As a Christian counselor, I have found myself in many stories with clients that included the loss of a spouse or child, a victim of domestic violence, the agony of a dream or future that would never come to be, and the tears of redemption, hope, grace, and peace. I have had my fair share of tears in counseling and so this verse, John 11:35, interests me a lot. It starts with who Jesus is, fully God and fully man.
The topic of Jesus being fully God and fully man is a theological concept that is easy to say, hard to understand, and a nearly endless deepness to learn from. The concept is that Jesus who is part of the trinity of God as the Son, came to Earth as a living sacrifice for our sins. But Jesus’ death without a life in this world that is blameless would not do and so we can find comfort in understanding Jesus has been where we currently are.
We have previously written about this topic in the context of Jesus with regards to burnout in the second half of 2020 when COVID was flaring up at the start of the new school year. In that text, we talked about Jesus’ humanity in that He wept, but we did not discuss the context of that verse. Even if this is not your first or second time, I encourage you to go read the full chapter here. But below is the verses to highlight the context:
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days…
Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” …
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Who Was Lazarus?
We see in Luke 10 that Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary, two prominent figures within the history of the Church. This is the story of where Jesus had visited the three of them and heard of the story of Martha preparing for the feast as was custom but Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to His teaching. While it is not fully expressed, it is believed by many Biblical scholars through inference that Jesus and Lazarus were friends.
The interesting thing is, as we understand Jesus being fully God, fully man concept, this would mean that Jesus knew what awaited when He showed up to Lazarus’ home as well as knew He would have Lazarus resurrected again. Yet, Jesus still wept.
Why Did Jesus Cry?
I find this question interesting, especially when part of my job is in discussing grief often with clients. Jesus’ tears would not have been for Lazarus, but for Martha and Mary and their grief. His compassion and empathy in that moment led Jesus to tears. It reminds me of Paul’s words to the Roman Christians:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Romans 12:15
For the Christian counselors, pastors offering Biblical and pastoral counseling, and those who are friends with someone grieving, stressed, hurt, or in some kind of pain, seek that compassion and empathy with them. We see this when the author of Hebrews notes Jesus as our High Priest:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.Hebrews 4:15
So I pray for you counselor and pastor who sit with someone in pain. I ask God to give you compassion and empathy that will move you at least as much as it moved Jesus such that you grieve with your client or congregation. And I pray that you honor them in lifting their known concerns to the one who has the power over death and life, now and forever.