“Jesus Wept” (John 11:35)
In just two words, God shows us a perfect combination of sovereignty and compassion. In two words, God silences the one who asks, “if God already knows what I’m going to do, why am I held accountable for the way I act?”. God’s answer: Jesus’ weeping over Lazarus’ death shows you can believe in My absolute sovereignty and and at the same time, live responsibly and compassionately.
Jesus knew Lazarus would not stay dead for long. In a matter of minutes, He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. It was as certain as the sun above and the earth beneath His feet. At His command, Lazarus would stand in front of them all, breathing and talking.
Yet, as Jesus approached the tomb, He wept.
His friend, Lazarus, was indeed dead. But why did Jesus weep over this when He knew full well He would raise Him up again? Scripture tells us that He cried because He loved Lazarus intensely, and because He saw those close to Lazarus also crying. The emotional weight in the air was so thick He was “deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled” (John 11:32-33).
I believe in God’s absolute sovereignty over all things, including the words I speak and the thoughts I think. As Solomon says, “the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). And again, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). I also believe I am responsible for my actions. I don’t see a contradiction or conflict. On one hand, God is above creation. His plans were determined before time began, and He knows the outcome already. As Peter says, God sees all things, past, present, and future, instantaneously (II Peter 3:8). On the other hand, we are finite, constrained to live in time and space. We must live out our days in real-time, and take things as they come. This same Peter, in the same letter, exhorts us to be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless (II Peter 3:14).
When Jesus wept, He showed us how a believer in God’s sovereignty lives responsibly. In this case, His responsibility was to have compassion, and He certainly showed that. He allowed the sorrow, the loss, the grieving, to reach His heart and soften it. In fact, He was deeply moved. That’s the emotion I want to feel for those grieving around me.
Jesus, the One who holds all things together (Hebrews 1:3), cried with sympathy for those around Him. My belief in God’s absolute sovereignty over me doesn’t excuse me from doing the right thing, from treating people according to their need, from empathizing with the hurts of those around me, and from responding to those people. Because Jesus wept, I must also sympathize, mourn, cry, encourage, and evangelize…even though we know God has already planned the outcome of all things.