Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jesus Wept

When I was in 7th grade, as part of a Memory Work assignment, we were told to choose our favorite Bible verse and memorize it. We were also told that we needed to be able to explain the significance of the verse and why it was our favorite. (Yes, I went to a parochial school). There was no other criterion and no length requirement was given. I chose the verse, "Jesus wept."

Most of my classmates chose "real" verses, "real" defined by the teacher as "longer, more difficult verses." When it came time to recite my verse, all two words of it, my teacher reprimanded me for not taking the assignment seriously and proceeded to explain why, in his mind, that verse "didn’t count." (I wasn’t aware there were verses in the Bible that didn’t count.) While I was certainly mad at the time, I lacked the ability, beyond a 7th graders capabilities, to defend myself and stand up for my choice. But today, as a grown woman it makes me irate to think of the way that teacher handled that situation. It makes me even madder, because as a former teacher I realize how important specifics, details, and parameters are. If things aren’t clearly and specifically outlined then you can’t expect kids to complete the assignment effectively. If my teacher wanted that verse excluded, he should have instructed the class on the day the assignment was given.

Today I want to tell that ignorant teacher (Mr. Steinbach) why that verse most certainly counts. It might count more than some of those "real" verses he would have preferred I memorized. So, Mr. Steinbach, wherever you are, this is why "Jesus wept" is a verse of importance.

1. This verse shows us that Jesus was indeed human with real bodily functions (such as tears, sweat, blood, eating, drinking, etc.). He had real emotions; He was not an illusion or a spirit. The weeping Jesus did was in reference to His friend Lazarus. The phrase occurs in John's narrative of the death of Lazarus, a friend of Jesus. Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus of their brother's illness. Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus' death. Jesus, after talking to the grieving sisters and seeing Lazarus' friends weeping, was deeply troubled. After being shown where Lazarus was laid, Jesus wept in front of Lazarus' tomb. He then ordered the people to remove the stone covering his tomb, prayed aloud to his Father, and ordered Lazarus to come out.

2. This verse shows the two natures of Jesus. In his humanity he wept for Lazarus and in his divinity he raised him from the dead.

3. This verse also shows the sorrow felt by Jesus presages the suffering of his own crucifixion. It magnifies the sorrow, sympathy, and compassion Jesus felt for all mankind. Jesus' weeping demonstrates that Lazarus had genuinely died. The raising of Lazarus was therefore not a fraud or a case of misdiagnosis.

4. Most people interpret his weeping to mean that Jesus was sorrowful for the fact that Lazarus had died (which was the interpretation of the bystanders in verse 36). However, an alternate explanation that many believe considers this to be unreasonable, given Jesus’ full knowledge that He was about to resurrect Lazarus. This view argues that every single person whom Jesus talked to in John chapter 11 (his disciples, Martha, Mary, and the Jews) was blinded by their misconceptions of Jesus and by their failure to recognize that, as He declared in verse 26, He Himself was "the resurrection and the life". Thus, "he groaned in the spirit and was troubled" (New King James, verse 33). This view holds that He wept because even those who were closest to Him were still blinded by their concepts of the fact that He really was "the resurrection and the life"—beyond mere doctrine (verses 25-27)—in spite of all His plain words to them. A striking point in this view is that the only person in the chapter who had no misconceptions was the dead man Lazarus, who promptly obeyed and received life when commanded to come forth. Finally, this view holds that the bystanders in verses 36-37, just like most readers today, were blinded by their own misconceptions and so did not understand that Jesus was actually weeping for them, not for Lazarus.

I’m not sure what He was weeping for. It might be wise to give both views credence. Bottom line: Jesus wept and it was not some insignificant act. It is a verse that most certainly counts. I wish I could have communicated this when I was twelve!

1 comment:

Gena B. said...

Are you pretty religious?