It was September 11, 2001—and Jesus wept.
An airplane hit a building. Another airplane hit another building. A third did the same, and a fourth crashed into an open field.
Lives were taken—so many lives. And others were left behind to somehow piece life together without those who were taken—husbands and fathers wives and mothers daughters and sons.
Mrs. O’Neil; Baby Jillian; Grandpa Johnny; best friend, Steve . . .
It was the most awful of days: A day of heartache and grief, pain and loss. So much pain, so much loss. It was September 11, 2001—and Jesus wept. . . .
Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for . . . my people has suffered a grievous wound.
It wasn’t the first time, however. Those weren’t the first tears the Son of the living God shed in the face of human suffering. That wasn’t the first day His divine heart was pierced and splintered by death and dying, brokenness and pain.
“Lazarus is dead.”
Two thousand years ago, as a flesh-and-blood Man with a flesh-and-blood heart and flesh-and-blood feelings, Jesus stood facing a friend’s grave. It was another day that Jesus’ heart broke.
A woman named Mary lay in the dirt at His feet, wailing in grief. Lazarus was her brother. He was Jesus’ friend.
And he’d been snatched from this world much too early, torn from their lives before his time. Now the Son of God stood staring at his grave, and He wept. Lazarus was dead, and Jesus wept.
The event is recorded in chapter 11 of the Gospel of John, and the moment is so significant that it’s given its own verse: 35. It is the shortest verse in the entire Bible, and its two words are whispered so simply, so humbly—so shockingly human, so emotionally bare.
Could the writer really mean the Son of the living God? “Jesus wept ?”
Before Abraham was born, I am.
After all, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Lion of Judah the Rock of Ages the same yesterday, today, and forever.
As a Man who walked the earth two thousand years ago, He was Immanuel—“God with Us”—the living embodiment of the living God, the human revelation of I Am Who I Am.
Once Jesus was asked to “show us the Father.” We can only imagine the set in His jaw and the smile on His face as He turned and joyously proclaimed, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In other words, “You’re looking at Him, guys. As I am, so is God!” Glory to His blessed Name!
But surely such stature, such distinction, would suggest someone who is stoic, immovable, divinely composed. A Man who is God would surely walk high above such earthly realities as pain and loss, serenely beyond such human “untogetherness” as heartache and grief. Surely Jesus stood unaffected by the blows of life that assault you and me.
At least that is how we often picture Him—detached and ethereal, unfeeling in His divine supremacy. We often speak and write of Him that way. That is how we approach Him in prayer. In many of our church traditions, we present Him that way, and that is how we tend to portray Him in art and film.
We’ve all seen the Renaissance paintings and stainedglass images of the elegant Man standing high above the common folk groveling at His feet. His arms are extended wide; His face is long and expressionless; His demeanor is pious and aloof. His eyes are passively fixed toward heaven.
We expect Him to speak in Shakespearean baritone, using lofty words like “thee,” “thou,” and “thine.”
But the portrait painted of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is a far cry from such religious fiction. In the truth of His divine and living Word, in the Holy Spirit–inspired canon of holy Scripture, we meet a Man who is quite shockingly the opposite. We meet a Man who is breathtakingly “real”—more real, more down to earth, more dirt-under-the-fingernails authentic than any man who has ever been.
[He] made Himself nothing.
We see Jesus in the streets day after day, offering people His kingdom in exchange for their pain. We see Jesus feeding the hungry masses, reaching His carpenter-callused hands into the filth of a leper’s sores, washing people’s feet, starving in the wilderness, lifting cripples out of the sand, pulling prostitutes into His embrace. We see dirt and fatigue, struggle and striving. We see a Man on a mission like no man has ever been on a mission before or since.
As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.
What is aloof about being born in a barn? What is supreme about sleeping in open fields? What is detached and serene about falling on your face and crying over lost people?
O Jerusalem . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
What is so lofty about having your blood drip in the sand as people spit in your face?
Yes, in Scripture we see Jesus in His reality—His passion and persistence, His drive and desire. In His Word we see Him in His truth—the King of kings dressed in blood, sweat, and tears, day after day pouring Himself out, hanging from wood, pouring Himself out even more. We see Him for who He really is—Jesus.
Praise His precious name!
And standing before His beloved friend’s grave that day, face to face with loss and death, we see Him weep.
“Jesus wept,” the Scripture says. We see Him weep . . .Jesus weeps.
I don’t know, but I’ve got to think that a really good friend was something rare for Jesus two thousand years ago. After all, He was the living God in human manifestation.
Can you imagine how alone that must have left Him?
Who can know the mind of God ?
Who could possibly understand a Man who singularly walked in the fullness of God’s understanding? Who could possibly relate to a Man with such vastness of perspective, with such infinite depths of divine contemplation? Talk about being on a different page!
And His life was so public and controversial. Day after day He was followed, picked apart, pursued for so many of the wrong reasons.
It is only by . . . the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons. (Matthew 12:24 )
We want to see a miraculous sign from you. (Matthew 12:38)
He is worthy of death. (Matthew 26:66)
Can you imagine, day after day—after day after day—living like that?
Oh, how He must have hungered in His human heart for the love and companionship of a flesh-and-blood friend! How he must have longed for that someone we all long for—that someone with whom He could share a meal at the end of a hard day. That someone with whom He could confide all His aloneness. That someone who wouldn’t judge Him or need something from Him—who wouldn’t try to fix everything or tell Him what was best for Him. That someone who would just be there for Him take the time to care care enough to listen.
I wasn’t there two thousand years ago, so I can’t say for sure; but Jesus retreated so often to Lazarus’s home, I think it’s a good bet that Lazarus was that someone. It’s a good bet that Lazarus was a flesh-and-blood friend Jesus could feel at rest with. That confidant Jesus could lean on. That buddy Jesus could just hang out with and chuckle with over silly things, and maybe—for just ten minutes—not have to be so very important.
But as wonderful and blessed as close companionship is, it isn’t free. Not for anyone—not even the Son of God.
No, there’s a price to be paid for so precious a friendship. Depth of love, height of relationship: These are life’s greatest treasures; and accordingly, they are life’s greatest costs.