There was sorrow in Bethany, death had entered one of its houses—the only one, in all probability, where the Lord found a welcome—and had removed a dearly-loved brother. Hearts were crushed and broken. A very tender tie had been snapped and mourning had taken the place of joy.
“Why this blow?” might have been the unspoken language of the two bereaved and desolate sisters. Had the Lord only been there, they felt sure that their brother would not have died. He, who loved all three, would have spared them the sorrow through which they had passed. His healing power had been so often shown that, had He only come in time, this disaster might have been prevented.
Now, however, it was too late. The Lord had allowed, for some inexplicable reason, known to Himself alone, the precious days to slip away; and when, in an apparently tardy response to their message, He had come at last, not only had death done its work, but the dead one was buried. Surely the Master had failed, on this occasion, in the display of the sympathy which was one of His most lovely traits.
How little did the sisters know the deep meaning of that delay. It was not occasioned by lack of love, or care, or consideration, but by a vastly superior motive, viz. “the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”—the glory of God and of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the supreme object in the universe. Everything must sub-serve the glory of God—Father, Son and Spirit; and, to this undivided glory, the proud or fearful, or self-seeking heart of man must bow, and, in bowing, find rest and peace and assurance.
He who walked in the light of day knew exactly when to take His journey back into Judea, and to Bethany and its broken hearts.
He who said: “I am the resurrection and the life “was quite as able to raise one from a four days’ state of death as He was to prevent him from dying. He who had just given eyesight to a man who had been born blind could certainly have caused that even Lazarus should not have died.
But there was to accrue to the Son of God a greater glory than that. He was to be seen as the giver of life, not now to the gentle child of Jairus, who had just expired; nor to the only son of Nain’s widow, who was being carried to his grave, but to one whose body was already yielding to corruption and had become putrescent. The glory of God is all-various in its working, but it has the welfare of His creatures as one of its objects.
The glory of the Son of God was seen in His absolute obedience to the Father’s will; but, while expressing itself in the raising of the dead and the bestowing of life, and life eternal too, it proved itself in the exhibition of the fullest, tenderest human sympathy.
Did He not suffer in order that He might fill the place of High Priest, and, as such, minister timely help and strength and comfort to His needy dependent, sorrowing people here? Most assuredly!
See, then, when He had found His way to the grave, and had witnessed the dire effects of death on the bleeding hearts around, we read … and, let the words of this, the shortest and, perhaps, the most profoundly significant, verse in our Bible, sink deeply into our memories: “JESUS WEPT!”
He wept who was “the resurrection and the life”! He wept who possessed all the power of God and the warmest sympathy of man. Yes, “Jesus wept.” He who was ever in the form of God is seen here in that of a servant. His service was one of love.
On that sympathy we can always count, for He is “the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”
“Jesus wept! those tears of sorrow
Are a legacy of love;
Yesterday, today, tomorrow,
He the same doth ever prove:
Thou art all in all to me,
Weeping One of Bethany.”
And today hearts innumerable are torn, crushed and bleeding. Loved ones have fallen on fields of battle. Desolation covers the face of the earth. Each country sheds its tears; on all hands there are widows, orphans, sisters, parents, brothers and friends who must mourn and weep. But, behind the inscrutable wisdom that has allowed a convulsion so awful, there is, at the same time, a gracious and sympathetic support richly ministered by the ascended Lord who gives the assurance that, if the one He loved may not be restored, as was Lazarus, yet He says: “Thy brother shall rise again,” for in the fullest sense “whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” That is, there is no death, as such, for the Christian. He is “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” Death is annulled for such; while on the other hand, “he that believes on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” for “life and incorruptibility are brought to light by the gospel.”
Here we may find our richest consolation.
Can you picture a more lovely sight than the sacred Weeper of Bethany? There He stands, at the grave-side in moral touch with its mourners, not in a spirit of cold superiority as might have become death’s victor, nor even in the aloofness of Him by whom all things were made, but in the full pathos of One who, while creator and Sustainer of all, cherished a heart of tender human pity.
We repeat the words: “Jesus wept.” May I ask the afflicted and sorrowing if they can find no comfort in those tears, no solace in that sympathy, no Friend that sticketh closer than a brother in this best of all Friends, no compensation in His love, no pillow for the heavy head, no resting-place on His puissant arm, no one to occupy the empty chambers of the stricken heart—One better than the best and dearer than the dearest? What a triumph for faith when HE is thus known and loved!
It gives glory to the Son of God when the bereaved and broken heart finds all its satisfaction in Him. He will be everything to us in our bright eternity, and this He may be in our present but brief period of sorrow and loss.