March/April-2015- Jesus Wept
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB).
There are two cases where Jesus wept. He wept over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and he wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (John 11:34-35). Both events were towards the end of his ministry. This discussion will focus on Jesus’ grief at the death of Lazarus as it gives us special insight into Jesus’ ability to identify with a grieving creation.
Since his baptism at Jordan, Jesus had spent three and a half years carrying out the will of his Heavenly Father, preaching the Kingdom of God and showing signs and wonders which should have proven to the Jews that he was the son of God, the promised Messiah. During the time that our Lord was serving the lost sheep of Israel, he told them, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58 NASB). Even at his birth there was no place for him. His mother Mary “wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7 NASB).
During his ministry Jesus spent the majority of his time with the common people of Israel. This was noticed by the religious leaders who considered themselves holy but the rest of the people sinners, of whom some could not be saved. “The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at his disciples, saying, Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners? And Jesus answered and said to them, It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:30-32 NASB). There were, however, some Pharisees who recognized Jesus. “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43 NASB).
Expectations of the Religious Rulers
The Pharisees were expecting a person of royalty, someone who would save them from the Roman yoke, as promised by Isaiah: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on his shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NASB). Instead they saw a carpenter’s son from insignificant Nazareth preaching a message to the sinners.
This was in fact what Isaiah had prophesied: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem him. Surely our griefs he himself bore, and our sorrows he carried; yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4 NASB). How different from the words given to his mother Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:31-32 NASB)!
The Road to Jordan
Jesus realized at a young age the purpose of his life on earth, that of “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Luke gives us insight into Jesus’ childhood and records an occasion when at twelve years of age his parents took him to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover but discovered he was not with the group when they left.
“The child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him. … When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for him. Then, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:45-47 NASB).
Little is recorded about Jesus’ life from age 12 until he came to John the Baptist. However, the charge of the Pharisees, “Is not this the carpenter” (Mark 6:3), indicates that Jesus spent his early years learning carpentry from his earthly father, Joseph. At age 30, Jesus came to be baptized by John at the Jordan River. Jews were being baptized for remission of sins to bring them back into harmony with God.
Jesus’ baptism was not for sins, for he was sinless. His baptism symbolized his willingness to do the Heavenly Father’s will rather than his own, giving up his earthly life to take Adam’s place under penalty of death. He was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to study the scriptural record regarding his ministry and where he was tempted by Satan to use his spiritual powers for earthly gain. Brother Russell writes, “Into the wilderness — for study and meditation relative to the great work to which he had just consecrated himself, represented in his baptism” (Reprint 680).
When thinking of the temptations that befell Jesus, the three temptations initiated by Satan in the wilderness come to mind readily, but there were others not so obvious. It must have deeply hurt Jesus to see the temple, his Father’s house, being used as a marketplace with the religious leaders’ consent, charging the people to certify the animal sacrifices as unblemished.
There appear to be two occasions recorded when he cleansed the temple, one at the beginning of his ministry (John 2:13-16) and another at the close (Luke 19:45-46). Jesus must have been tempted to totally cleanse the temple, not only of the merchants but of those who were representing Jehovah God but not teaching his father’s words.
Those religious leaders burdened the people rather than caring for them. Jesus charged, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men” (Matthew 23:4-7 NASB).
Jesus must have longed to remove that burden from the people. Yet he knew that was not the time. Only those who followed him received the assurance “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB). He assured them, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NASB).
Sympathizing With Our Weaknesses
“When evening came, they brought to him many who were demon-possessed; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” (Matthew 8:16-17 NASB).
The healing that Jesus did was not without effort on his part. Luke records “a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon … had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those … troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch him, for power was coming from him and healing them all” (Luke 6:17-19 NASB).
