When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
I. ONE SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I WOULD HAVE BELIEVED ON THEE." To some Jesus seems so far away, in time, in space, that they feel it hard to cherish faith in him. But such should remember that faith is more truly faith when it is tried by the distance of its object. "Blessed," said Christ, "are those who, not having seen, yet believe." II ANOTHER SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I SHOULD HAVE RESISTED. TEMPTATION." In the absence of the mighty Master, how can the servant stand? Yet, reflection assures us that the Spirit of Christ and the Word of Christ are sufficient to enable the tempted to resist the adversary, and to overcome in the trial. Peter yielded to temptation, and denied his Lord, in his very presence. The same Peter afterwards boldly confessed his Lord when that Lord was no longer present in the body upon earth.
III. ANOTHER SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SPARED THIS SORROW, OR, AT THE LEAST, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPORTED UNDER IT?' But this is not certain. Trouble is often - to the Christian it should be always - blessing, even though in disguise. If so, wisdom and love may permit it, whether Christ be, as to the body, present or absent. And certainly his Divine supports and consolations may be experienced, even though his form be not seen, his voice not heard.
IV. ANOTHER SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I WOULD HAVE BOLDLY ENCOUNTERED PERSECUTION AND DARED DEATH." They who through timidity and faithlessness fail in witnessing to their Lord, and then make to themselves this excuse, prove how little knowledge they have of their own hearts. Some have thought, "If, like the dying malefactor, we could have hung by the side of Jesus, with his presence to encourage and his example to cheer us, then we could have dared to die for him; but how can we suffer for his sake when unnoticed, unsupported, and alone?" This way of thinking overlooks Christ's spiritual presence. In reality, they who suffer for him "suffer with him."
V. ANOTHER SAYS, "IF, LORD, THOU HADST BEEN HERE, THEN THY WORK ENTRUSTED TO MY HANDS WOULD HAVE PROSPERED." There are those who fear that in this spiritual dispensation, where no present Lord stands ready to work signs and wonders for the conviction of men, it is vain to hope for great results to follow the preaching of the gospel and the witness of the saints. Yet it cannot be denied that greater works than those wrought during Christ's ministry were effected after his ascension, and that the spiritual economy was introduced into the world with signal trophies of might and signal omens of victory. It is not the Master's bodily absence which accounts for the slow progress of the truth and kingdom of Christ. Spiritual causes account for this lamentable fact; spiritual powers alone can check the advance of error, and hasten the kingdom of God, of righteousness, of truth. The Church has not faith enough in the Lord's own assurance, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
APPLICATION. It is well for us to remember that, as a matter of fact and reality, Christ is always here. His Spirit is near our spirit. He is truly present to those who have faith. When duty is difficult and arduous, let us reflect, Christ is here! When temptation is urgent, or when trials are severe, let us not forget that Christ is here! When bereavement overtakes us, and we are very sensible that those whom we have loved, and upon whom we have relied, are gone, then let us cherish the comforting assurance that Christ is here! - T.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping.
(J. Jortin, D. D.)Tears — Tears are the inheritance of our eyes; either our sufferings call for them or our sins; and nothing can wholly dry them up but the dust of the grave.
He groaned in spirit.Matthew 9:30; Mark 1:43; Mark 14:5. The original meaning is "to snort, as of horses." Passing to the moral sense, it expresses disturbance of mind — vehement agitation. This may express itself in sharp admonition, in words of anger against a person, or in a physical shudder, answering to the intensity of the emotion. In each of the earlier Gospels the word is accompanied by an object upon which the feeling is directed. In the present context it does not go beyond the subject of the feeling. Here it is "in the spirit" (cf. John 12:21), and in ver. 38 it is "in Himself." Both mean the same thing; and point to the inner moral depth of His righteous indignation. Taken in connection with what follows some such rendering is required as "He was indignant in the spirit and caused Himself to shudder."
He was troubled, rather "troubled Himself," for a certain Divine decorum tempers all we read of Him, and He is not represented to us as possessing a nature to be played upon by passive emotions. Why? We cannot fully tell. Perhaps, we may conceive the case of a physician coming into a room, where friends and children are sobbing over one whom they supposed to be doomed, himself weeping in sympathy though sure that he can heal. But at least this shows us that we have a real Christ. It was never invented. The imaginary Christ would have walked majestically up the slope of the Mount of Olives, and, standing with a halo of the sunset around his brow, have bidden the dead to rise. The real Christ was a dusty and wayworn man, who wept over the grave, and lifted up His eyes. The reality teaches us that the dead are not raised by a stoic philosopher, with an eye of ice and a heart of marble, but by One who is very Man with the tender weakness that is more beautiful than all our strength. His is more majestic as well as more moving. But could St. John have invented it?
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