“She fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled… Jesus wept.
“Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!'”John 11:32-33, 35-36
“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”Psalm 25:20
“Jesus wept.” A classic. The shortest verse in the Bible, some days it seems like the only one I have the neurons to remember. We used to joke about it in Sunday school, reciting John 11:35 one after the other whenever a memory contest would swing around. Just to make eyes roll. Just to get a laugh. It was funny then… and honestly, it’s funny now. But now, it’s a lot more than funny too.
“Jesus wept” is short. But “Jesus wept” says it all.
I buried my cousin last weekend. Jessica. She was 31 and had three kids. We grew up together. She was wonderful. But, now, we had to bury her. Like I had to bury my father a few years ago. Sometimes, you have to bury people.
And it was sad. It is sad. It will be sad. But thank God, Jesus wept. And that’s brought me enormous comfort, each time I’ve been confronted with this sick thing euphemised as “loss.” Each time I’ve had to go to a “celebration of life,” still kicking and screaming against the ugliness of death. Jesus wept both times with me. And Jesus is weeping with me still.
And here’s the thing. When you lose someone you love, people will try to comfort you with theology. And sometimes that’s helpful – I get it. Overwhelmed and confused and just wanting to ease the pain, friends and pastors and family members will pull that little ribbon in their Bible and point, sometimes desperately, at something – anything – written in red. Hoping that it will stop the weeping But, most of the time it won’t. Because it was never intended to. Jesus had great theology. Jesus invented theology. And Jesus wept. He wept.
So, if Jesus wept, we can weep too.
Jesus wept even though He knew His Bible. Jesus wept even though Lazarus “was only sleeping.” Jesus knew all that. Jesus knew about heaven. Jesus had been to heaven. But still, Jesus wept. He heaved. He sobbed. He bawled. And no Bible verse could stop the weeping. Because that’s just not what the Bible is for.
The Bible says that death is terrible. Terrible and awful and painful and wrong. That it’s wrong. As wrong as sin or war or any other injustice. Because it’s sure as hell not what God intended. And, when death happens to us? We feel cold. We feel hurt. And vacant platitudes and tone-deaf cheer make us feel colder and hurt more. Like someone snatching away our jacket. Pouring vinegar in our wound. I didn’t say that, God did. And if God said it, He gets it. God wouldn’t do that to us – wouldn’t offer lame explanations or flimsy comforts in the face of our searing pain. God wouldn’t “sing songs to a heavy heart.” He just wouldn’t.
So, thank God, when I’m weeping now? Jesus doesn’t attempt to cheer me up. Jesus doesn’t lecture me. Jesus doesn’t correct my theology even. Not this time, anyways…flawed though it be. Jesus just sits down. Next to me. In the dust. His arms around my shoulders. Like he did with that poor woman, so so long ago.
Jesus just weeps too.
And even though I have zero idea how we’ll go on or how this could happen or why things are the way they are, it helps, somehow, to have Jesus there with me. It helps to cry to a God who cries out too.
So, “see how he loves her,” I guess. See how Jesus loves Jessica, too.