When I was little, I associated this verse with smart-alecky kids who liked it for its brevity. Now I have come to treasure it for its honesty. Sometimes as a Christian, it is very hard to find the line between being real and being what you are supposed to be. We want to have faith, and sometimes that means calling things that are not as though they were, and choosing to see a reality that goes far beyond this world. That is a powerful thing. At the same time, it can feel like pretense.
What used to be a simple part of the narrative of the story now fills me with awe. Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe, cried when His friend died. His emotions went every bit as deep as ours, and He wept at the loss of Lazarus. Wait a moment--how could He mourn? Was it a lack of faith? Was He just not spiritual enough to see things from an eternal perspective? Was He rebelling against God's plan? Absurdities, of course. Yet often we condemn ourselves and eye others with suspicion when we experience pain or grief. This should not be.
On the other hand, look at the rest of the story--Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead! He didn't just accept defeat. He didn't lose hope. But He did weep. He was honest about His feelings. I don't know what all was behind His tears. Usually when I cry, it is a mixture of tangled thoughts and feelings from several different directions. Maybe He was crying for Mary and Martha. Maybe for the people still under the slavery of sin. Maybe for all of us. Maybe for their lack of understanding. I don't know. To me, the important thing is that He unashamedly shared his emotions. He cried. He gave a voice to the pain and mourning inside of Him.
There is another verse that I cling to along the same lines, that promises that He will wipe away all tears from our eyes. When my children cry over something that I am tempted to dismiss as trivial, when my own feelings want to be released, when people close to me are wrestling with painful situations, I want to come back to these verses, to weep with them. I know that even if we cry during the night, joy will come in the morning.