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.