Jesus wept. I still remember claiming that passage for my Scripture memorization assignment in my fourth or fifth grade Bible class. While I can’t be certain which grade I was actually in, I do remember that our combined class met at the top of the stairs on the left in one of the converted classrooms that had previously been part of the church attic space. There were benches built into the sloped walls and an overabundance of brown and gold-flecked church carpet. You know the carpet I’m talking about—that semi-indoor/semi-outdoor carpet meant to withstand the wear-and-tear of weekly Bible class teacher pacing.
I also remember being fairly confident in just how clever I was to have quickly declared John 11:35 in the NIV as my chosen passage. Through the inner workings of my elementary-age brain, I believed the shortness of the verse to be a direct reflection on the simplicity of the message as a whole. Therefore, if the teacher was going to make me not only recite a passage from memory but also explain it to the class, then I was going to be strategic about it. (Apparently the adage of “no pain, no gain” was missing from my biblical mantra.)
However, it wasn’t until many years (and a good bit of spiritual growth) later that I realized what my Bible class teacher knew all along: Jesus wept is far from simple. There is a complexity in the words and the situation that belies modest grammar. It is consequential in meaning, and that meaning is exceedingly impactful if we allow it to be.
You see, in these two words exists a clear example from Jesus of what it looks like to truly and intentionally experience life with another person, from another person’s perspective, with space for that perspective to resonate. And this is critical in ministry. It is critical, because we are designedly different, and out of those differences emerges an array of voices that are empowered by God to use their gifts to bring glory and honor to the kingdom of God. However, when voices are missing, the message becomes incomplete.
Therefore, we must be deliberate in our pursuit of all voices. We must consider this question: how do we ensure the fullness of God’s message?
First off, we strengthen our aspiration toward completeness through welcome. We move past merely acknowledging the presence of other experiences and instead actively allow those experiences to illuminate our own perspective. When Jesus begins to weep, he is doing so because of the tremendous love he has for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He is crying not out of peripheral sadness and sympathy for the situation, but because he is actively bearing their pain and sorrow with his innermost being. He loves his friends so much that their grief is his grief. Their loss is his loss, and their agony is his agony. Jesus accepts the full weight of their experience, and it affects him. Much in the same way, when we allow ourselves to be impacted by the perspective of another person, we do more than just tolerate their viewpoint; we make space for it and welcome it, and it, in turn, has the potential to shape us.
Secondly, we follow the clear example of Jesus and not only demonstrate love for others but respect for others as well. Jesus treats Mary and Martha with such respect. This is evident in the way Jesus teaches these women—both in this instance and when Jesus comes to their home (Luke 10). Not only does Martha refer to Jesus as “teacher,” but we see where Jesus takes the time to teach Martha (11:21–27). The significance in this act comes from the knowledge that rabbis did not teach women during this time. However, Jesus does not allow societal conventions to dictate his actions. Instead, “Jesus dignifies these women as full participants among his followers. If he is their rabbi, they are his disciples.”  Furthermore, the esteem shown to Mary and Martha demonstrates a Jesus who desires for the voice of the “other” to be a part of the conversation regardless of the setting, and this isn’t limited to the first-century church. It applies to us today.
Therefore, if we are serious about living out the calling of Jesus, then we must do so in ways that honor all of the voices that speak into the fullness of God’s message, and we must do so in ways that welcome and respect these voices.
 Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 332.