Five Reasons to Love Him All Over Again
When I was little, the verse “Jesus wept” was a favorite verse because it was the easiest to memorize. Now John 11:35 claims its place in my heart as one of my favorites, because it carries concentrated meaning. It’s like the little capsules that power out the dirt from a large load of laundry.
Over the years, I’ve learned five transformative lessons and one piercing question from the shortest verse of the Bible.
Weeping not a sign of weakness
Jesus had a commanding presence. He single-handedly flipped over the money-changers’ tables, opened their money bags and cast their currency to the ground, ran off the animal traders’ livestock, and made these men feel so lucky to get away alive that none of them stopped to pick up their money (see John 2:13–17; Mark 11:15–17). This scene, among many others, refutes the notion of a teddy-bear Messiah that’s sometimes promoted.
If we add other bold men of the Bible, we end up with quite a list of tough guys who shed tears. David, the giant-killing warrior-king, wept. Joseph, who was strong enough to resist sexual temptation during a lonely time of life and had the power to forgive his brothers’ betrayal, wept. Nehemiah, skillful and strong enough to use carpenter tools in one hand and wield a sword in the other, wept. If you’ve ever succumbed to weeping, you’re in strong company.
Weeping is not a denial of faith
Jesus told the twelve disciples that He was going to wake Lazarus. His relaxed tone led the disciples to believe Lazarus was on the mend, not in the grave (John 11:11-15). Jesus was fully aware of His identity, position, mission, and power. He knew that as the author of life He had authority over death; and yet He wept (John 6:39-40 & 10:17-18). Christ’s public prayer at the grave of Lazarus served as an announcement that the Father had already answered His private prayer; and yet He wept (John 11:41-42).
Since Jesus wept while constantly confirming His foreknowledge and abilities, it is impossible for weeping to signify a lack of faith. If Mary and Martha affirmed their faith in the Savior’s power while choking back tears, then we can weep while being faithful (John 11:21-32). Now that we know Christians have liberty to lament, the question still lingers: If weeping isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of faith, then why did Jesus weep?
Jesus wept with His followers
The apostle John encapsulated God’s craving for closeness with His creation when he wrote, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, KJV). The word translated “dwelt” comes from the word for “tabernacle,” or “tent of meeting.” Moses’ tent of meeting was made of things like badger skins, but in Christ, God tabernacled with us in a tent of human flesh.
Emmanuel, “God with us,” could finally feel firsthand what we experience in this world. He rejoiced with those who rejoice when He turned water into wine at a wedding party (John 2). Now He weeps with those who weep on the way to Lazarus’ tomb.
One day, those sleeping in Jesus will be reunited with those alive in Christ as they rise to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). When God wipes away all our tears and death has died, Christ won’t have anyone to cry with anymore (Revelation 21:4; 20:14). But as long as “people are destined to die once” (Hebrews 9:27), Jesus will dwell with the grieving and weep with those who weep.
Jesus wept for His followers
Jesus wept for His disciples because He could see ahead to the garden, when their self-sufficiency had them sleeping instead of praying (Mark 14:37–40). He wept for them because they didn’t believe His warnings of how seriously their faith would be shaken (see Luke 22:31; Matthew 26:31). Jesus wept for them because He knew that Judas’ conspiracy with the priests was the final stroke that would cut him off from grace. How He wept for the shame His most vocal spokesman would feel after denying Him three times (Matthew 26:69–75).
In raising Lazarus after he’d been dead four days, Jesus inspired the disciples’ faith, so that they would anticipate Christ’s resurrection on the third day. If they had learned from this miracle, they wouldn’t have been terrified after He was crucified. They wouldn’t have doubted the reports of His resurrection. His heart ached for them, yearning to overcome their skepticism and spare them unnecessary anguish.
Jesus wept for His opponents
Jesus wept and continues to weep for those who reject Him no matter what He says or does. Some who witnessed Lazarus walk out of the tomb hated His influence so much that they would plot to kill Lazarus, the beneficiary of His power (John 12:9–11). They recognized His genuine miracle, but refused every merciful call to repentance and eternal life.
The reasons for the people’s rejection of Christ were as numerous as the voices that would soon be shouting, “Crucify Him!” Leaders saw Him as a threat to the social order and the political ties they had formed with corrupt Roman leaders. Hypocrites sought revenge for the embarrassment suffered when He exposed their sins. Some people were disgusted by His humility in mingling with the poor and untouchables. Others faulted Him for not being radical enough and leading an armed rebellion to overthrow their oppressors.
Whatever their reasons were, they were effectively arguing for their release from His protective custody. ” ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused!’ ” (Luke 13:34, WEB).
Is He weeping with or for us today?
Weeping with us was part of the desire that led our High Priest to dwell with us.
He wept bitterly as He interceded for us on earth and continues to intercede for us in heaven (Hebrews 4:15; 5:7–9; Romans 8:34). Because He has walked in our sandals, the Father has committed all judgment to Jesus (John 5:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Weeping for us grieves the Judge who seeks to pardon, not punish. If anyone is lost, it’s not because the Judge isn’t sympathetic to our situation.
Jesus wept then and weeps now, but won’t weep forever. The question is: What kind of tears is He shedding? Is He weeping with you as your High Priest? Or weeping for you as your Judge?