A very dear friend of mine asked me to write “a birthday piece.” At first, I thought to myself, “A birthday piece; what can I write on?” When I read his post, it was late in the afternoon on my birthday. At the time, I was filled with gratitude and humbled by those who had wished me happy birthday in person, by phone, by card, by email, or on Facebook. I was contemplating the evening with friends as my wife had planned an exciting event, but I was not quite sure what he might have meant or what may be of interest to him.
As the evening unfolded, my heart grew heavier as those I hold dearest exhibited their love for me. A dear friend, Ross Holliday, hired our University mascot, “Swoop,” as a surprise during Kim’s planned party. This seemingly simple gesture touched me deeply as Ross played football for our greatest rival, BYU, so for him to care enough to bring in “the enemy” spoke of his compassion.
Later during the party, Kim planned for those in attendance to get up and give a Jaren roast (which I was all for as long as I had the microphone last). Comments that night covered more than joking about what a nerd I am; those in attendance shared stories about our special times together. I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As my loved ones spoke, I felt so fortunate to be a part of their lives.
I respect this friend who made the request enough that I would do anything for him. So wanting to fulfill his appeal to me, I tried to put thoughts about birthdays together. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: the greatest celebration of any birthday in the Christian world is almost upon us, Christmas. So my fulfillment of Danny’s petition is the following:
Some of our deepest understandings come from the simplest words or statements. Why did our Lord weep at this time? We might remember Mary and Martha had inquired of Jesus to attend to Lazarus, one of His friends, their brother who was sick. At the time, Christ was not in Bethany where Lazarus was and elected to tarry a little longer before joining His friends to provide the assistance they inquired of Him.
When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus had been laid in his grave, dead for four days. Martha heard of Jesus’ arrival and began conversing with Him as Mary sat in her house. Perhaps a little frustrated, Martha said, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Jesus and Martha continued their discussion, ending with Martha suggesting to Mary that Jesus wanted to visit with her. Mary got up and hurried over to see Jesus at the burial site of Lazarus. Mary, as with Martha, stated, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” as she fell at His feet. Jesus, seeing that the Jews and Mary were weeping, began to groan in spirit as He was troubled. Jesus inquired as to where they had laid Lazarus. As our Saviour approached the grave, He wept as well!
John 11:35 “Jesus wept” is the shortest scripture found. Yet to me, this is one of the most meaningful for the following reasons:
First, it is easy to see why any person of any stature would be moved to tears in this circumstance, just as each of us would. This was a dear friend of our Saviour’s, and He felt not only for Lazarus but also for his sisters and those who were there.
Second, with a deeper understanding, perhaps He wept, knowing He had a greater calling. You see, by this time in Jesus’ life, He had turned water to wine, healed the sick, fed five thousand with little to no provisions, and healed a blind man, among other miracles. These phenomena had caught the attention of many, but not the notoriety that potentially could lead to punishment.
“Jesus knows all things that should come upon Him,” John 18:4. I believe Christ knew that he was faced with performing the miracle that would lead to His crucifixion. The miracles to date were nothing short of astounding and left the unbelievers in a state of bewilderment. However, this miracle of raising someone from the dead would now scare these same unbelievers to madness. Lazarus lay dead for four days in his tomb and, as stated by Mary, “began to stink.” Jesus commanded Lazarus to “come forth.” And just as Jesus knew would occur, fear swept through their community quickly. This miracle caught the attention of everyone, and they wanted to see Lazarus. Were Christ’s tears a result of the deepest love man can know–wanting to help loved ones–combined with his awareness that this miracle would also lead to His crucifixion? Yes, I believe so.
And last, with perhaps an even deeper meaning, could those tears have been tears of joy? Christ knew He had the power to raise a friend from the dead; by doing so, He could fulfill all righteousness. You see, if Christ had decided not to perform this miracle at that time, He couldn’t complete His mission. I believe He knew that this miracle placed before Him was the tool necessary to set an example for each of us and complete the atonement. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.
The Son of God, the Saviour of the world, He who atoned for our sins, the Light, the Life, and the Hope of the world, was born over 2000 years ago. We are to celebrate His birth on Christmas day. I can think of no greater life or a better reason to celebrate than gratitude for all He does for us. Happy Birthday to my Lord and Saviour!
Danny, thank you for asking this of me, as it has brought me more meaning during this time of celebration.