John 11:35 is one of my favourite memory verses which happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible. Just two words, “Jesus wept”. So simple, yet so profound. Contained within these two words is the full expression of the humanity and deity of Jesus; fully God yet fully man.
Most commentaries explain this verse as Jesus identifying with the pain and loss of a loved one. Yet there’s this “holy dis-satisfaction” in me that says there’s something more which God wants to show us, perhaps an invitation to enter into something deeper than those who viewed things superficially (v 36) and those who doubted Jesus (v 37) would never enter in nor understand.
This chapter was punctuated twice (John 11:33, 38) with the phrase that Jesus “groaned in the spirit and was troubled”; in between the “Jesus wept” verse. It’s as if the Holy Spirit wanted to highlight something very important. I personally don’t think Jesus was troubled because He couldn’t do anything about Lazarus’ situation.
What I found interesting was that both Martha and Mary asked Jesus the same question; but each drew out different responses from Him. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21). Jesus replied her by teaching her about Him being the “Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). However, when Mary posed Jesus the same question, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32); instead of replying her like He did with Martha, Jesus wept.
The other interesting point to note was the progression of Mary’s worship unto Jesus. When Jesus first visited the three siblings, Martha was serving while Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His Word.” (Luke 10:39-40). When Lazarus died and Jesus had come to Bethany, Mary went out to meet Him and she “fell down at His feet.” (John 11:32). When Jesus visited them again after Lazarus was raised from the dead, Martha served, but this time Mary did more than just sit at the feet of Jesus. She took a pound of very costly perfume, worth one year’s salary, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair (John 12:2-3).
Mary’s act of extravagant worship unto Jesus was perhaps an indication that she finally understood why Jesus wept – it was her lack of faith and trust in Him that grieved Him. I could imagine Jesus saying in His heart then, “It’s alright for others to doubt Me, but My people, especially those who “sat at My feet and received My teachings and revelations, should never doubt Me.”
Mary offered to Jesus a worship that cost her – as a way of expressing her love, faith and trust in Him, one that was worthy of Him. The way I see it is that Mary offered a worship that matched the faith level that God wanted her to be at. And to underscore that God loves this, Mary’s worship was mentioned twice, in John 11:2 and John 12:3.
The first mention of worship in the Bible was in Gen 22:5. No music was involved. Abraham instructed his servants, “Stay here… the lad (Isaac) and I will go yonder and worship…” as he was preparing to obey God and sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, at the altar. True worship will cost you. In fact, I’ll be bold to say that “the moment your sacrifice stops, so does your worship!” Have you offered to God recently worship that costs you?
When we talk about “cost”, we tend to link it to money. But that’s not entirely true. In the story of the widow with two small coins (Luke 21:1-4), it wasn’t about money. She didn’t have much. But what moved the Lord was that she gave ALL she had; without reservation, without hesitation. That’s love, devotion, worship and faith packed into those two small coins!
When you pursue God unreservedly, it’ll cost you. That in the midst of your pain and perplexity, you choose to worship. When coming to full-time ministry is your worship to the Lord and people say to you like they said to Mary, “What a waste!”. When you choose to let go of a relationship that you know will not take you into the fullness of what God has for you. What about waking up early for your devotions when you love sleep? Or letting go of a hobby or a harmless habit as a worship unto God? The list goes on, but one truth remains – you can never out-give God (2 Cor 9:8).
All these sacrifices, painful as they may be, are very precious to the Lord because you can only offer them while on earth. Is 45:3 calls this the “treasures of darkness”. You’ll never be able to offer this kind of worship to Him in heaven and for the rest of eternity. There’s no pain or darkness in heaven. And here’s the beautiful part – like Mary, your worship will “fill the house with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3) and bless those around you. Isn’t this what we live for?
If you were to ask Mary, if she could turn back the clock, what would she have asked Jesus differently? I believe she’d have said to Him, “Do it again, Lord!” And I pray the same for you, whatever you’re crying out to God for, “Do it again, Lord!”
Pastor Kevin Koh