John 11:35 - "Jesus wept"
This is perhaps the oddest passage of scripture you will find in the New Testament. There may be other passages that confuse you or that you do not fully understand, but this certainly could be the oddest.
I do not mean to be irreverent with this label. I am confident that when you hear my whole case, you will agree that I have not been. I merely want to emphasize the disparity of thought created by these two simple words when considering whom it was that was weeping. These were the tears of God.
As it is now, it was then; Jesus is God. In him and by him were all things created. All things are known to him and all things are subject unto his will. That he could weep is unsettling, almost suggesting that maybe everything was not under his control. I mean after all, God doesn't cry. He is in charge. If he doesn't like something, he can change it. And yet, it is not in dispute. He wept.
Therein is the disparity. He wept, but he had no apparent reason to weep. Though he was in man's flesh, he was very God. He knew that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and remedy the situation. That precluded his feeling grief or sadness over Lazarus' death. The occasion should have been a joyous one from his perspective. And yet, he wept.
Even a mind governed by faith cannot pass by this text without asking a few questions? Why was Jesus so upset? Why did he weep? What does it take to make God cry? For those answers, we must back up a few moments before verse 35 to see things from Jesus' eyes, to feel what he was feeling. We must view that moment from God's perspective, and not our own.
Previously, in the preceding verses of John chapter 11, we are told of Jesus receiving word of the passing of Lazarus and of Jesus' eventual entry into Bethany. You may read this in detail at your leisure, but essentially it tells us that when Jesus arrived at Bethany there were many weeping Jews in the house, including Mary, who alone came out to meet the Lord at his arrival.
When he observed the scene of grief and weeping, we are told that "he groaned in the spirit and was troubled". He and Mary exchanged a few words and then of course, it tells us that the Lord himself wept.
Some have erroneously supposed that Jesus wept because, like so many others before him, he really was nothing more than a self-proclaimed, powerless prophet. Others claim that maybe he was a true prophet, but when faced with a challenge that required divine intervention, he was not able to enlist God's help and was reduced to tears of frustration.
Those in this camp of thought quantify their fraudulent charge by alleging that when Lazarus was raised, it was not a raising at all, but rather an awakening. Although there is no historical evidence or record to support their view, they suppose that Lazarus suffered from a medical condition that made him appear to be dead and awoke at just the right time to make Jesus look good.
This idea that Jesus was either a fraud or opportunist is not only pure, unsupportable nonsense, it is scripturally foul. Ideas like these emanate from the hearts of unregenerate souls who neither seek nor care to know spiritual truth. To the truth-seeking heart, to the honest mind, there can be no doubt but that Jesus was and is everything he claimed to be. He is indeed the Son of God and the only salvation for mankind.
Still, Jesus wept, and I think it is important that we try to understand why. This was a very profound event. Later, at Gethsemene, he would drop tears of blood, but this was understandable. He was taking the sins of the world upon himself, when he himself was innocent of sin. He was submitting to the Father.
Here at Bethany, the situation was not the same. Jesus had complete control. He knew he was going to raise Lazarus in just a few moments. Earlier, on the road to Bethany, he had even acknowledged this when he told the disciples "I go that I may awake him out of sleep" (verse 11). There simply was no reason for heaviness of heart. Or was there?
Too often, when we hold God on the high pedestal that he so richly deserves, we somehow forget that one of his characteristics is love. Jesus, as the God-man, was the epitome of compassion. It is no stretch of the imagination to think that all that was going on caused him deep, personal grief.
Consider that he had just spent several days traveling with disciples who had largely expressed a lack of faith and whose mood was, at best, somber. Then, as he moved into the burial area, he was overwhelmed by the prevailing air of grief. As he moved among the people, he saw their sorrow, he saw their defeat, their weeping fell upon his ears and he was deeply troubled by it.
The only breath of encouragement that found its way to the Lord was that of Martha, one of the sisters of Lazarus. As he came near to the city, she came out to meet him and greeted him with her now well-known, persevering faith. But even her faith was framed in grief and sorrow.
Again, Jesus knew he was about to raise Lazarus. He knew that in a few moments there would be great joy and that the sorrow of the moment would be gone and forgotten. He knew that he would turn their tears to smiles and their heartache to praise. Soon all would be well…for them.
But for Jesus, there was more than that going on in his heart. As he surveyed the scene of mourning due to the passing of Lazarus, he was thinking about the cause rather than the effect of death. Jesus was looking beyond the obvious, beyond the weeping crowd and mourners and lamenting how much evil sin had brought to his creation.
For just a brief moment, he thought back on man's history. He remembered the very moment when Adam chose to sin and how Adam's disobedience had broken his heart. He remembered when Cain rose up in jealousy and anger against his brother and how Abel's blood cried out to him from the ground.
He recalled the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and how Abraham could not find even ten righteous people in the whole of the city. He thought of all the evil and wickedness that had taken root among those he had made in his own image, of the ravages of sin on his perfect creation, and he groaned in his spirit and was troubled.
As he thought back on man's infamous history, he also looked forward to the cross and the price he would have to pay for sin even though he had never sinned himself. Surrounded by the unbelief of his closest followers and immersed in this scene of sorrow, no doubt the burden was great as he considered all these things and moved among the mourners.
He saw their pain, he felt their sorrow, and their weeping stirred his heart. The sting of death, brought upon man because of sin, was doing its evil work. He saw the pain, he saw the misery, he saw the wages of sin being paid out and the heart of God was broken for the people he had created. And my friend, Jesus wept!
His heart was broken for his creation and our sin brought Almighty God to tears. In retrospect, I suppose this verse is really not that odd after all.
The author is a Baptist Preacher and Bible Teacher. His most popular book, "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates" helps those grieving the loss of a pet from a Biblical perspective. Visit at www.coldnosesbook.com for more info, tips and gifts or write to Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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