by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: John 11:17-44
I. Ask someone even slightly familiar with the Bible what the shortest verse is and they can tell you: “Jesus wept.” - John 11:35
A. I was reading an article based on Tom Wright's book John for Everyman and he asked an interesting question, “Why does John show us a weeping Jesus?”
1. Not, “Why did Jesus weep?”
2. But why did John record this fact?
B. John admits that there wasn’t room enough to record all the events of Jesus’ life - John 21:25
1. So given the limited space, why did God, through John, made sure that we knew of this fact?
2. In one since, John doesn’t say. He doesn’t provide commentary on why God selected this event to be recorded.
3. But there are some clues.
II. The Word made flesh
A. On a very basic level, reinforces our knowledge that Jesus was truly a man.
1. He wasn’t a divine being playing at being a human.
2. But those who were with him had not doubts about it - I John 1:1-4
B. But Jesus was the Word made flesh - John 1:1-4, 10-14
1. Consider the deeper impact, the Word who made the universe stands and weeps at the grave of a friend.
2. John is opening the door a crack that we might see a glimpse of the character and nature of God. God who stood at the grave of a man and wept.
C. Jesus wept at a time when Mary and others were weeping - John 11:33-35
1. Isaiah told us that this would be - Isaiah 53:4
2. But consider how different this was from earlier, but vaguely similar events
a. When he met a funeral possession, he told the grieving mother not to weep - Luke 7:12-15
b. When a ruler’s daughter had died, he scolded those who were weeping - Mark 5:38-42
c. But this time his reaction is different
III. At what was Jesus grieved?
A. Some there and afterwards guessed that it was grief at Lazarus’ death - John 11:36
1. But others noted that it didn’t make sense since he could have prevented the death - John 11:37
B. Others suggest that it was a sympathetic reaction to Mary’s grief.
1. That too is likely, but it doesn’t adequately explain all that we see.
C. Martha’s reaction - John 11:17-27
1. Martha knew that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death
a. But she thought that Jesus had to be there to have stopped it.
2. Though she must have known about the other resurrections, she doesn’t consider that possibility for her brother.
a. She knew that God would give Jesus anything he asked
b. But when told that Lazarus would rise again, she only thought in terms of Judgment day. She saw him as gone for now.
3. When Jesus assures her that he is the resurrection and life, she merely agrees that he is the Christ.
4. Martha knew and had faith, but she didn’t see what Jesus was offering or see that it applied to her situation at the moment. She didn’t understand.
D. Let’s back up in time to when Jesus first heard about Lazarus’ illness - John 11:3-7
1. He tells his disciples directly what he will do - John 11:11-13
a. Even in plain terms, the disciples, like Martha later, do not understand.
2. He makes it even plainer - John 11:14-15
a. Notice that Jesus is glad that Lazarus died because it created an opportunity to cause greater faith.
b. Lazarus’ illness was a chance for God’s glory to shine
c. Lazarus’ death would result in belief
3. Like Lazarus’ illness and death, Jesus stated his own death would lead to the glory of God.
E. Now let’s jump forward in time as Jesus’ own death was rapidly approaching - John 12:23-28
1. Like Lazarus’ death it would produce faith.
2. There is a connection between Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ death that John wants us to see.
3. Still, notice that facing his death, Jesus was troubled.
a. Look back at John 11:33. Notice the same term – Jesus was troubled.
b. Troubled (tarasso) means to be agitated, stirred up, disturbed – in this case emotionally.
4. That Jesus was deeply moved by the scene is understandable.
a. But knowing that he would raise Lazarus’ from the dead, what was troubling him?
b. Connecting it to the events in the next chapter, Jesus is again troubled when he speaks of his death.
5. The descriptions point from Lazarus’ death to Jesus’ own death
IV. There is another connection. Compare John 11:34 to John 20:13
A. What we witness is subtle foreshadowing between Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ death.
B. The answer was “come and see.”
C. Recall that when John opened his book and the disciples first discovered Jesus - John 1:45-46
D. Here is the core of the gospel message: don’t just take my word for it, come and see for yourself.
E. And when Thomas was uncertain that Jesus truly was alive - John 20:27
F. It echoes to the very end of the New Testament - Revelation 22:17
V. The apostles wrote to share their insight - Ephesians 3:4
A. John shows us what he saw - I John 1:3
B. John 1:14
1. John shows us that the Word became flesh.
a. That is the humanity of Jesus.
2. And we saw his glory
a. That is the deity of Jesus
C. Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus is a demonstration of both themes.
D. In this one event we see both the humanity and deity of our Lord while he was here on earth.
1. Jesus did not merely cure sorrows, he shared in them.
2. He shared grief with those weeping before Lazarus’ tomb while looking ahead to his own time in the grave.
3. The time he would give the ultimate cure for our ultimate need - Romans 5:6-8
E. This, then, is what John shows us and why he told us “Jesus wept.”