Having worked in youth ministry for many years, I often ask young people what their favorite Bible verse is. Many quickly seize on the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Perhaps it is the easiest one to remember! Well, for our Wednesday message for Holy Week, I’d like to discuss this verse, plus another example of the witness of His weeping.
John’s two-word account of Jesus weeping might seem a bit strange to those who know the context of the story in which it falls. It was the occasion of the death of Christ’s friend Lazarus. Jesus had received word that Lazarus was sick, yet He delayed two days before going to him. Jesus explained to His disciples that He planned to raise Lazarus from the dead in order to glorify the power of God. As He stood outside Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus knew that in mere moments He would raise His beloved friend from the dead.
And yet He wept. Why? I believe it was to show us just how much our Lord hates sin. It is sin that has brought on death and Jesus had come to atone for that sin . . . both with His sinless life and His sacrificial death on the cross. And yet, in spite of His perfect, eternal knowledge of His plan to redeem the world, Jesus wept, giving stark witness to just how much God is grieved by our sin.
Let’s look at another time when the Lord of glory was moved to tears:
As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)
As Jesus was approaching Jerusalem during His Passion week, He wept again. The compassion of the Creator of the universe is simply striking! The depth of His care and concern for fallen, sinful, broken people is overwhelming. Jesus weeps because He knows how sin has wrecked everything that was good. Nothing has been left untouched by the hideous blight of sin. Creation itself groans to be redeemed by our Lord and Savior (Romans 8:22).
The hearts of God’s people had grown cold, callused, and closed—resistant to the Good News of the Gospel Jesus was preaching. The Pharisees and religious leaders had become “blind guides” (Matthew 23:24) to the things of God. The apostle Paul explained it this way:
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Jesus wept—at least twice that we know of—as He surveyed the terrible mess we have made of His world. Why? Because Jesus has a heart that overflows with compassion for all people, including “blind guides” like you and me. That is what we all are before Jesus shows up and gives supernatural sight to the blind, raising us from death to life. Jesus is the One the prophet Isaiah spoke about who would come and “proclaim peace and salvation to Zion” (Isaiah 52:7). Do you know this peace? Have you received it by grace, through faith in the only One who can meet you in your place of deepest need?
The witness of the weeping of our Lord and Savior should be a source of great encouragement to you today. Jesus cares about you deeply. Jesus loves you intimately. Jesus forgives you continually. Remember, on His way into Jerusalem, He knew what awaited Him on the Hill Golgotha, yet He refused to stop one step short of going all the way to the cross for you and all those who transfer their trust to Him.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!