The great majority of ancient philosophers believed in God. But they struggled to account for the character of a supreme being who rules a world that is spectacularly beautiful and is also filled with so much suffering.
They decided God had to be impassive. That meant God had no feelings of any kind. God could not feel joy, anger, disappointment or pain. After all, if your prayers could somehow affect God, if your suffering could inspire in God a feeling, you would have a measure of power over God. That would make God vulnerable.
If God were vulnerable, He would not be the omniscient deity who rules the cosmos. The God who is impassive gazes upon our little problems and crises from the balcony of heaven. That’s the God of the Philosophers. Who wants a God like that?
In John 11 Jesus visits a cemetery. His friend Lazarus had been buried there four days earlier. Jesus is confronted by Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters. Why didn’t Jesus show up a few days early, when there still would have been time to save him? They are hurt and confused and hopeful all at the same time.
Jesus was deeply stirred by their pain. The verb the gospel writer uses is anger. That’s what God feels when He visits a cemetery and sees the pain it causes His people. How could His exquisite world ever have come to this?
Then in John 11:35, the shortest verse of the Bible—two words, “Jesus wept.”
Jesus is conveying, “this is what God is like.” God is not neutral or impassive. God cries with us, feels with us and suffers with those who suffer. Most amazing of all, this Jesus who cries will Himself suffer and die just a few days later. He doesn’t just see our pain from a distance, He knows our pain from experience.
Who is God? The real God wells up with tears at funerals. That’s the kind of God we so desperately need. Best of all, the story of Lazarus doesn’t end in that cemetery. Jesus calls him right out of the tomb. That’s because the God who is really there is in the business of raising the dead.
When we entrust ourselves to Him, life isn’t over when it’s over. Why? God loves you!
-Rev Dr William Lewis