Having recently spent time in the swing, swinging and talking with Jesus (see In the Swing with Jesus), I suddenly realized that I understood this, the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35, NKJV). It’s important to understand the context. Most of John chapter eleven is devoted to telling the story of the death of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. Jesus deliberately stayed away during Lazarus’ illness, then went to visit his house when he was already dead. His sisters expressed dismay over the fact that Jesus had delayed and now Lazarus was dead and in the grave four days. They pointed out that if He had been there, their brother wouldn’t have died. Jesus didn’t explain, didn’t even raise a defense.
Jesus knew all along what He was going to do. His grand, master plan from the start was to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why did Jesus cry?
I once had a theory that Jesus cried because perhaps His own human father, Joseph, had died, and He hadn’t been allowed to raise him from the dead. This was based on nothing but the fact that Joseph disappears from the Bible narrative after the end of Luke chapter two, when they find twelve year old Jesus in the Temple, talking with the priests. So I thought that His tears might be tears of regret for His step-father.
But having spent that time in the swing, where I passed whole days living very deliberately in the moment, I suddenly understood. Here’s why Jesus cried: Jesus lived His whole life, living in the moment.
Think about it: if you knew that the slow, painful death on a cross awaited you, wouldn’t you start praying weeks, even months, ahead of time? I would. In fact, I would get all my friends to pray round-the-clock for me. Not Jesus. He didn’t start to pray about the cross until the evening of His arrest. He knew that His life was leading up to the cross, but He didn’t waste a single moment worrying about it or even praying about it until that moment was upon Him. He did ask His friends to pray with Him. And what disappointing friends they turned out to be. But He knew that, too.
Jesus cried over Lazarus’ death, mourning with His friends, because that was what He was feeling in that moment.
This is a lesson for us because Jesus had all the faith in the world. He lived by faith more fully than anyone else before or since. So His tears were not due to a lack of faith. Jesus didn’t doubt that He could and would raise Lazarus from the dead. He was simply feeling the emotions of that moment while Lazarus was still dead and Mary and Martha were grieving. He shared their grief and He felt their disappointment in Him. He didn’t try to escape the pain of that moment by thinking about the very near future and how happy they would soon be.
The fact that Jesus lived each moment of His life being completely present in the moment leads to a thought that I am (in this moment) finding very hard to write. That difficult thought is this: Jesus was fully in the present moment for every single second that He was being falsely accused, beaten, spit upon, stripped, nailed up, abandoned by the Father, and dying on the cross.
I recently shared some of what I call my “embarrassing naked stories” of being an American living in Italy, where modesty is viewed very differently. In a nutshell: the medical professionals of Italy give you nothing to drape over your nakedness. Nor do they give you female professionals just because you’re female. It made me very aware that I was from the country founded by the Puritans. In those situations I coped with my nakedness by going to my Happy Place in my mind.
If I found myself unable to stay fully present in those moments of nakedness, I can’t even imagine how Jesus stayed fully present in His moments of extreme physical and emotional trauma. Yet, I know that He did. I know it because Jesus wept. I understand it now. And knowing this brings an even deeper appreciation for what Jesus did for me. It is so much more than I had even realized. And to say, as I always do, that God is good in this moment feels like the grossest understatement in the world. All I can really say is sincerely, from the bottom of my heart: Thank You, Jesus! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!