The shortest verse in the Bible says “Jesus wept”. Have you ever wondered why? Was Jesus showing his humanness and His empathy for the human experience? This is the common understanding and we know it’s true from scripture. (Hebrews 4:15)
If you are like me you have probably read this verse many times and just thought, “Jesus has compassion for those around Him, especially Martha and Mary because He loved them”. The Jews that were there thought this also if we look at verse 36. I agree, He certainly had compassion and loved them, but I believe there is so much more to this verse than most notice.
John 11:14-15 – Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe, Nevertheless let us go to him.”
Here we see the purpose of Lazarus’s death, also affirmed in verse 4; Jesus says it’s for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it. He did it so the disciples would believe and He would be glorified.
This seems hard for me to believe, yet this is what the Lord says. We are already well into Christ’s ministry, how is it they don’t believe?
John Calvin commenting – He does not mean that this was the first feeble commencement of faith in them, but that it was a confirmation of faith already begun, though it was still exceedingly small and weak. Yet he indirectly suggests that, if the hand of God had not been openly displayed, they would not have believed.
John 11:21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11:32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Watch what happens next, as I find this fascinating and where I think most people miss the point of this verse.
John 11:33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, (professionals hired to cry at a funeral); He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
The word groaned here is – embrimaomai (to snort with anger); to have indignation on, that is, (transitively) to blame, (intransitively) to sigh with chagrin, (specifically) to sternly enjoin: – straitly charge, groan, murmur against.
Jesus was also troubled – tarassō – Of uncertain affinity; to stir or agitate (roil water): – trouble.
Jesus was clearly annoyed by the reaction of all of those around Him at the death of Lazarus and seems to be agitated to the point of anger. He knew He was going to raise Lazarus, so it can’t be that He doubted what would happen. Then it happens.
Jesus wept. – John 11:35
Why? Let’s consider a few other verses that might give us some insight.
Matthew 9:36-38 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stone those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!
So why did Jesus weep? He had compassion for sure, but His compassion and his groaning was over the hard heartedness of man that lives in a self-absorbed sin saturated world. He wanted them to come in faith and repentance, but they refused. They wouldn’t acknowledge Him as Lord and as their King; despite the irrefutable proofs of His miracles. It was obvious wasn’t it?
Today we consistently see the same thing. There is nothing new under the sun, and you can show the un-believer sin and his hatred of God, yet he can’t see it. I can sometimes intellectually understand my own disbelief, yet I just can’t get out of my funk.
Does the Lord groan in His spirit over you or over me? Is He troubled by our lack of belief or our compassion for the lost? Does He groan when we live in willful rebellion to His Word? I am struck by the depth of this chapter as it relates to me. It’s easy for me to see the shortcomings of others yet fail to see my own sin. It’s easy to be critical and see how much they need Jesus, and they do, but I need Jesus.
I need Him more today than the day I was saved because if He didn’t weep for me, I’m lost. If He pulled His tears back from me I’d spiral into the depths of my own sin in moments. The closer I draw to Him the bigger and more wretched my sin becomes.
Men have always been ungrateful to God in the same manner, and continue to be so. If he does not grant all our wishes, we immediately launch into complaints: “Since he has been accustomed to aid us hitherto, why does he now forsake and disappoint us?” There is here a twofold disease. First, though we rashly desire what is not expedient for us, yet we wish to subject God to the perverse desires of the flesh. Secondly, we are rude in our demands, and the ardor of impatience hurries us before the time. – John Calvin
How about you?
If you can’t see your sin then I beg you to repent. Do you truly weep over your sin or are you merely a professional weeper hired to perform a service?
If you are a Believer do you weep and groan over the lost? How much compassion do you have for those around you that are without a shepherd?
May the Lord be merciful to those who can see their sin! It cost the One that paid the price dearly and that’s something we should weep about.