What is the shortest verse in the Bible? “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Just two words. It may be a little longer in other translations: “Jesus began to cry” (NRSV) or “Jesus began to cry” (CEB). But the verse stands alone.
For good reason. These two words say a lot about our Savior.
Jesus was fully human. Crying is a way of sharing our humanity. We show our compassion and mercy.
Jesus had learned that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary was sick. Obviously, they wanted him to come to their brother’s bedside at Bethany. Jesus waits before leaving. By the time he gets there, Lazarus had been dead for four days. It’s too late.
The mourning of the sisters and of the others moved her to tears. “He cried.” He could feel what they felt. He was fully human.
Jesus was entirely divine. Both Martha and Mary were sure that if Jesus had arrived sooner, Lazarus would not have died. They believed in the healing powers of Jesus, that he was the son of God. This could be another reason for the tears of the Lord. He is touched by their faith.
Right from the start, Jesus sees the whole picture. He has the divine foresight to know what the outcome will be, saying, “This disease does not lead to death, but it is for the glory of God” (11:4).
Like God, Jesus knows the past, the present and the future.
Jesus wants us to believe. Even in a tragic moment like this – the presumed death of Lazarus – Jesus is looking for a lesson to share. He says Lazarus is sleeping. The disciples think that Jesus means that Lazarus is going to wake up. No, no, He tells them clearly.
“Lazarus is dead,” says Jesus. “Because of you, I rejoice that I was not there, that you might believe” (11:14-15).
When he greets Martha, Jesus offers a magnificent summary of her ministry. “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even if they die, will live, and all who live and believe in me will never die” (11:25-26). And she believes in it.
When he confronts Marie and the others, he is deeply moved. “Jesus wept.”
Jesus does miracles. Finally, