“Jesus wept” (John 11:35 ESV).
It’s the shortest verse in the entire Biblical narrative (one we all likely boasted of memorizing as a kid) -- but it’s also so power-packed with meaning for us today.
If you remember the story here in John 11, Martha and Mary had lost their brother, Lazarus, and Jesus came to them to “wake him up.”*
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. (John 11:32–35 ESV emphasis mine).*
The Bible records in John 11:33 that Jesus was “greatly troubled.” The Greek word, ἐνεβριμήσατο, which has been translated to our English word troubled, is maybe better understood as a display of indignation by Jesus. In other words, he was angry that something like death is a reality in this world. Not only does death upset Jesus; it enrages him because it’s not what was ultimately intended. And despite the fact that he knew that he was about to raise Lazarus and restore joy to the family, he shows his humanity. Death appalls him too. He hates it. It is exhibit A of Satan’s handiwork, and it made Jesus sick to his stomach. This should comfort those of us who have lost a loved one too soon. Jesus is just as troubled as we are.*
However, this text has always perplexed me. Why would Jesus need to weep with Mary and the Jews? I realize he’s showing his humanity in this moment, but that doesn’t put his divinity on hold. He had to have known he was getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why the tears, Jesus? Why not walk up to the grieving crowd and immediately announce the great miracle they are all about to witness?*
John’s gospel shows us a Jesus who stops to weep, grieve, and empathize with the brokenhearted first. It’s true what the prophet Isaiah said: “A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 esv) was coming. In one of the most beautiful moments of the gospel, we see Jesus doing something many of us find weak, uncomfortable, and unnecessary. It’s called empathy.*
In a world so broken, so disillusioned, so reactionary… We need a community of believers who will look like Jesus and get troubled with the trouble of others.
What our world needs is what Jesus modeled. Empathy.
Empathy for the person on the other side of the political aisle.
Empathy for the person who posted a negative comment on your Facebook.
Empathy for your neighbor who lost a loved one or a job.
Empathy for the sick.
Empathy for the people we like the least in this world.
Empathy does not understand prejudice or preference. It levels the playing field of life. No one is too high up or too far-gone for empathy to reach. Empathy looks beyond differences and embraces the Gospel of hope. Empathy, alone, cannot solve the worlds problems (thankfully that's God's job) -- but it can show the world who Jesus really is...a loving, caring, and compassionate Savior. But it all starts with empathy.
Jesus wept. If that’s not empathy, I don’t know what is.*
*Excerpts from my book Finding the Lost Art of Empathy -- available May 16, 2017. Available now for pre-sale on Amazon.com