Viewing Death Up Close

“Now when Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. 34 He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.” John 11:32-35 NET2.

The entirety of John chapter 11 addresses the death of Lazarus and the effects of Jesus’ miraculous raising of this dead man to life. Martha and her family were extremely distraught because she knew that if Jesus had been present Lazarus would not have died. They watched their brother succumb to a deadly illness of some sort. And when Jesus personally saw their intense emotional suffering, He wept.

Everyone will or has witnessed the body of a dead person and there are some who have held the hand of a dying loved one or friend, and this is not pleasant. To view a dead body in a casket is not a favorite thing for anyone to endure, but to see a person who has just died lying in a bed or in another kind of situation is unsettling to say the least.

Jesus Wept and Demonstrates His Glory

Personally, I have held the hand of, perhaps, 2 individuals and have heard the stories of others who have done the same. Each story is the same as there is a sense of helplessness involved. As a pastor, I have had the task on many occasions to help families put their loved ones into a grave and there is nothing more final in life than this. This is a cold and heart-breaking experience for there is nothing more terminal than the grave. Weeping is what we do. We weep for ourselves mostly and grieving will come…the final separation. Jesus wept, too, and in this, we discover His humanity.

But, “Why did Jesus weep?” Many have speculated about this most human moment in Jesus’ life on this earth, but I really think this clearly demonstrated just how ‘human’ really was. “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.” John 1:14.

There are 2 very important facts to take from John 1:14: 1. “He took up residence among us.” 2. “We saw His glory.” This ‘God-man’ lived among us humans, His creation, and we were able to witness His glory. And in the moments following the death of Lazarus, we see both His humanity and His glory. He weeps for his grieving friends and demonstrates His glory, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me. I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” John 11:40-44.

No doubt, Jesus wanted His friends to personally view the demonstration of God’s glory up close. Jesus grieved with his friends, but only for a moment because He understood that they would need to see His glory demonstrated in the coming months. They did not know this and they certainly would not understand as He began to clearly message the fact of the Crucifixion to come. Death was coming, but for another purpose.

The Door to Abundant Life

The news of what Jesus had done spread rapidly among the Jewish community and fear gripped the hearts of the Pharisees, “Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” (Now he did not say this on his own, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish nation, and not for the Jewish nation only, but to gather together into one the children of God who are scattered.) So from that day they planned together to kill him.” John 11:49-53. This Caiphas was a very, very wise person, and no doubt was anointed by God for he seems to have understood who this Christ was…He was the Messiah.

The death that was to come for all of humanity was their enslavement to sin, at least the possibility of freedom from the consequences of it. Just as Jesus said, “So Jesus said again, “I tell you the solemn truth, I am the door for the sheep.  All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” John 10:7-10. Not only is Jesus the door of escape for the sheep, but He has also come to provide the gift of abundant life. Could it have been that Jesus wept because He knew that not everyone understood? Could have been.

Jesus’ Life on Earth Changes Direction

Demonstrating publicly that He could return life to a dead person now changes the direction of what Jesus was doing. No longer could He be a person with the freedom to walk about without intrusion. Jesus’ life on earth would end in about 2 weeks or so after He touched the future of His friends. The Jewish community now sought to kill Him.

“Thus Jesus no longer went around publicly among the Judeans, but went away from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. Now the Jewish Feast of Passover was near, and many people went up to Jerusalem from the rural areas before the Passover to cleanse themselves ritually. Thus they were looking for Jesus, and saying to one another as they stood in the temple courts, “What do you think? That he won’t come to the feast?” (Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should report it, so that they could arrest him.)” John 11:54-57.

The Jewish Passover festival was soon approaching and in John 12 we are able to read about what we know as “The Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem; one week before He was to die. Certainly, we see the glory of God in Jesus realized for the entire world to know. Now it is our time to weep.

Death is always up close and personal, but there is nothing more final than personal death for everyone is a candidate for that finality. There is an end. But our ending on this earth has an eternity coming, too. One is eternal life in Hell or eternal life in Heaven, and each of us will have that opportunity to choose before this physical death comes. What will you do? How will you choose? Will Jesus weep or rejoice over your choice?

Jesus is Lord.


About Bob Williford

Conservative Southern Baptist pastor, missionary, and personal evangelist. An avid supporter of Texas Tech Athletics. Enjoy oil painting, writing and woodworking. My wife, children, and grandchildren are my joy. Reading and writing are great for relaxing......
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