All the recorded tears of the Lord Jesus were shed on the Mount of Olives, but perhaps those tears which are most tenderly remembered by His people are the tears at Bethany, recorded for us in those two poignant words, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Bethany, “The House of the poor,” had indeed become “The House of sorrow,” and the Savior shared their sorrow with them. Some sixty years after the event John cannot forget that amazing spectacle of the Son of God in tears, weeping with His Bethany friends.
The Multiple Sorrows
The sorrows of the two sisters had been multiple. Their brother Lazarus was sick, and this was but the beginning of their sorrow. It was compounded by the fact that their Lord and Friend was not with them. Indeed He was quite far away at the time, at Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John Baptist had baptized (John 1:28; 10:40), and that was two or three days distant. They sent for Jesus, but, to add to their sadness, He did not immediately come. The days passed and Lazarus died! Then the sorrow of the burial, and still the Savior had not come to them. It was indeed sorrow upon sorrow during those trying days.
The Mystery of Suffering
There is an interesting and important word in the early verses of John 11. Having stated the love of Jesus for Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus, it then says, “When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” What an apparently strange observation is this, He lov ed them, and “therefore” He delayed going to them for two days! “Then, after that saith He to His disciples, let us go!” If He loved them why should He delay? If He loved them why did He not at once hasten to be with them in the sorrow of sickness and bereavement?
There is a great principle here on this Mount of Compassion. Of course He loved them, sincerely and intensely. They meant much to Him, this little family circle at Bethany. The fact is that He had greater things in mind for them than what they desired or imagined. They were soon to see the glory of God at Bethany, and His delay was all part of the plan for a demonstration of His power. As has often been said, His delays are not denials. We must trust Him, as He told Martha (v 40), and eventually we shall see the glory.
The Majesty of His Sobbing
It must have been with mixed feelings and emotions that they met Him just outside the town. Mary and Martha and the friends who had come from Jerusalem to sympathize all converged. Of course they were relieved, and pleased, to see Him. But why had He not come to them earlier? The two sorrowing sisters say exactly the same thing to Him, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” Of His healing power they had no doubt, but He had something greater than a miracle of healing in mind for Bethany. There was to be such a manifestation of the glory of God that Bethany would never be forgotten, so that men would ever after refer to it as El Azariyeh, the town of Lazarus!
But, before the triumph the tears. What havoc sin had wrought in His fair creation, and what sorrow among His creatures. The little company of mourners wailed, for such is the significance of their weeping. Compassionately the Man of Sorrows joined in their weeping, but silently. He will indeed weep aloud on another occasion (Luke 19:41), but now it is silent tears that moisten His eyes and wet His tender cheeks. Well He knows that soon, so very soon, He will give their brother back to them, alive, but they do not yet know that, and He knows that their sorrow is deep and real. So He weeps with them and for them.
There is a great principle here on the Mount of Compassion. How many dear saints have prayed, and prayed earnestly, and prayed long, but the Lord does not appear to have heard, or sent an answer. Many grieving hearts ask, “Why?” Believers sing
The prayer your lips have pleaded
In agony of heart these many years.
Does faith begin to fail?
Is hope departing?
Or think you all in vain those falling tears?
Of course He hears, and of course He loves every saint, as He loved Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus. But does He want more for us than what we are asking? With our limited knowledge and indeed our human ignorance of the future, is He not planning our way for us better than we can comprehend or anticipate?
So to Martha His word was, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Whether this means that He has just now, in the immediate conversation, told her this, or that it is something that He has been trying to teach them during His past days and evenings with them, is not clear. But the principle is not changed: trust, and see the glory. As He said to another, on another occasion of sorrow, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36). He asks for our trust. How difficult it sometimes is, through the gloom and through our tears, to simply trust and leave all to Him! But this is what He desires.
Again then, the Mount of Olives is wet with His tears, but the heart that wept with the sisters of Bethany is unchanged, and still He sees and shares the sorrows of His people everywhere. Eventually it will all be glory. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Nay, do not say “ungranted;”
Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done;
The work began when first
Your prayer was uttered,
And God will finish what He has begun;
If you will keep the incense burning there,
His glory you shall see,