‘Grief is the price you pay for love’ (Queen Elizabeth II)

According to broadcaster Giles Brandreth, when interviewed on the day of the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, this statement had been voiced by Her Majesty twenty years earlier:

‘Grief is the price you pay for love.’

She is a devout Christian, so it should come as no surprise that her Saviour himself had illustrated this truth on his arrival at the tomb of Lazarus a few days after his friend’s death. John in his Gospel simply reported that: ‘Jesus wept’ – the shortest verse in the entire Bible (John 11:35 in almost any version. But The Passion Translation, as you would expect, emphasises the physical evidence of his grief: ‘Then tears streamed down Jesus’ face’). The crowds couldn’t help but notice this open expression of just how he was feeling, and murmured to one another: ‘See how much he loved him!’ (New Living Translation, unless otherwise indicated).

The narrative of John – who was the only Gospel writer to mention Jesus’ tears, and just this once – prompts a question: Why would he weep when he had already told them that he was going to restore Lazarus to life.

He and his closest disciples were about to leave their safe haven east of the River Jordan [see John 10:39-40]. Now their Master ‘said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea”‘ (John 11:7) – to Lazarus’s grieving sisters, Martha and Mary, in the village of Bethany, west of Jordan where the authorities had recently ‘tried to arrest him’ (John 10:39). Naturally they ‘objected’ (John 11:8). But he assured them that, although Lazarus ‘had died’, he was ‘going to wake him up’ (11:12-14).

He got his disciples to pause on the outskirts of Bethany to await a visit from Mary, just after assuring Martha that she wouldn’t have to await her reunion with her brother at ‘the last day’ far off in the future (11:23-27). So, why, on the verge of the astounding restoring of his friend to life after four days dead, did Jesus weep?

According to John’s research it was ‘When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled’ (11:33). After which, as they approached the tomb, ‘Jesus wept’ (11:38). All this would appear to indicate another insight into the dynamics of grief, namely:

Grief and anger are twin emotions!

A footnote to John 11:33 (TPT) tells us;

‘The Greek word used here . . . can also mean “indignant and stirred with anger.” Was he angry at the mourners? Not at all. He was angry over the work of the devil in taking the life of his friend Lazarus.’

One more scriptural insight into Jesus’ grieving occurs in Hebrew 5:7-9.

‘While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleading, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence . . . Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.’

Nowhere else in the four Gospels do we read that our Lord wept during his short earthly life, but we are told of his anguish and torment in his final hours of freedom in the garden of Gethsemane just prior to his clumsy arrest, his illegal court hearings, his cruel crucifixion, and his humiliating death.

In fact, John (12:27) record that, on his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus admitted: ‘Now is my soul deeply troubled. Should I pray, “Father, save me from this hour? But this is the very reason I came!”‘ And Matthew (26:36-38) tells us how he took Peter, James and John with him into the olive grove of Gethsemane, ‘and became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death”.’ All this re-assures us about one of his first public statements of counsel for us his followers in his famous Sermon on the Mount:

* ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted                        (Matthew 5:4 New International Version).

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