Why Did Jesus Weep?

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

  • John 11:33-37

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

  • Luke 19:41-44

“Before he called me forth from the grave, Jesus wept.  His was not the loud, frantic keening of the women who mourned outside the tomb.  His was a sigh and a groan and a single salty tear.  It was, at first, almost imperceptible, even to those standing closest to him.

“But his sigh shook the universe, and the place where I was quaked.  I stood in the midst of those who watched and waited for all things to be set right.

“Jesus groaned, and the heads of angels and saints turned to look down upon the earth in wonder.

“His tear trickled down his cheek, and a spring burst forth at his feet.  Pure, clear water spilled from its banks and flowed down a mountainside, leaving a myriad of new stars, like flowers, blooming and rising in its wake.”

  • Bodie and Brock Thoene, When Jesus Wept

Both times of Jesus weeping, in the Scripture references above, can be found in the fictional novel, When Jesus Wept.  The Scripture from Luke makes it clear that Jesus wept for the people of Judah, and all mankind for that matter, because the people did not believe.  During the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people shouted “Hosanna,” but they wanted an earthly king and those same people, possibly, shouted ”Crucify Him” less than a week later.  The Scripture mentions the destruction of Jerusalem would be a result of their lack of belief, thus leading to Jesus weeping.  But some scholars focus on the temple.

I disagree with the scholars.  This is not Solomon’s temple.  This is the temple of Herod the Great, a temple to show everyone how great this puppet king was.  Yet, there has been no temple built since.  The new Jerusalem will have no temple (Revelation 21:22).  So, crying for the destruction of the present temple of Jesus’ day would pale in comparison to the needless suffering of the people, due to their lack of belief.

Yet, even those close to Jesus did not fully understand.  If we consider the people again, those people closest to Jesus had their own problems.  The disciples fought amongst each other wanting to be the highest on Jesus’ pecking order.  Jesus’ friends in Bethany had their own problems.  Martha was too busy being a hostess to be around while Jesus taught the people.  Mary was possibly overextravagant with the pouring out of the perfume over the feet of Jesus – although Jesus defended her actions.  And what of Lazarus?

We do not hear about Lazarus until he is very sick, but the note sent to Jesus was for Jesus to come quickly, because the ‘one You love’ is sick.  Jesus had a relationship with Lazarus, but none of the Gospels talk about it.

The novel, When Jesus Wept, tries to fill in the gaps.  It may go overboard by linking stories together so that Mary ends up being several of the unnamed women in the gospels.  It is not that it cannot be so.  It could, but so many stories weaving around one person without naming the person?  That’s a little much, yet the book was entertaining.  Trying to make Mary, the sister of Martha, into different other characters made the novel a bit of a head scratcher, but nothing that screamed heresy.  I actually shook my head and laughed when I came to those cross-over moments.  Hard to believe, but almost plausible.  The concept that the authors portray is a close-knit family.

The part of the novel that I liked the best were the conversations between Jesus and Lazarus.  These conversations make the parables come alive.  Jesus walks through Lazarus’ vineyards and asks how this is done or that is done.  He asks the why.  Why is it done that way?  Then He nods His head and tells Lazarus that He has answered correctly.  Jesus did not need to ask.  Jesus knew the answers, but He needed Lazarus to have those thoughts at the forefront of his mind.  Jesus then tells a parable relating to the question and answer session that He has just had with Lazarus.  Others might not understand, but Lazarus knew the deeper meaning of the parable, because Jesus had related to something that Lazarus knew a lot about, especially the why.

As an industrial instructor, I had to come up with real-life examples to illustrate complex technical topics.  If the trainee can understand the everyday concept, he can then understand that the furnace is the same way, but on a bigger scale.

Most of the time, we read Matthew, Mark, and Luke in a vacuum.  We go from story to story.  The parable becomes a stand-alone story.  Some Sunday school teachers and pastors paint a picture of Jesus standing near a field so that everyone can see the sower sowing seeds.  They can see where the seeds land, but if they were sowers themselves and understood what happens as soon as Jesus mentions it, they’ll be a step ahead of the other listeners.  They will also be closer to the meaning of the parable.

Yet, Jesus wept, because everyone around Him was weeping over Him being too late.  They did not understand that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

Scholars have postulated many reasons for Jesus weeping in this instance.  Pope Leo the Great said that He wept for Lazarus, but Jesus knew Lazarus was in a better place and that Lazarus would have a price placed on His head if Jesus rose Him from the dead.  Jesus did Lazarus no favors here by raising Him from the dead.  If Jesus merely wept for Lazarus, He did so because He was about to take Lazarus away from Heaven and return him to misery on earth – especially with the events that would soon unfold.

Other scholars say that Jesus wept for all mankind.  This may be correct, but the explanation is so broad that the statement is meaningless.  Weeping for those who do not understand and are in a sorrowful mood is the appropriate emotion at that moment, but many around Him will be imbued by the Holy Spirit very soon.  They will then understand.  Jesus came to earth to do His Father’s will.  That meant dying on the cross for many.  Did He weep for those who did not, or would not in the future, believe?

Other scholars think that at this point Jesus had had enough of the price of the fall of mankind.  He knew that He would soon die, but this was when it became all too real.  His good friend Lazarus was dead, and that fact brought His own impending death to mind more vividly.  Jesus was also reminded of how people react when someone that they love dies.  Yet, many scholars say that Jesus came to earth to die, and in Jesus’ mind, that was already resolved.

But Jesus had just mentioned that He was the resurrection and the life to Martha.  Mary was busy doing something else.  When Mary comes to Jesus and says basically the same thing that Martha had said, Jesus did not have the heart to repeat what He had just said to Martha.  He just wept.  After all, Jesus was, and is, human too.

Jesus wept.

In many translations, this is the shortest verse in the Bible, but since it is not the shortest in all English translations, don’t get hung up on that.  The Apostle Paul stated that all Scripture is good for instruction.  With these two little words, we can learn a great deal about our Lord and Savior.  He is a lot like us, and we should learn to be more like Him.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. I have heard that Jesus wept because death is the enemy. He was confronted by the wages of sin in all its reality, and the fact of death made his heart heavy. Yes, Jesus never forgot that he is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus knew he would call Lazarus back among the living. Jesus knew he would face death on the cross, battle against it, and win the victory. But in the cemetery, seeing that death is real, Jesus wept. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I was always confused on Jesus wept and now I finally know. Thank you for the clarification!

    Liked by 1 person

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