Brother Russell gives insight into Jesus’ healing power: “The connection between the healing of disease, on our Lord’s part, and his taking of infirmity upon himself, is not very apparent to the majority of those who read the record. It is generally supposed that our Lord merely exercised a power of healing that cost himself nothing. But, from the record of the Scriptures, we understand that the healing of the sick, as performed by our Lord, was not by the superhuman power at his command, but that on the contrary, in healing the sick he expended upon them a part of his own vitality: and consequently, the greater the number healed, the greater was our Lord’s loss of vitality, strength” (Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 5, page 124).
He gave of himself to the people, sympathizing with their illnesses and weaknesses. The parable of the prodigal son shows God’s compassion on mankind, pictured by the father running to greet the wayward son. Peter reminds us, “The Lord is not slow in fulfilling his promise, in the sense in which some men speak of slowness. But He bears patiently with you, His desire being that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 Weymouth).
Jesus had compassion not only for those who were ill, blind, lame, and tormented by demons, but also for the common people in their everyday needs. “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way” (Matthew 15:32 NASB). He miraculously fed the people. At other times, he showed that he understood fear by calming the restless sea that so frightened his disciples.
Compassion for the Gentiles
Although Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, he also took compassion on Gentiles who came to him for help. “And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, imploring him, and saying, Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented. Jesus said to him, I will come and heal him. But the centurion said, Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:5- 8 NASB). Jesus tells us why this request was granted “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel” (Matthew 8:10 NASB). What an example to those doubting Jewish leaders!
In another case, a Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed child came to Jesus. She criedout saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David” (Matthew 15:22 NASB). Her faith was tested when Jesus told her he came only to the Jews: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). This was a test to her as a Gentile despised by the Jews. She replied “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27 NASB). Jesus then told her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.”
In another incident recorded in Luke 7:12- 15 (NASB), Jesus traveled to the city of Nain where “a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” When the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And he came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak” (Luke 7:13-15 NASB). This same compassion was exhibited with the raising of Jairus’ daughter, telling the family “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (Luke 8:50).
Bethany is a village about two miles from Jerusalem. While little is recorded about Bethany, it is the site for some of the most familiar acts and scenes of the last days of the life of Christ. It was here that Jesus’ greatest miracle took place, the raising of Lazarus, and this miracle gives great insight into Jesus’ compassion for man’s infirmities. Bethany was the home of Simon the leper and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It was a place of rest and renewal for Jesus, who had no place of his own to lay his head.
“A certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick” (John 11:1-3 NASB). Jesus loved this family, and they returned his love. Jesus could have commanded that Lazarus be healed just as he had done with the Centurions’ servant. Yet he knew that was not his Father’s will. He knew his delay would result in Lazarus’ death and that this would cause great distress and grief to Mary and Martha.
Martha and Mary were unhappy at Jesus’ delayed arrival: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 NASB). They knew that Jesus had healed others without being present. It was not that they did not believe that Lazarus would one day be resurrected, for “Martha said to him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 NASB).
However, the bonds of family were strong and Lazarus’ death took its toll on his sisters.
“When Jesus therefore saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” (John 11:33). Jesus “was touched with a feeling of man’s infirmities. His perfect mind would make all his sensibilities more active than ours, his sympathy would be stronger, his sense of pain keener” (Reprint 5103).
John says “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). He had not shown such a reaction when he raised others from death. There are several explanations for his weeping on this occasion. First, the family was very close to Jesus and gave him a place of rest. The close personal relationship is shown in the words “he whom you love is sick” (John 11:3). Second, Jesus was “acquainted with grief ” (Isaiah 53:3). As the Logos, he had seen Cain slay Abel; he, along with Jehovah, had heard the cries of the Israelites in Egypt. Yet at this time he was moved to weep. Just as we observe the grief of the people around us as they experience the difficulties of sin and death, but especially are touched when death troubles the ones we love dearly, Jesus was moved to tears for the family he loved.
Lazarus would eventually die again. Yet Jesus knew that the time was near when he wouldgive his life a ransom for Adam, and, if he fulfilled all that was written in the Scripture, he would secure the release of all from the sentence of death. That would be the victory soon to be shown by his resurrection.