I don't know how or when they met, but the fact that when the servants came and told Him "Lord, the one you love is sick," Jesus immediately knew who they were talking about indicates how close they were. Perhaps they had known each other for years. Perhaps they were best friends. Perhaps Lazarus was even one of the first people to recognize who Jesus was. And now he was dead.
Jesus knew what was going to happen next. He knew that the story was not over yet, but Lazarus' sisters did not. "Lord," they accosted him with their heartbroken appeals, "if you had been here, our brother would not have died." Their words must have stung, but what was Jesus' response to them? Did he harangue Mary and Martha for their lack of faith? Did he condemn them? Lecture them?
No. He wept. Jesus, God incarnate, the only one there who knew the joy and the victory they were about to befall, looked around and saw the pain, the grief, and the heartache that surrounded him, and he broke down and cried.
Recently, when the Christian college I attend asked for students to donate Christmas gifts to aid unwed teenage mothers, I actually overheard someone remark, "I'm not helping them! They got themselves into this mess, let them get themselves out of it!" Pause for a moment. Reread that statement. This came from professed Christian!
I checked the Bible, cover to cover, and failed to find even one instance where God took this attitude with anyone. The God we believe in, the God we serve, is not a God who refuses to help us because we "got ourselves into it."
Since the beginning of time, God has always come to the aid of those in need. He went so far as to come to earth as a man, dying a horrible death, just to get us out of everything we got ourselves into. Do you think you deserved that? You didn't. I didn't. I deserve to spend an eternity in Hell, but because of God's grace, I won't.
It has nothing to do with me, it's all because of Him.
Now, because we know and believe all this, what is our response to people in need supposed to be?
Take our cue from Christ: tears. Cry. Let your heart break for them. It is not easy to do, especially for me. I know I cannot save the whole world, and neither can you, but we still need to weep for it occasionally. These tears are not forced or for show. They should not flow from the hopeless heart of someone who does not know what the future holds, but from a spirit so genuinely empathetic and so passionately moved by love that tears are all that can come.
If God Himself cries when he sees our pain, how can we do any less when we see the pain of others? Please don't misunderstand. Tears are not the end of this process, but merely the beginning. Jesus wept, but then He acted. So must we.
Our broken and humbled hearts have to motivate us to do whatever we can to alleviate the pain and the suffering we see around us. We have to give what we can, listen to and comfort those who need it, and, most importantly, we have to share the Good News of Christ's Love with a hurt and dying world. In short, because of these tears, we have to be people of action. It is not easy, I know, and I confess I am as guilty as anyone for neglecting it.
The task is just so daunting, and the work is so urgent. It all sounds good and simple in theory, but it isn't. I mean, where do you even start? Try starting where Jesus did. Try tears.
Sarah Hohman, at the time of this writing, was in her junior year at Eastern Nazarene College, where she was studying early childhood education.
Holiness Today, March/April 2008
Please note: This article was originally published in 2008. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.