John 11:35 “Jesus wept” – the Greek word means ‘to shed tears’ which is different than the word used earlier in chap 11 to describe Mary and Martha’s sobbing.
The context (verses before and after) is most important to understanding the meaning of a verse.
– Before He wept we see Jesus overcome by the grief of the people at Lazarus’s grave (read verses 33 thru 38). Notice how many expressions of compassion show up in these short verses. He cries out of compassion for those around Him who are living in a world shut in by physical death and sorrow.
– After Jesus wept we see Jesus trying to help those around Him see their need to believe in Him as their Savior (read verses 35 to 48). Notice how many times the word believe is used. He cries because we are so slow to believe that Jesus is who He said He is and that we are slow to give all to Him.
Did He cry because Lazarus had just died and He was expressing grief as we do for a loved one who has died? – probably not since He knew He was going to raise him up in a matter of moments.
Although not directly expressed in this context this emotional expression of Jesus can remind us of several important truths about Jesus and the Gospel (the good news of eternal salvation):
– a sign of His humanity – the crying of Jesus shows us His genuine humanity. As the Son of God He was in a sense not like us at all, but having come to live among us He took on our humanity to feel our pains and sorrows and though He never sinned He too felt the oppression of man’s wrongdoings and waywardness from God.
– a sign of His suffering – the crying of Jesus reminds us that in just a few weeks He would go willingly to the Cross to die in our place for our sin and its penalty. The tomb of Lazarus is a reminder of the cold ugliness of death, but we can weep for joy at the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He conquered it and we too can when we commit our lives to Him
– a sign of His pain – the crying of Jesus at the death of Lazarus reminds us of the terrible condition we are in both physically and spiritual. We have separated ourselves from God and in so doing have reaped horrific consequences. Christ came to free us from this. He cries for the pain we have brought on ourselves, for the pain of separation from our Holy Father unlikely the wonderful union He has with the Father.
– a sign of His joy – mixed with all these various emotions we can ponder the joy of Christ knowing that the Father sent Him to offer deliverance to us from just this very thing – death – not death from the grave, but a more powerful and insipid enemy – eternal separation from God. What joy we can experience here and now because in Christ we can have this deliverance He offers. What joy we can have by being restored with our Father. We have been estranged from Him for so long and now through Jesus we can be reunited to spiritual fellowship with the Triune God.
Why is this incident of Jesus weeping recorded for us in the Gospel of John?
So that we too might believe – “these things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing you might have LIFE through His name” (see John 20:31).
In the Biblical sense “believe” means not just to agree with intellectually, but to COMMIT, to TRUST, to REST in and to ENJOY.