John 11:35. The shortest verse in the bible. A look at the humanity of Jesus.
Most of us know that this is on every bible trivia quiz ever created for children’s Sunday school class, but have we considered why the Lord cried?
I have been pondering this for a while. It hit me one night, perhaps through Divine revelation, that it might have been one of the best indicators of the way in which we should pursue a life of ministry.
I think it might be Jesus’ true compassion for the family of the deceased, and the feeling of hurt over the loss of friend that compelled the perfect Son of God to shed tears that day. He is truly sharing in the grief of the friends and family of Lazarus, even though He knows that He will raise the dead man to life again. If this is true, then how does it inform the way we minister? What does it say about ministry?
I think it reminds us that ministry is a lifestyle, not just an infrequent attempt to “share the Gospel” at a weekend outreach or your annual donation to goodwill. In every waking moment, of every day, we are to minister to people. Sometimes it is through a prayer, other times it is felt in a hug, and still others it is in the form of a hot meal or a shoulder to cry on.
Jesus, didn’t seem to need elaborate plans to minister to the community. He didn’t need to have a business meeting with his disciples every week to plan their activities for the coming days. Instead He lived a life of prayer, partying, and partnering with people in their good and bad times. These three things, I think, lead to his tears the day that Lazarus died. Because he prayed for these people, because he partied with them, and because he partnered with them in their joys, and in this moment, their sorrows, he was able to genuinely feel their pain.
That’s it, isn’t it? That’s what we as followers of the Messiah ought to do, to share in the joys and the sorrows of others. That is how we minister. That is how we love. That is how we show people the Truth of the Resurrection.
Now to the fact that Jesus knew that Lazarus would live again. Verse 36 says that the Jews saw how much Jesus loved Lazarus. He wasn’t a charity case. He wasn’t just another miracle that Jesus could add to his tally. He was one who was loved, and loved deeply by the Carpenter Christ. Jesus saw the importance of joining in the suffering of people even though He knew that He was going to fix the problem, even though He realized He was the solution.
Think about how much that says about our lives of ministry. We must join in with people’s triumphs and failures, joys and pains, dreams and wants. We must have compassion, and suffer with, those who hurt, even when we know we are there to bring healing, when we are there to fix the problem. We must first feel the affects of the problem ourselves. We must first join with those who it is hurting most and then we can truly show them they are loved, and that it is not just an opportunity for us to pat ourselves on the back for “making a difference in the world.”
Too many times I see ministries that are only “fixing” the problem, by handing out clothes or food, or donating money, or providing medical care without joining people in their suffering. Church, it is time that we put aside our pretentious attitude of charity and learn to hurt with those who hurt. Then they will see our good works and praise our Father in Heaven.
Jesus wept, do we?