Q: “The shortest verse in the Bible is found in John 11:35, ‘Jesus wept.’ My question is why did He weep because He knew that Lazarus would be raised up from the grave?”
A: There are various opinions as to why Jesus wept. I can share some of them with you and you can draw your own conclusions. The first one was that in His humanity He sensed the great loss that Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, as well as the others were feeling at that time of his death. Granted, Jesus knew after Lazarus’ resurrection that there would be rejoicing, but Romans 12:15 tells us to weep with those who weep as well as rejoice with those who rejoice. Solomon stated there is a time for weeping and a time for celebrating (Ecclesiastes 3:4). We are told in Psalm 30:5 that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the mourning. It would have not been appropriate for Jesus to respond any other way at such a time. Even as believers who have confidence that we will see saved loved ones in the next world to come, there are still feelings of mourning and sorrow when they pass from this world to the next. We are emotional creatures who feel many things when we lose someone we love, and for this reason the Lord even set a time of mourning aside for national leaders such as Moses.
Jesus weeping could also have to do with identifying with humanity. Physical death is the product of the curse that came upon all mankind after Adam sinned in the garden. As man, Jesus experienced everything humanly speaking except committing sin (Hebrews 4:14-15). If Jesus could not genuinely enter in with man during his sorrow and loss, how could He serve as an effective High Priest?
Another possibility for Jesus weeping was the unbelief that was present. Martha knew Jesus could have healed her brother, but stopped short of realizing He could raise him as well. So many times, believers miss experiencing God’s blessing because of unbelief. Unbelief takes root whenever we distrust the Lord’s motives or limit His work. In Matthew 23:37-38, we see Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate.”
Clearly, Jesus was mourning the desolation that came upon Jerusalem, and would come, because of the people’s unbelief toward God and their rebellion towards His Law. Keep in mind, Jesus’ response was not only over the past judgment that had come upon this city, but it was prophetic. The City of Peace, Jerusalem, has been the most often sacked city. It has been besieged 47 times and completely brought to the ground 17 times. It seems that once every 75 years it has been encompassed by enemy armies and once every 200 years it has been left in ruins. Jesus was pointing out that the people could avoid such judgment if only they had been true to Yahweh and the Torah. We know that the event Jesus was making reference to in Matthew 23:38 happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem, the temple, and those who remained were taken into captivity and sent into servitude.
As you can see, there may be one or a combination of reasons why Jesus wept, but we know that He not only became identified with man, but that His heart could be broken over man’s plight. I am so thankful that I love and serve a Lord who understands my plight in every way possible and who became identified with me to the point that He can mourn, laugh, and cry with me.