Jesus Wept: The Big Hope in the Shortest Verse

Jesus wept (John 11:35).

It’s the shortest verse in the entire Bible. Only two, small words. And yet there is a boatload of hope packed inside of them.

The backstory of those two words is one of pain and tragedy. Jesus was dear friends with a family in Bethany consisting of two sisters and one brother: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. When Lazarus became gravely ill, the sisters sent word to Jesus. Jesus, however, had a surprising reaction:

Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was (John 11:5-6).

By the time Jesus did arrive in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days, a long enough time to remove any hope from the situation. Lazarus – this friend of Jesus – was gone. In the grave, in fact. But Jesus was undeterred. He was there to perform a miracle – a miracle which would be, in many ways, the final nail in His own coffin, as the plans for His death took on greater urgency afterward. 

Jesus would raise the very dead Lazarus from the grace. But before He did so, He cried. 

Jesus wept.

Can you fathom that? The God of the universe cried. It’s heart-stopping to think of. And it sort of makes you ask what the bigger miracle of this passage is—is it a Jesus who can raise the dead, or a Jesus who weeps alongside His friends even though He knows He’s going to do so?

That’s the kind of Jesus we follow. He is not one who simply barks orders onto the battlefield of life, telling us to go here or there, do this or that. We do not follow an ivory tower Jesus.

The Christ we follow knows the full range of human experience. He is not an isolated God, but one intimately acquainted with the pain of the human condition. He is Immanuel—God with us. We may rest assured that whatever situation we find ourselves in, God is emotionally involved there too. When we weep at the death of a loved one, our Jesus weeps as well. When we rejoice because all is well, His shouts of joy eclipse our own. And when we fall in the dirt before Him—so sure of theological facts, yet emotionally destroyed by the circumstances of this sinful world—He falls down and weeps with us.

This is our God. This is the God who knew the end before the beginning. He is the One who knew the resurrection before the crucifixion. He is the One who knew the glory before the pain. Because He knows those things, He can make grand promises about the eternal glory that awaits all those who are His. Yet His response to us in the pain of the human condition is not, “Just believe! It will all be over soon. This is nothing compared to what awaits you.” Instead, His response is to walk through the pain with us. His response is to offer His abiding presence in the form of the Holy Spirit until the day when God receives the glory He deserves. 

At the end of this life He will still be there with us, but we will be seated together beside the throne of the Father, scarcely able to remember those times when He knelt in the dirt beside us and wept. 

But until that time, maybe sometimes what we need more than just another explanation, another cliché, or another promise of heaven . . . is tears. Tears of the One who understands. Tears of the One who empathizes. Tears of the One who doesn’t just tell us that everything will be OK in the end, but of the One who feels our pain as deeply as we do.

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