of the mourners saw, and turned to her friend. “Look, the Master really loved Lazarus,” she said, following the crowd as they began to shuffle toward the tomb.
It’s my favorite moment in the New Testament. I know it probably ought to be something in Romans. Even if I limit it to the gospels, it probably ought to be the Resurrection or the Ascension. But this is the moment I pick. Jesus, Theanthropos, the God/Man … crying. Why? He knew He was about to rip his friend back from death’s cold grip. Why did He cry?
Was it because he saw and felt the grief of people He loved? Was it because He knew that Lazarus’s resurrection was only a tease, that he would have to suffer that cruel fate again? Was it because he was overcome with anger at sin and death itself?
I don’t know. I’m not sure it’s knowable. But today, this story whispers a new comfort to me.
Jesus, God incarnate, stands in front of a tomb and cries. He walks out of heaven and into the earthy work of art He painted, sits down on the ash heap of our suffering, and He weeps. Yes, He comes to redeem. Yes, He comes to undo sin and death and darkness. Yes, He comes to show us a better way. But let’s not miss that in the process, He stands before us and looks us in the eye as we suffer loss and heartbreak.
What He says to us in that moment perhaps doesn’t speak as eloquently as what He does not say. He doesn’t say:
“Suck it up.”
“This is your cross to bear.”
“You should be over this by now.”
“If you really trusted Me, this would be easier.”
“The consequences of sin suck. Sorry.”
“Isn’t this all a little bit you-centered?”
“Could you try NOT being so broken?”
“Have you tried chamomile tea?”
What He does say is “You’re going to have hard times here, in this world. But I have overcome the world.”
And He weeps.