“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”
John 11: 33-36 ESV
I have always remembered John 11:35 ESV “Jesus wept” as the shortest verse in the Bible. When I was a child, if a Sunday school teacher asked us to memorize a verse, someone would jokingly suggest that one because it was the easiest. Also, the question ‘What is the shortest verse of the Bible?’ would come up in trivia, and I always knew the answer! Recently though, this verse has given me a deeper meaning, and it has caused me to see the two words “Jesus wept” in a whole new way.
One evening last fall after the kids were tucked in bed, I was watching TV with my husband, and my phone rang. We both looked at each other because it was the time of night when no one usually calls, and we all know that feeling of dread that washes over us when this happens. I answered the phone and received the shocking news that a young family member of mine had died tragically. This type of life event usually causes us to stop our daily routines and spend time reflecting on questions that we do not normally think about. Over the next days as I drove 18 hours to the funeral and spent time grieving with my family, I struggled with this news and tried to find answers. Through it all I asked God ‘Why weren’t you there?’
In John 11, Mary and her sister Martha had lost their brother, and when Jesus arrived, they both said to him “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 and 32 ESV). It strikes me that they asked the same question that I did. Jesus responded in a very human way. He knew God’s plan and what was about to happen, yet he was deeply moved and wept. This scene in the Bible reflects how Jesus is both God and man. He had flesh like us and therefore knew sorrow like we do, and yet he is God and we can go to him for comfort when we are grieving.
The words “Jesus wept” are no longer the answer to a trivia question to me. These two powerful words mean that when I am struggling (and we will experience tragedy on earth), that Jesus is with me and he knows grief too. Jesus is both my savior and comforter, and I am not alone.
“So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”
Jeremiah 18:3-4 NIV
Jeremiah was a prophet of the Old Testament who had the challenging task of proclaiming to the Israelites that they would be destroyed in divine judgement. One day the Lord spoke to Jeremiah and told him to “Go down to the potter’s house” Jeremiah 18:3 NIV, to witness a man working at the wheel. To picture this scene, we can imagine that Jeremiah most likely went down the grassy slopes of the Valley of Ben Hinnom near the Potsherd Gate (overlooking the dump for broken pottery). At his house, the potter began shaping a piece of clay at his wheel and it became marred (the Hebrew word means “ruined”) so the potter took the same clay and formed it into a new pot. The Lord then gave Jeremiah a message based on the scene he had just watched. “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? … Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand” Jeremiah 18:6 NIV. This hopeful message meant that even though Israel would be destroyed, God would keep his promise and renew them. The verses here are specifically about Israel, but the Bible also shows us that this metaphor about clay is universal. Isaiah 64:8 NIV says “you are our Father; we are the clay and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Even though this is an Old Testament story, we can still learn from it today. What strikes me most about these verses is that the potter did not repair the clay he was working with when it became ruined, but he formed it into a new vessel. This means that when we are broken, God does not piece us back together and repair the cracks, but uses the same clay to make a whole new pot. It means that we can be healed completely from our brokenness if we surrender our lives to God and let him mold us. Psalm 30:2 NIV says “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” Amen to that! Sometimes we struggle for years over something that we feel we can never overcome, but with the realization that healing from these bonds can only happen with the power of God, we put our trust in the right place and find victory through Christ.
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”
Psalm 143:8 ESV
One morning I was about to make breakfast, so I washed my hands in the sink and dried them on a kitchen towel and then hung it over the handle of the oven where I was working. I was about to crack an egg into the pan on the stove, when the egg slipped through my fingers and dropped. I didn’t want to look down because I just knew it was splattered on the floor at my feet. But when I did look down, I was surprised to see that the egg had landed in the perfect place, safely in the folds of the kitchen towel that I had just hung in that exact spot only minutes ago. My immediate response was surprise that the egg had not broken, but then to chuckle to myself and thank God for giving me that little object lesson. Psalm 143:8 ESV says “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.”
We live in a fallen world where hardships are inevitable, and like the egg we live in fragile bodies, but if we are children of God and we have put our trust in Him, then like the kitchen towel he promises to be there to catch us. Psalm 37:23-24 ESV says “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” The lesson that God gave me that morning was to remember that I am not alone and God is there to catch me when I fall, and also that I must trust in His provisions, because He is the Master Planner. Who are you putting your trust in today?