“Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.’
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. ‘Where have you put him?’ he asked them.
They told him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Then Jesus wept (John 11:30-35, New Living Translation).
John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. Or as I learned recently, it’s the shortest verse in English. But when you look at the context, why was Jesus weeping? It’s not like He didn’t know the outcome of the story. He knew very well He was about to resurrect Lazarus in short order, but still He wept. Why?
This question was put to a group of children once, and one of them answered in typical childlike fashion, “Because He lost His friend.”
Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus would soon be alive again, He saw the grief of those He loved. He saw the effects that sin and death had brought once again in a beautiful but broken world. So He wept.
I think when we lose loved ones, we do well to weep. Even though we know the final outcome — that those we love who have put their faith in Jesus will not stay dead but rise again healed and whole — we still miss them now. There’s still an empty chair at the table. There’s still an absent voice in the conversation. There’s still a void in your day to day life.
Grief is not wrong for those who follow Jesus. Even Jesus showed that it’s okay to be sad over the fact that the world is not as it was created to be since sin and death entered the world. Death is not natural, but as Jesus demonstrated first with Lazarus and then later with His own emergence from the tomb, death is not final. The grave will not have the last word.
So we grieve and weep, but with hope. We have sorrow, knowing that one day joy will prevail. We cry because we live in the now but not yet where everything we long for and hope for will be perfectly realized and Jesus will prevail.