Mary was followed by a crowd when she came to Jesus that day. Whether hired or simply sympathetic, mourners clung to family as they grieved together.
Jesus had delayed in coming and Mary said to Jesus exactly what her sister, Martha, had said: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Mary also believed Jesus could heal illness but apparently not from a distance. Where Mary thought she was revealing her absolute confidence in Jesus’ power to heal, she also revealed the limitations of her belief.
To understand Jesus’ own coming resurrection, the principle of Jesus’ power over death has to be made clear. And Jesus was about to make known his power.
But he wept at the limited belief of the crowd as he grieved the limited belief of his own disciples and also of Martha.
He told the disciples, “for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”
He disclosed his resurrection power to Martha: “Do you believe this?"
The Jews, seeing Jesus weep, assumed he cried out of love for Lazarus. But Jesus knew his next action. He wept out of love for the crowd, which did not believe. Their question shows that, for they also asked "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Jesus wept for the limited belief of those who knew him. They knew only in part what Jesus was about to reveal more fully: that he was master not only of illness, but of distance and of death as well. His love encompassed them and his next words asked them to step forward.
Tomorrow: The test