Why Did Jesus Weep?

Jesus wept. This is the shortest verse in the Bible. Stephanus, aka Robert Estienne, who first allocated chapter and verse to the New Testament text, must have been so moved by the scene that he rendered it a verse in its own right. Why did He weep? One must read John 11, the account of Lazarus’ dying and raising. 

He wept for His own loss

The Lord had a love for this family, over and above his general love for all people. He was a man acquainted with suffering, a full human being, who felt the agonies of human existence. Only they who themselves die young are spared the heartache of seeing loved ones taken. The Lord was no stoic, no automaton, devoid of feeling and affection. He wept as he poured out His grief. 

He wept for the sisters’ loss

Without their beloved brother, who may have been performing the legal and cultural role as father of the household, Martha and Mary’s status may have been more tenuous. Greater pressure to marry, to surrender property to litigious relatives, to somehow protect their rights in a patriarchal world, would have spiced their own grief with extra fear. In verse 33, He shares the women’s pain, making their tears His own. 

He wept for Lazarus’ loss

In verse 33, the observing Jews detect the great love He bore the dead man. He may not have been an old man, he had years yet to live. Even if this had not been the case, however, death is a grim porter escorting us all to eternity and judgement. Ambitions, hopes, aspirations- all unfulfilled. Death cuts us short and lays us low. It is a usurper, an invader, a warrant-bearing bailiff whom Adam’s sin bade entry. Our ancient father and his progeny were designed to live forever, but death keeps mowing us down like grass before a scythe.

He wept for their faith

With childlike trust did the sisters send for Him. With puzzled acceptance did they receive word of his days’ delay. With costly and throbbing faith did Martha say she believed Jesus was the still the Christ, the Son of God, even when He didn’t save her brother and grant her heart-felt plea. These women were broken and reeling, yet like Job before them, they kept their faith in Him, even when their experiences demanded reassessment. 

He wept for all

Just as Christ’s voice pierced the grave, summoning the dead man back to earth, so I think His eyes beheld more than one dead man. Since the death of Abel, the eternal Christ witnessed the death of many millions of humans, each one a painful departure from one world to another. He beholds every mourning family, every grief-stricken lover, every heart-broken orphan. This shameful yet inevitable pattern and conclusion of human living surely pained the good Author of life who had planned otherwise. Indeed, it was for this reason that He had come into the world, proclaiming

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (v25)

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