The shortest verse in the Bible is ‘Jesus wept’ [John 11:35].

There at the tomb of Lazarus, his friend, Jesus wept. He knew that he was going to restore him to life. In addition, he knew that physical death was not the end of spiritual life for those who, like Lazarus, believe in him [verse 25,26].

Yet still he wept.  

He ‘was deeply moved in spirit and troubled’ [verse 33], and was ‘once more deeply moved’ [verse 38]. Or, as the KJV has it ‘he groaned within himself’.

Some say that this is the human Jesus sharing in our human sorrow in the presence of death. And perhaps there is something of that here. But there is certainly much more than that here.  Here is the eternal God, the Lord of life, the Source and the Giver of all life; here is the One who is the Bread of life, the Light of life, the Resurrection and the Life; here ‘the Life’ stands in confrontation with death. Here he who created us for life, confronts that which holds us all captive – death.

Death, and all that leads to death and has the taste of death, is not what God created us for. He created us for life – and for life to the max [read John 10:10]. Death, and all that leads to it and has its taste, is what God said ‘No’ to [Genesis 2:17]. By this one prohibition God excluded all that causes human grief and all that causes grief to him. But we disobeyed that command. We chose death rather than life. And with that choice suffering and grief entered.

Here at the tomb of Lazarus Jesus expresses the deep grief of God at the presence of death. Death is the alien, the intruder, the enemy that has held humans in its fear since we rebelled against God in Genesis 3 [Romans 5:12ff;   Hebrews 2:15].

God grieves over the human suffering that human sin brought, and continues to bring, into the world:

When he ‘saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become … the LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain’ [Genesis 6:5,6].

‘ … he could bear Israel’s misery no longer’ [Judges 10:16].

‘In all their distress he too was distressed’ [Isaiah 63:9].

‘Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people’ [Jeremiah 9:1]

‘He looked around at them in anger … deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts …’ [Mark 3:5].

Our sin grieves God. The suffering our sin causes grieves God.

He created us for life, not for death.
He created us for glory, not for evil.
He created us for joy, not for sorrow.

Sometimes our human wickedness, and the suffering it causes, becomes so great that God in his love and with deep grief, pours out his judgement and brings an end to the suffering. He did it to the whole world at the time of Noah [Genesis 6-9] when human wickedness had reached saturation point. He did it to Sodom and Gomorrah, when the cry of suffering coming from these towns became too great [Genesis 18:20,21; 19:13]. He did it to the Canaanite nations [Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 9:4,5] when their iniquity reached full measure. When the cry of human pain becomes great, God in his own great grief, and in his great grief over human suffering, brings on serious judgement.

The day is coming when the final judgement will terminate sin and suffering forever. Then we will hear God say for the last time ‘Enough is enough!’ There will be no more tears. There will be no more pain. [Revelation 21:4]

Until that day, while the whole creation groans in agony as it waits, and as we groan in agony as we continue to suffer, the Spirit of God agonizes with us, and within us. Waiting. Waiting for that day when we are released into the glorious freedom of the children of God [Romans 8:19-26].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016