The shortest verse in Scripture, encompassing the full humanity of the Christ. Wept, in the original Greek, is rendered dakruō, [δακρύω] meaning “to shed tears.” It is neither a silent cry, nor a dramatic wailing. It is visible, possibly audible. It is a very human reaction to a poignant situation.
Which then begs the question, why was the Messiah weeping?
In the verses preceding, we learn that Jesus received word that His good friend, Lazarus, was ill, possibly dying. Scripture tells us that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus;” Martha and Mary being Lazarus’ sisters [John 11:5]. Jesus stays where He was for two more days before departing to see Lazarus. Following conversations with the disciples, “on His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days” [v. 17]. Christ has conversations with both Martha and Mary before Scripture tells us that when Jesus “saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” [v. 33]. Then Christ asks, “where have you laid him?
‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied” [v.34].
In the very next verse we find the heartrending words, “Jesus wept;” followed immediately by, the “Jews [saying], ‘See how He loved him!’” [v. 36].
It bears mentioning that Jesus, being fully God, is omnipotent. He responded to this news of Lazarus’ illness by saying, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” [v. 4]. On the way to Lazarus’ side, Jesus tells the disciples, “Our friend, Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” [v. 11]. Yet the disciples misunderstand, assuming that Jesus literally means a state of sleep as opposed to death; so Christ clarifies in verses 14-15: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.” He even assures Martha, upon meeting her, that “Your brother will rise again” [v. 23]. Armed with knowledge incomprehensible to our mortal minds, and assurance of the outcome of the entire situation, Jesus weeps when He is taken to the tomb of His friend, “the one [He] love[s]” [v. 3].
Why? Could His tears have been triggered by the sadness of those surrounding Him as He accompanies His friends to the tomb of their brother? Certainly. Could He be exhausted from travel, frustrated with the limited belief of those around Him, even keenly and supernaturally aware of the plot to kill Him brewing amongst the Pharisees? Possibly. Or was Jesus overcome by the death of His friend? Did He feel loss, as we do? Did He miss Lazarus; think of the joyful times they shared; wish that He hadn’t had to wait, to inflict sorrow upon those He loved, to help them believe in Him? I can not, with any authority, say for certain. Every time I try to ascribe a reason for the Messiah’s tears, I look again, only to find a new potentiality. Scripture, so far as I am aware, does not reveal the complete explanation behind Christ’s tears.
What I do know in examining this passage is this:
1. Jesus had friends, for whom He cared a great deal; to the extent that their pain caused Him pain
2. Jesus knows what it is like to loose someone you love
3. Jesus is the only true and lasting comfort.
..and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6 [part]
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.