Quick, what’s the shortest verse in the Bible?
Answer: John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”
It’s one of those weird Christian trivia answers every believer knows. It’s kind of a funny joke you can throw into any overly theological conversation to lighten the mood:
Bob: “Yeah, but remember John 11:35?”
Paul: “What does ‘Jesus wept’ have to do with election?”
Bob: “Um…nothing. You wanna go get a cheeseburger?”
Jesus wept seems like a sidebar of sorts. It’s one minor detail into the larger story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Or is it?
So, as the story goes, Lazarus dies. Jesus, being God, knew Lazarus was going to die, but he waits around until it happens to go see Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, because God had a greater purpose in mind besides just healing Lazarus. The sisters, believing Jesus was the Messiah, are heartbroken Jesus wasn’t there sooner to keep Lazarus from dying. Both of them say to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” (Jn. 11:21, 32).
Have you ever said to God: “Lord, if you had been here then…my marriage wouldn’t have failed…my child wouldn’t have died…I would have been spared from the accident…I would have a mate…she wouldn’t have gotten cancer”? If and then, two words with tremendous gravity. In our lowest and most gut wrenching moments we cry out to God if and then. We knew God could fix it, but he didn’t. We knew he could have prevented something, but he didn’t. The knowledge of what could and should have been is enough to scrape the heart out of your chest while you’re still breathing.
Is it any encouragement to you that some of Jesus closest friends on earth asked the if and then question? It should be.
So what happens next?
Jesus saw the brokenness of Mary, Martha, and the other mourners and Jesus cried. Why? He knew he was about to raise Lazarus to life. What is there to cry about? He’s about to fix everything. Why weep?
Jesus cried in anger. He was indignant at the effect of sin, which is death. He cried because death is contrary to God’s design. Death is the result of sin in the world. Cancer, divorce, perversion, murder, theft, jealousy, hunger, and disease were not part of God’s design. Men aren’t supposed to die. Husbands aren’t supposed to beat their wives. Terrorists aren’t supposed to kill people. Doctors aren’t supposed to cut little babies up and sell them for money. Sin has corrupted and marred the good and perfect creation of the Almighty. The results of sin are an affront to the designs of a good, loving, and holy God.
So Jesus weeps. He weeps at the effects of sin upon his friends and the world. And Jesus weeps with you and I when our lives and the lives of those around us are broken due to the results of sin. Life isn’t supposed to be this way. This is why we cry out, “Why?” We know something is wrong, that things are not as they should be.
What is the response of the Jews when they see Jesus crying? They say, “See how he loved him,” (Jn. 11:36). Jesus loves the world. He hates how sin has disfigured the world. He hates how it has destroyed lives, families, and countries. He hates the ultimate result of sin, which is death. He is indignant that such a wrong, (death), has destroyed something which was so good, (creation/humanity).
Jesus loves you. He sees you and I, infected by sin, enslaved to its power and penalty, which is death. His love was motivation to enter the world as a man and die on a cross for the sins of man so they could escape the penalty of sin. To quote Mr. Charles Wesley, “He left his Father’s throne above, so free, so infinite his grace–Emptied himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race…Amazing love, how can it be, that thou, my God, should die for me“.
Jesus wept. Two short words with such mind blowing meaning when understood within the context of the story.
We don’t serve a Savior who is immune to our sorrow and pain, but one who has been deeply touched and hurt by it. We serve a Savior who is infinitely humane and weeps at the world he made which was broken. He is also infinitely divine and entered into the world to bring and end to death.
Jesus wept. Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose. Amen.