Jesus wept

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the English Bible – but also one of the most powerful. In this edited extract American writer Debie Thomas reflects on it.

When Jesus weeps, he legitimizes human grief. The raising of Lazarus is around the corner, but in this story, the promise of joy doesn’t cancel out the essential work of grief. When Jesus cries, he assures Mary and Martha, not only that their beloved brother is worth crying for, but also that they are worth crying with. Through his tears, Jesus calls all of us into the holy vocation of empathy, co-suffering, and lamentation.

When Jesus weeps, he respects the necessity of silence, the sanctity of the wordless and the unsayable. We should pay careful attention when the Word himself refuses to speak. Sometimes there is nothing to be said in the face of loss; sometimes tears are our best and most honourable language. Through his wordless tears, Jesus cautions us to pause. He shows us that silence, too, is faithful, sometimes, silence is love.

When Jesus weeps, he acknowledges his own mortality. When word spreads about the miracle in Bethany, the authorities decide that Jesus must be stopped. He knows that the end is imminent, he knows that his time with his friends is almost over, he knows that it’s nearly time to say goodbye to the lakes and skies and hills and stars he loves. In crying, he asserts powerfully that it is okay to yearn for life. It’s okay to cling to this beautiful world. It is okay to love and cherish the gift of life here and now.

And finally, when Jesus weeps, he shows us that sorrow is a powerful catalyst for change. It is his shattering that leads to resurrection. Perhaps Jesus’s tears can provoke us in similar ways. What breaks our hearts? What enrages us to the point of breakdown? Can we work for transformation in our places of devastation? Can our sorrow lead us to justice?

I hope that Jesus’s tears can keep us tender, open, humble, generous, and brave. I hope his honest expression of sorrow will give us the permission and the impetus we need, but to move with powerful compassion into a world that sorely needs our empathy and our love. Our journey is not to the grave, but through it. The Lord who weeps is also the Lord who resurrects.

Edited from Debie Thomas on