From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lazarus Saturday: Why Jesus wept

Raising Lazarus (Bloch, 1875)
For centuries, reluctant Bible students have been choosing John 11:35 as the passage that they were willing to commit to memory.  That’s because it’s the shortest passage in the King James Version, solely consisting of these two words:  Jesus wept.  (He wept when Lazarus of Bethany was dead.)

These two words have also been emphasized by enthusiastic Bible students.  Throughout the ages, scholars have pondered the implications of a weeping Jesus.  If even humans hesitate to weep for fear of weakness, why would Jesus do so? not only lists some of the parallel versions of this passage (although neither the Greek New Testament nor the Textus Receptus are included, both of which have shorter passages than John 11:35) – but it also lists some of the parallel commentaries on this passage.  Henry, Wesley, Barnes, Clarke, Gill, Vincent and others have all weighed in on why Jesus wept.

Back in the early 18th century, Matthew Henry believed that Jesus wept tears of compassion for the afflicted rather than the melodramatic tears that so many humans are heir to.  In the later 18th century, John Wesley tended to agree.  He, like Henry, also included a warning about the misery of sin in his commentary.  Barnes further expounds by pointing out that human relationships are not inconsistent with Christianity – in fact, they are supportive of it and supported by it.  

Gill wrote that Jesus was also weeping for all those who did not realize who He really was.  Vincent contrasted the empathy of the “deity of Jesus” with “Homer’s gods and goddesses.”  He offered this quote from the Iliad xxiv 525 to illustrate his point:  The gods ordain the lot of man to suffer, while themselves are free of care.”  Clarke reminds us that in Luke 19:41 Jesus is also “said to have wept over Jerusalem.”

Wikipedia adds that the death and raising of Lazarus portends the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Another stated theory is that Jesus felt the trauma that Lazarus would experience when transitioning from a short stay in Paradise back to a very troubled Earth.  Pope Leo I summed it up this way:  In his humanity Jesus wept  for Lazarus; in his divinity he raised him from the dead.


Copyright April 16, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment