Today’s Reading: John 11-12
Today’s Reflection: John 11:35
One question is often asked when someone we love dies tragically. Whether the cause is disease, crime, accident, natural disaster or some other kind of misfortune, we wonder, where was God? How could He stand by while this terrible thing was happening? These are tough questions, but we do ourselves and our God a disservice if we ignore them.
I believe an answer can be found in John 11. In this chapter, Jesus is told that a dear friend in Bethany, Lazarus, is very ill. Instead of rushing to see him, Jesus waits and doesn’t arrive in Bethany until Lazarus has already died. He comforts the family at Lazarus gravesite. Then verse 35 simply says, ‘Jesus wept’. Finally Jesus triumphantly raises Lazarus from the dead.
Now clearly, Jesus knew what was to happen beforehand. He knew that Lazarus would die, and that He would resurrect him. Knowing this, isn’t it interesting that instead of just going ahead and raising him from the dead, Jesus first pauses and takes the time to join Lazarus’ family and friends in mourning. I believe He was trying to show us something about the nature of God.
Just as Jesus knew Lazarus would die, God knows every tragic death that will happen. And just as Jesus had a plan for Lazarus to live again, I believe God also made provision for the eternal destiny of our loved ones who pass away due to misfortune beforehand as well. But in the space in-between, when the tragedy is happening, Jesus weeps. And while loved ones struggle with hurt and loss in the aftermath of tragedy, I believe Jesus still weeps with them. I believe this for three reasons:
First of all, Jesus had such great compassion for mankind during His earthly ministry. He had compassion for the lost people who followed to hear him speak, whom He described ‘as sheep having no shepherd’ (Mark 6:34). He had compassion on the children who were brought before Him (Matthew 19:13-15). The Word instructs us to empathize with fellow believers, to ‘rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep’ (Romans 12:15). I believe Jesus deeply feels what we feel, and that He takes the time to offer us consolation and comfort in the midst of our suffering.
Secondly, I believe he mourns what man has become since Adam and Eve chose sin over obedience. Although all that happens on earth is under God’s authority, evil is something He merely allows rather than being something He causes. The reality is what we perceive as tragedies are the consequences of man’s sinful choices.
When God sees us He also sees the misused potential of man, the corruption of His image which He created us to be a reflection of. It was this sight that moved God to destroy the whole world by flood, a sight that ‘grieved Him at His heart’ (Genesis 6:6). When we sin—when we choose to hurt ourselves and each another instead of fulfilling His purposes for our lives—I imagine He must still feel that way.
Finally, I believe Jesus weeps because as much as we’re hurt by tragedies that touch the people we love, they hurt God even more because He knows us and loves us in a way we can scarcely comprehend. God says ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee’ (Jeremiah 1:5). As much as we hurt from the loss of a loved one, it pales in comparison to what God must experience.
In all of our tragedies, God sees what will befall us before we do. He has also gone ahead of us and made provision to restore us from situations like abuse, abandonment, bereavement, rejection and even death. But in between, in the space between the start of the trial and the triumph of deliverance, in the time while we are in the midst of tragedy, while we are suffering, afflicted, distressed, depressed, mourning, and grieving, I believe Jesus is present to comfort us, to console us and even to weep with us. And this should give us great confidence, because where Jesus’ tears end, deliverance by His resurrection power begins.
John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”