John 11: 35 Jesus wept.
Tony Dungy is a former professional football player but probably better known as a head coach in the NFL having coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts qualified for the playoffs in every season where he coached them and in 2016 Dungy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tony is a committed Christian and a man committed to fatherhood, which is evidenced by being national spokesman for the program All Pro Dad. On appearance, it would seem that Coach Dungy has lived a storied life, but when you dig deeper you see that his life included immeasurable pain.
A few days before Christmas in 2005, Coach Dungy’s son James was found dead as a result of suicide[i]. A little over a month later Coach Dungy spoke publicly at an Athletes in Action Super Bowl breakfast, where he shared the incredible pain that he and his family had gone through, continue to go through and some of the lessons which came from that (Tony Dungy voices the pain & lessons from his son’s suicide).
I cannot imagine the pain, the varying emotions, that Coach Dungy must have gone through. Recently this has hit much closer to home. Dear relatives of our family lost a loved one through tragic circumstances. There is shock, pain, and I’m sure a myriad of other emotions. What do you say in such a time? Our immediate instinct is to want to make it better, to lift the pain from our loved ones, but what is actually needed in that situation?
Although the shortest verse in the Bible, to me one of the most impactful is John 11:35 “Jesus wept”. If you read this verse in context (John 11: 1-37), you find the story of some people with whom Jesus had a special love and special relationship: Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. Lazarus became sick and in verse 3 we read: “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’”, and then in verse 5: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” It is clear that there was a special bond between Jesus and this family. When Jesus finally arrived at their house Mary came running out to see him (vs. 32).
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36)
We read on and see the miracle that occurs later, but Jesus’ reaction in the moment is equally, if not more meaningful to me. Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” and “Jesus wept”. I have learned that in times of intense tragedy, we personally and/or those around us just need to mourn. And often the only thing we can offer them is to weep along with them, and not to try to make it better, because we can’t. Jesus understood that we live in a fallen world, one with pain, heartache, free choice, and as a result we will experience sickness, pain, death and heartache. There are times where we just need to mourn and times where we need to support others by acknowledging their pain, not try to fix it.
As believers, we have the incredible privilege to come to Jesus in our pain (Matthew 11:28-30), and to lift up our loved ones to him. God knows them fully and we stand alongside them in prayer asking God to sustain them through their time of grief and to give them all that they need, which only he knows.