Jesus and the Brokenhearted

Now, here’s a Beatitude that can come out sounding pretty convoluted, We’re used to thinking of “blessed” as meaning holy, as in Blessed Mary, or rewarded, as in “God bless you for your help,” or even something akin to lucky, as in “I’ve been blessed.” But it is often translated in modern versions of the Bible as “happy,” as in the Common English Bible, which makes it one of those paradoxical statements that Jesus often made:

“Happy are people who grieve,
because they will be made glad.”

Jesus, Matthew 5:4,CEB

Returning to Jesus’s “mission statement,” Isaiah 61:1-2, here’s the original from which he quoted on that day in the Nazareth synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me;
he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the broken in heart . . .”

Isaiah 61:1a NIV

Again, the Beatitudes follow the pattern of the Isaiah passage: after the poor comes the brokenhearted, or those who mourn. This beatitude means so much to me, because I have experienced Jesus’s heart-healing so much in my own life, and I am often drawn towards the traumatized, the wounded, the weeping, even if all I can do is sit with them in silence.

Of course, I get that from Jesus. He was attracted to the broken, and he didn’t just snap his fingers from a distance and heal them, impatient for them to hurry up and get happy, to get over themselves, to quit being such a Debbie Downer. Rather, he entered into their pain and bore it alongside them.

There is a very dramatic story in the life of Jesus, the raising of Lazarus.1 Jesus has a special friendship with three adult siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Whenever he’s visiting Jerusalem, he and his disciples crash at their home in Bethany. But it happens that, as Jesus is away on one of his ministry trips, Lazarus becomes deathly ill. The sisters, having seen Jesus heal the sick many times, send desperate word to him to come at once. Jesus receives the message, but delays his response, and by the time he arrives, Lazarus is dead. Mary and Martha are devastated. When Martha hears that Jesus is approaching, she rushes out to meet him, and she and Jesus have a heartfelt exchange. Then Jesus asks Martha to go back to the house to call Mary to come out for a private conversation. Mary immediately hurries out, and the other mourners follow her. And here the story reveals something important about Jesus:

“When Jesus saw her weeping,
and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping,
he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. . .
Jesus wept.”

Jesus, John 11:33, 35

Jesus knew that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He had said as much to his disciples before they left.2 He had even purposely delayed his arrival in order to demonstrate a greater miracle — raising the dead rather than healing the sick. But yet, when he sees his beloved Mary weeping, as well as the others who loved Lazarus and whose hearts are broken, he weeps. Many a sermon I’ve heard over the years in evangelical churches draw this conclusion: that Jesus is weeping over their unbelief.

I’m sorry, but . . . gag me with a spoon.

That’s not the Jesus I love. The Jesus I love is empathetic. He is weeping with the bereaved in empathy and solidarity. His heart breaks to see their hearts breaking. It makes perfect sense. Paul’s instructions to believers tell us to:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice,
and weep with those who weep.”

Romans 12:15, NKJV

Would God ask us to do more than God does? No, Jesus reveals the heart of God as one who is right there with us in our suffering. Yes, God does have a broader perspective than we do. But, as a mother has compassion on her suffering child, so God, who not only understands suffering, but who has experienced it firsthand in the God-Man, Jesus, is present with us in our pain. He understands that grief takes time, and that wounds that have been ignored have a way of resurfacing years, even decades later. It’s okay. Knowing that we are not alone is the beginning of healing.

Next post: Jesus and the Humble

1 John 11:1-44
2 John 11:4, 11-15

2 Comments on “Jesus and the Brokenhearted”

  1. …he entered into their pain and bore it alongside them.

    I have been walking through a period of spiritual fatigue along with physical fatigue due to depression and after effects of long-COVID… this blog touched my very soul… thank you! The image that arises from the blog and from the quote above speaks comfort to me.


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