Surgical Spirit: The Tissues in the Car

Ruth Eardley is a GP and member of Affinity partner Little Hill Church, Leicester. She writes a regular piece for her church entitled 'Surgical Spirit'. We have been given permission to reproduce them. This is her latest contribution:

'Jesus wept.' (John 11:35)

A young Christian friend of mine is a social worker. She sees people at rock bottom and, often, at their worst. You only have to read the news to know the cruelty and depravity which these public servants have to deal with day by day.

One day my friend gave her mother a lift in her car. ‘What are all these?’ asked her mum. The foot-well of the passenger seat was strewn with tissues, many smeared with black streaks and smudges. ‘Oh, that’s mascara’, she replied. ‘I sit in the car after case conferences and cry.’

When I heard that story I nearly cried myself. You, too? We are in good company. ‘Jesus wept’ is famous for being the shortest verse in most English translations of the Bible. The Greek literally means ‘Jesus shed tears’. The Jews, who had come to comfort Mary and Martha in the loss of their brother, witnessed Christ’s tears and concluded that he was weeping for his friend: ‘See how he loved him!’ (John 11: 36) They may have been right... but Jesus knew he was going to bring Lazarus back to life. Would you cry at a funeral if you knew your friend was about to take a deep breath and leap out of the coffin?

Bible commentaries attach deep significance to Christ’s emotional response: he was a real man, not a disembodied divine entity (those were real tears). He was empathetic, moved by the grief of others. He was compassionate. He was sorrowful, weeping over the suffering and death that sin had brought into the world. He was sympathetic (Hebrews 4:15). He alone knew the cost of redemption and none could know his inner distress as he faced Good Friday (Luke 12:50).

Whatever the explanation (and some have suggested that these were also tears of anger at the tyranny of death and the unbelief of the mourners), Jesus wept. This is a shot across the bows for the kind of triumphalism that says we should never be sad or grieving (or even shedding tears of rage at the injustice and savagery in the world). Jesus wept. So can we.


Thank you, Father, that you were glorified in the resurrection of Lazarus and that your Son, Jesus, was glorified too (John 11:4). May your name be glorified in my life and in any suffering you permit me to endure. Jesus said ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’ (John 11: 26)

Lord, I believe.

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