One of the most well-known verses, and the shortest in our English Bibles, is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). How incredible that the gospel which most forcefully expresses Jesus’ deity (cf. 1:1-3, 14; 5:17-18; et al), also, in such a simple way beautifully portrays the depth of His humanity! But have you ever pondered upon the thought of “why” did Jesus weep? At first this may seem to be a nonsensical question, for the context of the statement is the death of a dear friend (John 11:5). However, one of the greatest and most encouraging lessons for us may be realized if we will but consider this question: Why did Jesus weep? Let’s note four possibilities.
First, it may be that Jesus wept because He was saddened over the death of a close friend (John 11:5). Again, such would demonstrate the humanity of Jesus. Paul wrote of Jesus’ humanity when he highlighted that Jesus, “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). The Hebrews writer also spoke of Jesus humanity affirming: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14). Because Jesus being Deity took on the nature of man we know that our High Priest can sympathize with our sorrows and struggles (Heb. 4:15). However, should we conclude that Jesus wept because He was saddened over the death of a close friend when He knew that death was not the end (John 5:28-29; Luke 16)?
Second, it may be that Jesus wept because He was grieving with family over their loss. This would demonstrate Jesus’ compassionate spirit for others. The gospel writers note the compassionate Christ on multiple occasions. Matthew wrote of Jesus’ compassion for the people because of their spiritual needs:
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd
Matthew also noted the Lord’s compassion for human suffering (Matt. 14:14) and Luke the physician recorded the compassionate Christ reacting to a widow’s loss of her only son (7:13). It is possible that Jesus wept with family over their loss. However, why would Jesus weep when He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead?
Third, it may be that Jesus wept because He was sorrowful that He was about return Lazarus into a world of sin, suffering and temptation. This would emphasize that Jesus understands the difficulties humanity faces in a world filled with temptation. Again, the Hebrews writer affirmed, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus did not simply have knowledge of human suffering but by reason of common experience with man truly understands our weaknesses! To return Lazarus back into such a climate would certainly give occasion to cause the Son of man to weep.
Finally, it may be that Jesus wept because of the state of mind of those who, in the face of such an undeniable miracle, would nevertheless reject Him as their Savior. John records just how filled with hate some were and just how far they would go to deny the Christ: “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus” (John 12:10-11). The ability of Jesus to weep even for those who continually deny Him demonstrates the true love that the “man of sorrow” had even for humanity.
What then is the conclusion of the whole matter? Why did Jesus weep? In the final analysis of things, the reason why Jesus wept is of very little consequence! What is significant to us is that Jesus did weep! The fact that Jesus wept demonstrates the love and concern of God for humanity! Jesus does care when we are saddened by death or struggling with earthly difficulties. Jesus does care that we live in a world of temptation, sorrow and suffering. Jesus does understand the feelings and infirmities of man because He walked where we walk! Jesus faced temptations. Jesus endured hardships. Jesus lost friends and even family to death. Why did Jesus weep? I do not know specifically, but I am thankful that He did!