A few months ago, my friend David Murray posted on his blog about tears – and how he was noticing that the older he became, the more easily the tears seemed to flow.
David’s in his early 40s. I told him to wait until his 50s – when the real waterworks begin. Although, to be honest, I’ve always been prone to that most embarrassing of male actions – unexpectedly crying.
I cry at movies, both sad ones and the sappy parts of happy ones. I cry at moving passages of novels. I get teary-eyed with certain YouTube videos (like the ones that show the fathers/soldiers returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan and surprising their kids at school) (I get teary-eyed just writing about how teary-eyed I get with these). I read newspaper stories – like how the small church in Arkansas opened its doors to the families who lost relatives in the recent flash flooding at the park campsite – and my eyes fill.
Fortunately, my wife is used to it. But it’s embarrassing at work when I read something online that moves me to tears and then someone walks in my office.
There’s a good precedent.
Almost all of the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John is devoted to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Very few miracles recorded in the New Testament get that kind of emphasis. And the pivotal verse of that chapter is v. 35, which also happens to be the shortest verse in the entire Bible.
That two-word verse is stunning. The creator of the universe did that most human of things, a thing often perceived (in males) as weakness – he wept.
The context is important, if a bit ambiguous. He sees Mary, sister of Martha, weeping at the death of her brother. He sees the Jews who are with Mary also weeping. And he is “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (NIV). Still, he doesn’t cry at that point. He asks where the body of Lazarus is, and when the crowd says “come and see,” that’s when he cries. Then once more he’s “deeply moved” as he comes to the tomb. He prays, and tells Lazarus to come out. Some immediately believe; others rush off to report to the Pharisees and the chief priests, who decide that the time for Jesus to die has finally come.
As for his tears, was it the weeping of Mary and the crowd that prompted Jesus to share their grief? Was it the lack of belief in what Jesus was truly about that the crowd didn’t understand? Was it facing the death and the tomb of someone he dearly loved? Or was it seeing a picture of his own future before him, knowing what lay ahead – betrayal, beatings, the most horrible of deaths called crucifixion and then death? Yes, he knew the ultimate ending, but that didn’t prevent feeling the deepest emotions at what he was facing.
What is clear is that, in this case, he did the one thing he always resisted doing – he deliberately gave the crowd a sign. He raised Lazarus from the dead “that they may believe you sent me.”
It’s all there in two words, the whole story of his life, death and resurrection, the most astonishing story of compassion ever, told in tears, the tears that are a sign for us, a sign to me of what my own tears should remind me of.
To read more posts on compassion, visit Bridget Chumbley’s blog One Word at a Time.
Photo of man crying courtesy Photobucket.