Monday, April 11, 2011
When I was a kid, it seemed like every year or so we had some kind of craft project in Sunday school that had to do with making a bible verse out of dry alpha bit soup letters, putting it all together, and then gluing the verse on some kind of backdrop suitable for framing. Long story short – the shorter the bible verse, the easier the craft project.
One of the verses found in the story of Lazarus from Gospel of John was always a very popular verse for this project, as it is the shortest bible verse in the English language. That verse is "Jesus Wept".
Mary and Martha were feeling helpless and hopeless four days after their brother Lazarus died. And their questions added insult to injury. They are questions we all ask even today. Where is God?
Couldn't He have prevented this tragedy in the first place? Why couldn't He have healed Lazarus of his sickness like he healed so many other people?
Jesus delayed His coming, so by the time He finally arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days. "Lord," Martha cried, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died". Amidst all the grief and tears, the neighbors mumbled their own aside: "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?". Could he not have prevented all this horrible pain and heartache? What kind of friend is this Jesus anyway?
Jesus doesn't answer the question. Instead, in the shortest verse in the English Bible, Jesus reveals one of the most important things we can ever learn about the heart of God - Jesus wept. When Jesus experiences his friends Mary and Martha weeping for their dead brother Lazarus, John writes that he was "deeply moved in spirit and greatly troubled".
The almighty powerful God whom we worship is not a remote, aloof, foreign god somewhere way out there in the universe. No, He's a tender and loving and compassionate God who is deeply moved, even grieved, by the things that threaten the well-being of his people.
This compassionate nature of God is the reason why the Scriptures encourage us to bring to Him every pain, anguish, confusion, and anxiety. Like Mary, Martha, and their neighbors, the Psalmist demonstrates this crying out to God :
"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy."
We can pray to God like this because we know that He cares for us. We can place our hope in Him because, He is a God of unfailing love and full redemption.
God not only empathizes with our many pain and sorrow, He also participates with us in them, and He acts on our behalf in the midst of them. After Jesus wept, He demonstrated His power over death and the grave, by raising Lazarus from the dead, his last miracle before his own death and resurrection. Lazarus, come out!
And the man who had been dead came out.
Dead men don't just get up and walk out of their graves!
Dead men tell no tales! Well, not usually anyway - not unless Jesus is around.
The same voice that spoke at creation – Let there be light –
now says to Lazarus and to all of us gathered here to day - Let there be life!
From the very beginning God has always been in the business of giving life, and making alive out of that which was dead.
A thirsty woman getting water is pretty interesting. A blind man getting his sight back is quite remarkable. But a dead man getting his life back? Now that is really something.
And if Jesus has the power to bring someone back to life after they had died and been in a grave for four days, then He has the power to do the same in my life and in your life as well!
It was said of the Messiah, that you will know that he has come when the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them. He is here. Messiah has come. And His name is Jesus.
The raising of Lazarus is a preview of Jesus' own resurrection. In just a few short weeks, Jesus will walk out of a rock tomb as well, He too will leave behind a grave stone and leave His grave clothes behind. And when those who surround Him witness His resurrection, they will believe and put their faith in Him as well.
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever lives and believes in me will never die but live forever. Do you believe this?
It's true - the shortest verse in the English Bible, is "Jesus Wept".
But the shortest verse in the Greek Bible is - "Rejoice always".
And because Jesus wept, we can rejoice always. Amen.