Elizabeth, Lazarus, Jesus and millilitres?

Queen Elizabeth II died on 8 September, 2022. She was the longest serving monarch in British history. She is loved and deeply respected by many.

There was a tidal wave of outpouring of grief; with flower tributes, notes, cards, Paddington bears and marmalade sandwiches. There were queues of people coming from all over the globe, some waiting in line for up to 30 hours just to pay their last respects. Most precious of all are the gift of tears. Words simply cannot express the depths of love and devotion.

We cry when our loved ones die. We cry because we miss them so much and the pain of separation is just too much to bear. The grief and pain is like a tsunami that envelopes our beings and can only flow out of us through our tears and sobs.

Crying is not only a one-off, lonely experience; there are others who grieve too and they also feel our pain. We weep in unison. Crying is contagious and symbiotic.

Weeping connects us both to the dead and the living. Weeping is an expression of our common humanity.

Are the tears restricted to the living only? I remember standing at my late father’s death bed. As he left, I saw a tear in the corner of his eye. Did you cry Daddy? Do you miss us just as much as we miss you?

The Gospel of John records a funeral.

Lazarus was ill. Jesus was late coming to visit him and to heal him. By the time Jesus got there, Lazarus had already died and buried in the tomb for 4 days.

Lazarus was deeply loved by his family and the community. His sister and other Jews were weeping. What was Jesus’ reaction? John 11: 33- 38 reads

“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

We all know the end of the story.

Lazarus did not stay in the cave-tomb for long. The stone was rolled away and Jesus called Lazarus out of his cave-tomb. Lazarus was resurrected from the grave and walked out of the cave-tomb in his funeral linen, alive! He had come back to life!

God knew that He had the power to resurrect Lazarus, yet at Lazarus’ funeral, when faced with the reality of death, He just broke down and cried.

Were they merely polite, perfunctory tears? I do not believe so. The Kings James Bible says that Jesus groaned in the spirit and was troubled. His sorrow was obvious to all watching and they could only exclaim in surprise “See how he loved him!” They were not mere tears for a show and tell.

It is comforting to know that the Living God who gives life, and who will usher us into eternal life, will cry unapologetically at our death bed. He cries for both the living and the dead. He will not berate us for our tears. Neither should we. Cry if you must. Perhaps love is measured in millilitres.

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