Read John 11:1-45
I have been told many times that John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the English translation. But those two words, “Jesus wept,” have often confused me the most. Because Jesus knew before He reached Bethany that Lazarus had died and that He would raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:11, 14). Jesus, being God, knows all things, so why did He weep? What I’ve never noticed before was that Jesus also “groaned in the spirit and was troubled” when He saw the Jews weeping over Lazarus (John 11:33, KJV), and He groaned again when the Jews questioned why He didn’t save Lazarus (John 11:37-38).
Perhaps He saw in the Jews’ reaction the attitude of so many people in this world: if Jesus is Christ, if God is sovereign, why does He allow bad things to happen? The Jews lacked the faith to realize that good would come from Lazarus’s death, that people would believe in Jesus because of this miracle (John 11:45). It’s easy now to think how silly they were to doubt Jesus, but haven’t we done the same?
When bad things happen, when we face trials and tribulations, when we come across difficult circumstances, don’t we often wonder why God doesn’t deliver us? If we as Christians struggle with having faith in God’s provision, what about those who aren’t Christians? What about those who don’t believe God could exist because, if He did, evil wouldn’t exist? What about those who believe that, if God does exist, He can’t possibly be a loving God because of all the heartache this world has to offer?
Perhaps He wept because this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Death entered the world with sin; it wasn’t what God wanted for us. Maybe Jesus was thinking about all the souls who would never trust Him as their Savior no matter what evidence they saw, no matter what miracles they witnessed. Maybe He was thinking about the ones who would crucify Him, who would mock Him as He hung on the cross. Maybe He was thinking about all the people who would become bitter because they didn’t understand that God works things together for good. Maybe He was thinking about all those who would lose their loved ones without the comfort of seeing them again.
After all, this isn’t the only time Jesus wept. “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41-42, KJV). He displayed emotion, not just when His friend died but also when He came into Jerusalem on what is now known as Palm Sunday. And He wept because His people “received him not” (John 1:11, KJV). Yet, knowing these things, He took all of our sins upon Him. He hung on the cross, knowing there would be those who would never come to Him, those who would reject Him, those who would persecute His children. Maybe He wept because His own creation turned against Him.
John 3:16, KJV says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If God loved the world, He loves all the people in the world, even those who reject Him. So I don’t think it’s far-fetched to believe that Jesus wept for His lost sheep, that maybe the thought of all those lost souls who would go to hell broke His heart. Why doesn’t it break ours? If Jesus wept, shouldn’t we?
For we as Christians have the assurance of seeing our saved loved ones again in Heaven. We have the assurance that the dead in Christ are asleep and we will see them again. But those who don’t believe in heaven, those who don’t have that same assurance “have no hope” (1 Thes 4:13-14, KJV). Maybe Jesus was not only feeling the grief and pain of those who loved Lazarus yet knew they would see him again in “the resurrection of the last day” (John 11:24, KJV) but was also feeling the grief of those who did not have that assurance. Because the grief is different. While we grieve the “would-a, should-a, could-a,” while we grieve all the plans we made that our loved ones will not be a part of, those who don’t have faith in Jesus grieve the eternal loss of life. While we look forward to peace in Heaven, the ones who go to Hell will be punished eternally.
Jesus didn’t want that. He still doesn’t want that. I know that without a doubt because, if He did, if He didn’t care, He wouldn’t have made a way for us to be with Him. When sin separated us from God, when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, God would have just wiped His hands of us. But He didn’t. Instead, He set in motion a plan to save us, to offer us redemption, to offer us a place with Him in Heaven. He offered to wash away our sins at His own expense, yet the very people He loves, the very people He died for reject Him every single day.
And then there are the King Agrippas of the world. “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28, KJV). They were so close, but they turned their backs on Him. They still turn their backs on Him. Because it’s not convenient. Because they think they have more time. Because they want to continue living the way they want. Because it’s not popular. Because a Christian hurt them. Because of a million excuses. And those excuses are the “would-a, should-a, could-a” they have to face when they’re in Hell.
So it’s no wonder Jesus wept. And we should, too.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on justjenniferpurcell.com
Featured Image by Priscilla Du Preez