As I’ve trained student athletes over the years, I have enjoyed asking them for their favorite memory verse. Invariably, the majority of them would be quick to recite from memory the shortest verse in all of sacred Scripture, John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”
Why is it the Shortest Verse?
I find it quite remarkable that our Lord Jesus Christ wept. However, it’s really not extraordinary that He did weep — remember that He was not only fully God, but He was also fully man — but it is the context in which He wept that is so remarkably striking as to arrest our attention. If you remember the story, Jesus was standing outside of the tomb of Lazarus, a friend and the man He was about to raise to life after four days dead in the grave. You might well wonder: If Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in just a few moments . . . and He did . . . why in the world would He stand outside of his tomb weeping?
I think it is crystal clear that Jesus wanted to enter into the pain and sorrow of Mary, Martha and their friends at the deepest possible level. Jesus wanted to enter into the story of those who were suffering at the grave of Lazarus and so He wept along side of those who were weeping. And in so doing, He thus fulfilled the biblical mandate we read from the pen of the apostle Paul: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
To be sure, this is the shortest verse in the Scripture, but it seems to have the deepest, richest, most magnificent sense of meaning. Our Savior reaches deep into the sorrows of His saints and enters into the pain of His people. “Make no mistake, we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with us in our weakness and grief (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus is a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV); with tears He enters into the trials and tribulations we face. What a wonderful consolation to know that Jesus is with us when we are most vulnerable and most moved by the circumstances we face in this life.
It is natural
No doubt, Jesus could have repressed His tears. Most men do just that. But Jesus refused to be unnatural at any point of contact with humanity. It is natural to weep when we are in a season of sorrow and suffering. It is natural to let our tears flow from the fountain of personal pain. It is natural to cry out when the circumstances of life are closing in all around us. And it is as natural, and it is biblical to weep with those who weep. It is a source of great comfort to know that Jesus did not find it “weak” or “feeble” or “fragile” or “shameful” to show the depths of His human emotions. Remember, Jesus got tired, hungry and thirsty. He was just like us in every way . . . except without sin.
Ministry of tears
As a pastor, I have found that often this is the best ministry that you can provide for someone who is in pain. The ministry of tears reaches deeply into the hearts of man and ministers in ways that cannot be matched by words or deeds. And tears translate into every imaginable language. Because we are all made in the image of God, we all speak the language of tears when a word will simply not do. General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army in July 1865, knew this truth by way of personal experience.
Two Salvation Army officers set out to found a new work on behalf of the Salvation Army, only to meet with incredible failure and massive opposition. Frustrated and tired they appealed to the General to close the rescue mission and end the effort. General Booth sent back a telegram with only two words on it, “try tears!” They followed his advice and they witnessed a mighty revival.
Regardless of where this finds you today, you have a friend in Jesus who sticks closer than a brother and who is not afraid to weep with you. Remember, Jesus wept . . . and then He commanded, “Roll the stone away” and “Lazarus come out!” Jesus met His friends and followers in their deepest place of pain first, then He demonstrated that He was more than just a man. He was the incarnate God, who had power over all things, including both life and death.
So when you find yourself in a season of weeping, don’t forget that you weep in the best of company . . . because Jesus wept!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that…Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.