“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.” (John 11:38) These little verses come in the midst of the story of Lazarus’ illness, Jesus’ delay, Lazarus’ death, Martha’s and Mary’s response to Jesus’ arrival, and Lazarus’ resurrection. As the Titus 2 ladies and I talked about Jesus’ humanity and how he expressed human feelings, we discussed this story. What is it that Jesus likely felt?
Why the tears? Was it grief that his friend had died or that he was about to call his friend back from the joy of peace in eternity to re-enter what would be a life of confusing events coming soon for all of them? Was he considering the knowledge that he himself would be experiencing similar death and resurrection just days later? Was it that he was moved by the depth of grief felt by the sisters and others in the community or the realization that they were such pitiable creatures for not knowing the truth of life after death? Was it that he felt the sting of the sisters’ sense of having been betrayed by his delay in not having come sooner, in time to have spared Lazarus from death? Was it that Jesus knew that this would be a pivotal event of revelation of his identity and power in front of the scrutinizing and conniving religious leaders that would seal his fate and hasten the end of his own earthly life? From a human perspective we can speculate on many possibilities. And surely he felt human emotions, a capacity given to us by God. But Jesus is also Incarnate God and we cannot even begin to understand the depth and variety of motivations for tears that fell from the eyes of God. I had never reflected on how much the personality of God is revealed in the human emotional responsiveness that God gave to us.
God is a Person. God experiences emotions, but handles those emotions perfectly….without sinning…..and God’s emotions arise out of perfectly pure, love-empowered motives. Emotions have many purposes- survival, warning, communication, boundary-setting, to aid in decision-making, creating community and expressing an empathic, shared sense of belonging, and more. And yet even our emotions are subject to the corrupting effects of the fallen condition that humanity has experienced……to the extent that we are ashamed of them at times and find that we need support groups, “Emotions Anonymous”, to work through our shame and guilt over how we feel and how it drives our behavior….in the same way that we need support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
I, like others, especially women, have felt at times that I was at the mercy of my emotions, feelings that I could not understand, much less articulate or control. The women to whom I minister are generally in the same condition when they come to Titus 2. We work daily on emotional literacy skills, becoming comfortable in the authentic expression of honest emotions by others as well as learning to be more honest and authentic in expressing our own, seeking the Holy Spirit’s purification of our hearts’ motives…….These are difficult things to have to confront and work through.
In many Scriptures we see that God is moved by the tears of people…Genesis, 2 Kings, Job, Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Luke, and more.
God makes note of our tears…Psalm 56:8 -“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”
Revelation 21:4 promises that there will be a time when there are no more tears-
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
This episode in Jesus’ life is something I want to ask Jesus about some day……”How did that make you feel?” ………Just pondering.