What Is The Meaning Of 'Jesus Wept'?


To the ancient Greeks, the main characteristic of God was apatheia, meaning to be devoid of feelings or emotions. They believed God was an apathetic, uncaring, and compassionless Being. However, that isn’t who God is. All over the Bible, we see God expressing emotions like joy, love, anger, and even grief. That is the God of the Bible, that is our God.

So when Jesus wept in John 11:35, He went on to show us that we don’t serve an apathetic God. He feels things and His emotions are valid in this particular Bible verse. What other lessons can we learn from Jesus’ tears?

What Does John 11:35 Say In The Bible?

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. It simply says, 

“Jesus wept.”

For context, let us look at the events that led up to his shedding of tears. The account of John 11 shows one of Jesus’ most amazing miracles towards the end of His ministry.

Jesus was close friends with the family of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. So when Lazarus fell ill, the sisters sent for Him, even saying “The one you love is sick ”. They understood that Jesus loved Lazarus a lot and called out for Him because they were certain He could do something about his illness, given His previous miracles.

When Jesus got the message, He said,

“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through.” 

And He stayed where He was for two more days. He then gathered His disciples and left for Judea where Lazarus was, despite being wanted by the Jews there. His disciples expected that He would heal Lazarus from afar like He usually did, but Jesus insisted on going, saying He was going to wake Lazarus up because he was ‘sleeping’.

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days and the people were in mourning. Martha came out to meet Jesus and told Him that if He were around, Lazarus wouldn’t have died, but she knew that God still gives Him whatever He asked, meaning she still believed in Jesus regardless of her grief. Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise again but she thought He meant on the last day. Then Jesus told her,

“I am the resurrection and the life He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

He asked to see the tomb and when He saw all those people mourning, He was troubled and moved to tears. He told them to roll away the stone. Martha tried to stop Jesus because of the stench of the body but Jesus insisted that she should believe in the power and glory of God. After they rolled it away, He lifted up His eyes to pray to God saying,

“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

He then cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”. And he came out, grave clothes and all. Jesus told them to loosen his bundles and let him go.

What Is The Meaning Of ‘Jesus Wept’?

It’s important to note that there’s a difference between the tears of Jesus and that of the people around. The word ‘wept’ in John 11:35 is different from the one used to express the weeping in John 11:33. The Jews believed that the more unrestrained the weeping, the more honor it paid to the dead.

But for Jesus, the word ‘wept’ doesn’t imply loud cries, wails, or the cries of mourning, but a calm shedding of tears. He was greatly moved but did not exactly mourn Lazarus.

Why Did Jesus Weep?

Many people ask this question because they can’t understand why Jesus would weep if He was going to raise Lazarus anyways. Well, Jesus had reasons to weep.

First of all, Jesus wept because of the suffering of the hearts around Him.

He was already conscious of the fact that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and bring glory to His Father, but the tears and grief of others moved Him to tears as well. He was a man full of compassion and sympathy for people. His nature is to be touched by the grief and suffering of others.

People also say that Jesus wept because Lazarus’ death reminded Him of the suffering and death He too was soon to undergo. You see, Jesus was almost at the end of His ministry at the time, so His death loomed ahead. He knew that just like Lazarus, He would live again all to God’s glory but also knew that it would be a hard route to take and He wept for it.

What Does This Mean For Christians Today?

Jesus is our High Priest and Hebrews 4:15 lets us know that we have One who is touched by our pain and understands what we go through. From this, and Jesus’ weeping, we can be sure of three things;

  • The Lord sees our tears.

God knows when we cry. He isn’t ignorant of our pains. He is El ROI, the God who sees us. This means He is there with us in our pain because He knows what it feels like. He sees us for what we truly are.

  • The Lord is touched by our tears.

God is not apathetic towards our plights. He knows how hard it is. He has lived through this earth. He cares.

  • The Lord is working to wipe our tears.

Just like He raised Lazarus and wiped the tears of those who mourned, He is also making moves to bring us out of our grief and sorrow and plant us in a place of joy and gladness.

In What Verses In The Bible Did Jesus Weep?

“Jesus wept.”

“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,”

“7. In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and He was heard because of his reverence.

8. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

9. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him”

Final Thoughts

Isaiah 53:5 speaks of Jesus as a man of sorrows, who is acquainted with grief; the son of suffering. Throughout His life on earth, Jesus wasn’t spared from the pain of loss, anxiety, fear, sorrow, and all other emotions that we pass through on earth, but He overcame all and we will too.

Jesus wept and died for us. That is why we can be assured that He understands our own tears and questions and He loves us through it all. We have a high priest seated beside God the Father, who sympathizes with our weaknesses and infirmities.