April 22, 2013
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
A God Who Groans
There is often, in an attempt to understand and conceptualize the Jehovah of the Old Testament with His transcendent ways, and the Jesus of the New Testament with His very human sensitivities, to say that He did thisparticular deed as a man, and another as God. John 11 provides such an occasion. We are told that as a Man He wept at the tomb of Lazarus; and that as God, He raised Lazarus from the dead.
While this may satisfy our need to rationalize events, it does not satisfy the message of the Word of God. The Lord Jesus was one person. While comprised of two natures, those natures were not in some way independent of each other, functioning in different arenas and manners. It was as God that He stood at the tomb of Lazarus, groaning within Himself and then giving vent to tears of grief and sorrow. Your God, and mine, is a God Who weeps and groans over the sorrows of others.
But then the obvious question arises: Why should God weep at the tomb of a dead man when He knew full well that within a few moments He was going to call Him back to life? Good question!
There are many suggested answers. One is that He was weeping over the unbelief of the people who were there. Their view of the situation is mirrored in their words in verse 37, “Could not this man which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?”
Another suggested reason is that He wept because He knew He was raising Lazarus, only to have Lazarus go through the process, and sorrow, of death once more. Death had not yet been conquered!
Perhaps closer to the mark is the thought that He entered into the sorrows of the sisters as He saw their grief. Yes, He was about to raise Lazarus and remove their grief; but at that moment in time, the grief was real and palpable. Death had come in and severed family ties, leaving behind two heart-broken sisters.
It may be though, that the reason lay beyond even these already suggested; yet it does take a bit from each in its conclusion. Here the Lord was viewing the ultimate effects of sin: death – physical death, had entered into the world through Adam’s sin. True, spiritual separation from God was the ultimate; but physical death was also one of the dread consequences of sin. In that moment at the graveside, the Lord Jesus was giving vent to the millennia-long pent up grief of the heart of God over sin and death. The heart of God actually weeps over sin. How much more then was His sorrow, when He Himself must enter death to conquer sin and death, to banish sorrow and separation, and to make possible a universe of bliss where sin and its consequences will never again intrude!
1. The tears of Christ: three times, all in the vicinity of the Mount of Olives. Notice, if you have access to Vine or a similar word study help, the different words for weeping and crying employed on these occasions.
2. What were the causes for the Lord’s tears on these three occasions when He wept? What doe s it tell you about the heart of God?