Why would Jesus, with all that power, cry? Looking at the Son of God but seeing only humanity, those around him wondered out loud why he hadn’t prevented Lazarus’ death. Death is the enemy that scoffs at all our triumphs and failures. No matter how hard we try to defeat it, the greatest harm we can inflict on death is to postpone it. In the end, death gets us all – little wonder we cry as it mocks us. Well might we ask any man why he didn’t postpone death when he could have. Jesus disturbed Lazarus’ death and returned him to the land of the living. Death was no invincible enemy to Jesus. Why cry then?
Contrary to our perception of God as a static, rigid being with wrath swirling in his heart, Jesus showed that God isn’t immune to our suffering. Jesus sympathised with humanity’s suffering, it broke his heart to see the terrible results of sin: death and doubt. Our sympathy springs from immediate situations – it is reactionary, a mere response to emotional stimuli. That’s why we express sadness at hunger in some remote corner of the middle of nowhere but wax lyrical about sports news in the next breath. Jesus’ sympathy stemmed from the inestimable value that he placed on people, a value that pain and suffering contradicted. To put it simply, we sympathise because of what we see in the moment but Jesus sympathised because he saw what could’ve been.
It was this sensitive tenderness that led Jesus to tactfully admonish Simon the judgemental Pharisee by wrapping the principles in narrative. The lesson was driven home and so Simon was chastised by Christ without the humiliation that a public rebuke would have caused. Jesus was never needlessly blunt or unpleasant but tenderly tried to draw all to himself.
The story Jesus told Simon revealed another dimension to the dearth of true sympathy in our hearts – ingratitude. Our inflated egos do not realise how far God has had to condescend to save us and so we are too busy trying to win favour that God has already given to all of us for free. Thus, we have very little time to care about those in suffering.
We will never have Jesus’ type of sympathy until we learn to place the same value on people that Christ did. We will always be contentious and aggressive in our dealings with each other unless we look at each other and see nothing but God’s image .