Why Did Jesus Weep?

The state­ment resounds with pas­sion when we think of it… With just two words, we see His human­i­ty, His sub­jec­tion to the very same emo­tions we face everyday.

But when Jesus wept, why did He do it? The Jews, look­ing upon Him as He wept, pro­claimed aloud, “Behold how He loved him!” sup­pos­ing that His tears were for his deceased friend Lazarus.

The Psalmist’s words come to mind, “Pre­cious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). There is some­thing spe­cial about the death of those who belong to the Lord; in that death, they are freed from this life, ful­ly & final­ly unit­ed with their Redeemer. In this death, there is no lament, only joy. Sal­va­tion’s cul­mi­na­tion. The flesh’s final defeat. Face to face with the Savior.

Are we to believe that the same Lord who finds the death of His saints pre­cious (valu­able, excel­lent) should now weep over the death of Lazarus? What sense does that make? But that in that we see the unbe­lief of the onlook­ing Jews, who did not believe Jesus to be the Lord of the Old Tes­ta­ment, sang of in the Psalms.

So what was Jesus weep­ing for? Fol­low the events with me in John 11. I won’t touch on every verse so please read along in your own Bibles. 

1) Lazarus, the broth­er of Mary & Martha, was sick.

3) His sis­ters sent word to the Lord, telling Him about Lazarus’ affliction.

4) This is an impor­tant point: God — even the Son of God — was going to be glo­ri­fied by Lazarus’ sick­ness, which He declared to be “not unto death.”

6) Jesus was in no hur­ry to return to the sis­ters and to Lazarus; in this He demon­strates that His timeta­bles are not always what we would like them to be. There is a les­son here about wait­ing upon the Lord & patience; I encour­age you to med­i­tate on this pas­sage with those thoughts.

11–13) When Jesus deter­mined to return to Judea, He explained to His dis­ci­ples that Lazarus had died, but that He would revive him. In the typ­i­cal man­ner of the dis­ci­ples, they mis­un­der­stood Him com­plete­ly. (Not much has changed even to this day!)

15) Jesus was glad that He was­n’t there! If Jesus wept because Lazarus died, this seems like a very odd thing to say! Ever with His focus on faith, He tar­ried so that Lazarus would die so that a mir­a­cle may be worked to the ben­e­fit of His dis­ci­ples’ faith.

17) Lazarus is dead and buried.

21) Martha laments the Lord’s not being there for Lazarus soon enough.

22) Martha affirms her faith in Christ.

23) Jesus states that Lazarus will rise again.

24) Martha now plays the tar­ri­er, assum­ing Jesus was refer­ring to the res­ur­rec­tion at the last day.

25) Jesus reveals Him­self. He is the Res­ur­rec­tion and the Life! He has all the pow­er of life because He is the very essence of Life! Every­thing that lives does so by the pow­er of Jesus!

32) Mary meets up with Jesus, and like Martha, she laments the absence of Jesus as Lazarus died.

33) Jesus beheld Mary — and the Jews who were with her — weep­ing for Lazarus. Final­ly, He is trou­bled — groan­ing inward­ly. The news of Lazarus’ death did­n’t trou­ble Him; rather, every­one’s grief over the death of Lazarus trou­bled Him.

34) So He asks them where they have laid him. “Come and see,” they said, and finally…

35) Jesus wept. It was­n’t over the loss of a friend, but rather because of the deep-seat­ed doubt that sur­round­ed Him.

36) The Jews jump to con­clu­sions and — as is typ­i­cal of peo­ple — mis­un­der­stand the Lord’s actions.

37) Some of the Jews begin to seri­ous­ly doubt the Lord. He healed the blind, could He not have pre­vent­ed Lazarus’ death?

38) Yet again we find Jesus trou­bled over the unbe­lief of the Jews.

Jesus comes through on His words con­cern­ing God being glo­ri­fied through these events, for He calls forth Lazarus from the tomb, and he obeys.

If Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus, I can­not help but won­der why in light of this… He has a plan, a plan which ulti­mate­ly glo­ri­fies God! If the death of Lazarus was that both­er­some to Jesus, He could have pre­vent­ed it by mere force of will.

But the unbe­lief of the Jews — of His friends Mary & Martha — that trou­bled the Lord. He who is Life had the abil­i­ty to grant life ques­tioned. And He wept over the peo­ple’s unbelief.

And our unbe­lief still trou­bles Him today. May we con­stant­ly remem­ber that Jesus is in con­trol, that even in the seem­ing­ly worst of events, God will be glo­ri­fied. Let our faith be strength­ened con­stant­ly with that thought.

4 thoughts on “Why Did Jesus Weep?”

  1. This is awe­some teach­ing. This real­ly has clar­i­fied this verse for me “Jesus Wept.” The verse “Psalm 116:5 sums it all up (Pre­cious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints). We are freed from every­thing. No more sick­ness, sor­row, pain, tears or suf­fer­ing. Do you write books? I would love to have more of your teach­ings. God Bless.

  2. Accord­ing to the Bible, how many Old Tes­ta­ment prophets raised peo­ple from the dead? Answer: Two. Eli­jah and Elisha.

    That’s it. And they only did it three times. So the act of rais­ing some­one from the dead would have been seen as a very, very big deal. It was not like heal­ing some­one of a dis­ease or cast­ing out demons. Lots of peo­ple, it seems, could do those mir­a­cles. Nope, rais­ing some­one from the dead was the big kahu­na of all miracles! 

    In the Gospel of John chap­ter 11, we are told that Lazarus had been dead for four days. His body was decom­pos­ing to the point that he stunk. Lazarus death and bur­ial were very pub­lic events. His tomb was a known loca­tion. Many Jews had come to mourn with Mary and Martha and some of them were won­der­ing why the great mir­a­cle work­er, Jesus, had not come and healed his friend Lazarus; essen­tial­ly blam­ing Jesus for let­ting Lazarus die.

    Let’s step back and look at the facts assert­ed in this pas­sage: Only two OT prophets had raised peo­ple from the dead, and these two prophets were con­sid­ered prob­a­bly the two great­est Jew­ish prophets of all time: Eli­jah and Elisha. If this sto­ry is true, the super­nat­ur­al pow­ers of Jesus were on par with the super­nat­ur­al pow­ers of the great­est Jew­ish prophets of all time! If this event real­ly did occur, it should have shocked the Jew­ish peo­ple to their very core—a new Eli­jah was among them! This event must have been the most shock­ing event to have occurred in the lives of every liv­ing Jew­ish man and woman on the plan­et. The news of this event would have spread to every Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty across the globe.

    And yet…Paul, a devout and high­ly edu­cat­ed Jew, says not one word about it. Not one. Not in his epis­tles; not in the Book of Acts. Think about that. What would be the most pow­er­ful sign to the Jews liv­ing in Asia Minor and Greece—the very peo­ple to whom Paul was preach­ing and attempt­ing to convert—to sup­port the claim that Jesus of Nazareth him­self had been raised from the dead? Answer: The very pub­lic, very well doc­u­ment­ed rais­ing from the dead of Lazarus of Bethany by Jesus!

    But nope. No men­tion of this great mir­a­cle by Paul. (A review of Paul’s epis­tles indi­cates that Paul seems to have known very lit­tle if any­thing about the his­tor­i­cal Jesus. Read here.)

    And there is one more very, very odd thing about the Rais­ing-of-Lazarus-from-the-Dead Mir­a­cle: the author of the Gospel of John, the very last gospel to be writ­ten, is the only gospel author to men­tion this amaz­ing mir­a­cle! The authors of Mark, Matthew, and Luke say NOTHING about the mir­a­cle of Jesus rais­ing Lazarus from the dead. Nothing.

    This is a tall tale and noth­ing more!

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