April 2, 2018 by Kgalalelo
Last year in June as I was awaiting a flight from Medford airport to San Francisco, USA, we were soon prompted to queue and get ready to hand in our flight tickets. I was standing next to a guy and his girlfriend and he had a large tattoo on his arm with the writing, “Jesus Wept” and underneath the wording was the scripture in the Bible, John 11:35. I wondered what it meant as I couldn’t connect the words to that particular scripture and as soon as I had internet connection I googled the online Bible and there it was.
John 11 tells the story of Martha and Mary whose brother Lazarus had died from an illness and the sisters had sent for Jesus and the Bible says that when Jesus heard the news He said “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it”. Jesus didn’t leave immediately but stayed two more days where He was and when He finally went, Lazarus had died and had been buried for four days. Mary, who was grief stricken said to Him, had He been there quicker, his brother wouldn’t have died and so took Jesus to show him the tomb. When Jesus saw her weeping and everyone who had accompanied her, His spirit was troubled and He too, wept as we read in John 11:35.
This scripture is quite short but has impact and in my imagination, I could see Him, sitting on the ground and taking time to really shed tears and mourn the death of his friend Lazarus. He showed emotion like anyone would when they lose a loved one. It is never easy. I remember the day I went to see my deceased mother at the mortuary shortly after her death, as soon as they pulled the drawer for me and my family to identify her in a plastic cover, I felt weak on my knees, went outside, sat on the ground and wept. Jesus wept before He could even see Lazarus as He was already buried. I visualized Him crying just outside the tomb. The tombs these days bears the full name of a person, date of birth and burial and sometimes a message from the family to their loved one who has died. It could have been the case with Lazarus, everything on the tomb or not; our societies, traditions and civilisations are different and so we do things otherwise but I stretched my imagination a little bit and put myself on the scene of that fateful day.
Usually when I happen to be at the burial site, I do read the messages on the tombs around and those who can really afford to go big, engrave faces of their loves ones on the tombs as well. People do different things based on what they fancy and how they choose to remember the deceased. The Bible doesn’t indicate how long Jesus sat there crying but the Jews who witnessed, indicated that He loved Lazarus very much. It is clear that He was very close to him by the way that he wept and also that he was a brother to Mary and Martha who were close to Jesus also.
I let my mind go as I had enough time on the plane before I reached San Francisco and I went back to the medieval times again. When Jesus finally stood up still “groaning in Himself” (John 11: 38), He went to the tomb which was a cave and a stone lay against it and He asked that the stone be removed. Those who had convened must have thought that He was crazy and Martha actually said to Him that Lazarus had been buried for four days already and so basically, there was nothing that Jesus could do at that time. Researchers who are knowledgeable in the stages of the decomposition of a corpse maintain that it takes a few minutes for the body to decompose after dying, the internal organs decays first, hence the corpse is taken to the mortuary right away because the body soon produces unpleasant odour. Martha had warned Jesus that because her brother was buried for four days, the smell in that cave would be unbearable but the Lord said to her “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” In his sorrow, Jesus never lost sight of the divine mandate. He was fully aware that everything was about bringing God the glory and where God functions, spectators would always be there to behold the glory. Mind do, we should remember that the spectators in this instance were the Jews who had followed Martha, Mary and Jesus to the grave.
When the stone of the tomb was removed the Bible says that “Jesus lifted up His eyes and said “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You send Me”. When He had spoken, He commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave and Lazarus did come out, bound with grave clothes and walked with life in his bones and everyone was amazed. We read in John 11:45 that “then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him”. The revival had taken place right at the graveside, an uncommon place of mourning and anguish but many left joyful and astonished at the demonstration of the power of God. They believed in Jesus, went away and spread the good news while the minority ran to the Pharisees with terror in their eyes.
The story of Lazarus was narrated only in the Gospel of John and throughout the Bible, I’ve never heard of someone being raised from the dead, at the graveside except the event of Calvary, when Jesus Himself was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit from the grave on the third day of His death. When Jesus was facing crucifixion, He took His disciples with Him to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was sorrowful and distressed and He asked God that if it was possible God should let the cup of suffering pass from Him but not according to His own will but the will of God. In His own death, no matter how agonising the event awaiting Him was, He never lost sight of the divine assignment in that case too. He knew that He needed to go through death and life that God may be glorified. Spectators were there at His crucifixion and also at His resurrection.
The story of Lazarus is therefore an important narrative that led to the resurrection of Jesus and those who believed, were saved. In this day and age, there are thousands of believers across the globe who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, which is the cornerstone of Christianity. The bible says that “If we died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11). His death and ensuing resurrection has given us newness of life (Romans 6:4). The resurrection of Lazarus had a positive impact unto those who witnessed it at the burial site; those who saw him days later walking in the market; those who were told the story in other cities and those who were threatened by it as it influenced the decision to put Jesus on the cross to die for all.
He therefore, carried the sins of the world on His very own shoulders. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. The compelling thing about this article is that it comes at a time when we celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross. Today is Easter Monday and we celebrated Good Friday on 30 March 2018, the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection yesterday on 1 April 2018. The exact date of this precious event is not known, however, scholars upholds that it is anywhere between the 21st March – 25 April 2018, hence commemoration is in line with those dates. What we know for sure is that it succeeded the Jewish Passover.
As Jesus wept for Lazarus and the world’s consequent weeping for Jesus brought us to this day that we may rejoice over and over again in our salvation and the gift of eternal life. He comforted His disciples and the world by saying “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:1-4).
I didn’t know how to link the scripture with anything else as it seemed senseless at first and for months I was in limbo until now. It has been nine months all in all and a new meaning was birthed in me that linked the two events together and I thank God for always inspiring me and breathing His messages through me. Nine months is indeed the exact time for giving birth and I had to be patient as the incubation was taking place inside of me. The man that I had met, has long gone and I wouldn’t recognise him even if I saw him today. The message could have had a different meaning for him hence he had the tattoo, but to me, it had another. This is how the Spirit of God works, one message but different revelations depending on what He needs to communicate to different audiences. At the end, it is Him who is glorified. I’m forever grateful.
Footnote: Scriptures taken from the The Holy Bible, New King James Version, 1982: Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc. &
The ESV Global Study Bible®, ESV® Bible, Copyright © 2012 by Crossway. All rights reserved & The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
Kgalalelo Saane Mphephuka
If you love to explore, observe and feel appreciation for God's goodness in your life, then you will feel right at home on this site.