“It shouldn’t have happened like this.” That was the heavy conclusion reached among the inner circle of family and friends in Lazarus’ house following his burial. They all loved Lazarus, of course, and they knew that Lazarus loved Jesus. They knew that Jesus could heal – He had done it all over the countryside – for complete strangers! And Jesus and Lazarus were friends. Of course Jesus could make Him well.
But He hadn’t. Day-by-day went by with no appearance from the Lord. They had sent word. The messenger insisted He had received it. But nothing. Jesus had let them down, and now Lazarus was dead. No wonder they wept. It shouldn’t have happened this way.
When Jesus arrived, every eye was fixed on Him. He was the subject of every whispered conversation. “This man could open the eyes of the blind. Why didn’t He stop this!” Imagine how the people gossiped and complained. There was no social media in Bethany, but Jesus was trending, and everyone had a hot take.
And then Jesus walked to the tomb. Mary and Martha accompanied Him, sobbing. Their friends walked behind, crying and hurting. They stopped in front of a stone, behind which was Lazarus’ lifeless, decaying body. Jesus surveyed the entire scene, and He wept.
Different commentators will give different explanations for Jesus’ tears at this moment. Here’s mine: Jesus wept because It shouldn’t have happened like this. This moment was not part of God’s original design for the world.
Remember, Jesus was there at the beginning. John says that apart from Him, nothing was made that has been made. Jesus was in Eden, so He feels this moment – it shouldn’t have happened like this. Sin, separation, pain, betrayal, loneliness, grief, death – those are products of our fallen condition – and now Jesus stands in the midst of it, in human flesh, surrounded by people He loves, and He FEELS the affects of sin. He FEELS the reason He is here in the first place. And He weeps – for Lazarus, for Mary, for Martha, and for all of human kind. It shouldn’t have happened like this.
And then Jesus does something that changes the world forever – He commands death to release its grip. He has the tomb opened, He steps to the edge of the darkness, and He breaths life into that still space. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, there is light and life and hope and future, and the weeping turns to cheering and this time of mourning turns into a time of celebration.
And Jesus turns from that one tomb and heads to Jerusalem, where another tomb is waiting. It’s a bitter journey – one He would rather not make – but there is no choice. It has to happen like this.