Before you read this chapter, I would recommend you do the following:
Take three deep breaths to center yourself for the journey ahead. Take some time to pray by saying something like, “God, help me understand what you have prepared for me today.”
Read the Scripture slowly. Read it with questions such as, Why did Jesus do this? How does each group of people react to the death of Lazarus?
Scripture Reading: John 9:1-41
Week Five: Jesus wept.
“Jesus wept.” I learned that this phrase is used as an expletive in some places in the English-speaking world, such as Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia. It is a swear word like “OMG” or “Jesus Christ'' here in the U.S. that some people use when things go wrong or to express incredulity. The implication is that Jesus would weep all over again at the state of humanity given the frustrating or unbelievable situation. For example, someone would say, “Jesus wept, that slipper is five hundred bucks!” In that context, this usage would be considered blasphemous and offensive to faithful Christians. Well, I think I can understand why some people would use this phrase, and I wouldn’t call it blasphemy. However, I have to admit that I would feel very uncomfortable hearing this as an expletive used by someone close to me. It is because I came to believe that there is a profound meaning in this short yet powerful Bible verse that we must not take lightly.
Just like many of you, I grew up in a culture where showing strong emotions publicly is considered a sign of weakness or immaturity. We were taught how to contain emotions from an early age. As a boy, I was often told to “man up, man should not cry or you will lose your pepper.” There is an old saying in Korea that parents used to say to their kids: “If you keep crying, the tiger will come and snatch you.” Also, there is a saying, “men cry only three times: when they are born, when their parents passed away, and when they lost their country.” Believe it or not, growing up, I heard that phrase so many times. The Generation Z nowadays, of course, makes fun of this old saying in many creative ways.
When I think about it now, I was not even old enough to be called a “man” anyway. I was just a little boy who wanted to cry. Why did they do this to me? My parents, teachers, and other adults, why didn’t they just allow me to cry as much as I needed back then? To some extent, I must admit that yes, I was not mature enough and must have cried over such an insignificant matter like a broken toy. However, their teachings made me believe that the action of crying itself is not only a sign of weakness but also a bad thing to do to others. Why?
Perhaps because crying bothers others. It draws attention and disturbs anyone who hears it. Often, it is contagious. It makes you want to cry too. Listening to someone’s desperate cry stirs you up and makes you want to show your “weakness” too. It calls for a response. It is too loud to ignore, too wild to control, and too powerful to contain. It’s too much to handle for the grownups. So I don’t blame my parents, teachers, and other adults whose intention was to help me grow. However, I am convinced now that it is not a good idea to threaten the kids (e.g., tiger snatching or Santa Claus not coming) or make a sexist comment (“man up”) to make them stop crying.
We must not silence the crying of others just because we don’t want to hear them. Instead, I believe we should let it stir us up so that we may be able to see how much we all are actually connected to each other. In the Scripture passage today, we see two groups of people who responded to Jesus’ tears in two different ways. When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the people who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved (11:33). And then, he began to weep. Some people, when they saw him weeping, said, “See how he loved him!” They were able to see Jesus’ love and compassion for Lazarus in his tears.
However, some others said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” They were like, “Why are you crying now? Aren’t you powerful enough to heal him? Couldn’t you come early and heal him before his death? What is the point of showing your emotions now? If you cared about him that much, why didn’t you be with him when he was sick and suffering?” It sounds like they were telling Jesus, “Stop crying, you failed him!”
Some people were able to see Jesus’ love and compassion for Lazarus in his tears. Others saw his weakness and failure. What do you see in Jesus, who is deeply disturbed and moved by the weeping of the people so he cannot help but weep with them? I believe the faithful are the ones who are weeping with those who are weeping, not the ones who say “I believe that if only Jesus is with me, everything will be fine with my life.” No, that’s not faith. That sounds more like a selfish desire to want to live a life without any trouble and have Jesus to make sure nothing bad happens to me. That's being a coward. That's a sign of failure to admit one’s weakness and refusing to see the pain and suffering of loved ones. Life is tough for everyone. It doesn’t matter how young or old we are. We all have the right to cry. And we are meant to weep with one another and have this journey together.
Our Savior is not the one who saves us from our tears. He is the one who is powerful and courageous enough to cry with us and for us. During this week, I hope and pray that you and I will have some courageous moments to weep with those who are weeping. Instead of saying, “Keep it to yourself because it bothers me” or “Don’t lay it out on me because it is not my business”, I hope we have the courage to say, “I see you, I hear you, and I will be crying with you.” Jesus wept.
When was the last time you cried your eyes out? What made you cry? Who cried with you?
Have you ever thought, “If only Jesus were there…” or “If only I were there…” What do you regret the most?
Is there anyone who is weeping or grieving around you? What can you do for them this week?