It is one of those popular bible trivia questions and it goes like this: “What is the shortest verse in the bible?” The answer is then given: “John 11:35; Jesus wept.” What is rarely asked is, “Why did he weep?”
In the passage, Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus is sick back in Bethany (11:3). Jesus takes the opportunity to instruct the disciples that his sickness really had little to do with Lazarus but that of the glory of God and the glory of the Son of God. Jesus chooses to remain a couple more days so that Lazarus is good and dead (John 11:4).
After the two day delay (11:6), Jesus decides to go to Bethany and also instructs the disciples that Lazarus is dead (11:7-16). When he arrives, Jesus gets into a discussion with the sisters about why their brother died. As is always the case, the question “Where was God?” is implied in both Martha’s words (11:21) and Mary’s words (11:32). Sometimes believers may be tempted to think that God really doesn’t care about their circumstances. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
What happens next is remarkable. Jesus inquires where Lazarus was buried and when invited to go and see, he weeps. Jesus wept. The Son of God wept! Why? Because his beloved friend is dead? Absolutely not! He is about to raise him from the dead! He is about to see him in just a moment! He is about to reunite him to his sisters! So why does he weep? He weeps for something greater that the sleep of believers or even the physical death of a loved one. He weeps because of the ramification of sin. Sin brings death and Jesus came to bring victory over sin and death. Jesus knows all too well the wage of sin: it is death and alienation from God. He knows how ugly, deceptive, alluring, addictive, and costly sin really is. He knows it all and when he confronted it for what it really was, death, he wept. Yes, Jesus wept, but praise God a short time later he went to the cross to pay the penalty of sin and death so that all who believe are made right with God. Believers are forgiven their sins and declared righteous before God. I trust next time we all remember this wonderful message of grace for sin when we read, “Jesus wept.”