Why did Jesus weep?

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The shortest verse in the Bible is simple: Jesus wept. Many people know this little piece of Bible trivia but often fail to grasp the context and the deeper meaning of these two simple words. The setting for these words makes clear the reality of personal pain. These words flow following the death of Lazarus and Jesus seeks to comfort his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Why did Jesus weep?

Jesus felt the personal pain of Mary and Martha

Jesus comes to the home of Mary and Martha following the death of their brother Lazarus. It is important to note that at the beginning of John chapter 11, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick.

The sisters sent word to summon Jesus to come to heal Lazarus. Jesus waits four days before He begins His journey to Bethany. He will arrive too late to save Lazarus. The sisters find the late arrival of Jesus unsettling.

Both will speak from of broken hearts, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, 32) The fact that both sisters make the same statement reveals their failure to understand why Jesus did not come to save Lazarus and their own pain.

Jesus sought to comfort Mary and Martha

Jesus came to raise Lazarus from the dead. His arrival was not too late but rather He meant to reveal something greater about the power of God. The problem is that Mary and Martha did not realize this and they had lost hope. The sisters felt that Jesus had not answered their most desperate prayer. Their hearts were not just broken, they were shattered. Jesus seeks immediately to begin bringing the pieces of their shattered hearts back together.

Jesus was Himself brokenhearted

More than just the character of Jesus or the sympathy He felt for Mary and Martha that day, Jesus was in emotional pain. Jesus was brokenhearted over the reality of loss. The crowds see Jesus weeping and they see the profound nature of His love for Lazarus. The heart of Jesus broke over the anguish and sorrow that death brings.

Why does it matter?

Make no mistake this story is included in the Gospel of John to communicate something unique about the character of Christ. It is here to reveal a glimpse of God’s heart for humanity. These words are included in the Biblical text because they matter.

Jesus understands the depth of human pain

One of the most striking realities of Jesus is that He is both fully God and fully human in the same person. Jesus is the ultimate synthesis of the immortal and the mortal, the divine and the human, the eternal and the earthly. While this is often difficult to grasp, these words are an excellent example of the human side of the character of Christ. Jesus does not merely look into our lives from some distant place but rather is up close and personal. He has seen and experienced the reality of the deepest of human pains.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Jesus felt the pain of Mary and Martha that day in Bethany, but He also felt His own personal loss. Lazarus was a dear friend and they had a close relationship. The fact that Lazarus died was part of the overall plan of God but that did not mean that there was no pain in the process.

Jesus not only understands our pain, He feels it with Jesus wept with Mary and Martha that day because He shared their pain and heartache. When we feel pain and heartbreak; so does Jesus. There is not some emotional rift or distance that separates us from the heart of God. Instead, Jesus came to earth, encountered the reality of human pain and experienced a broken heart. Jesus came so that we might be able to catch a glimpse of the heart of God in human form.

There is no pain that we will ever experience that Jesus has not either encountered or experienced. This truth helps us to find comfort in the person and presence of Jesus. There will never be a time that we will be beyond His compassion and care.

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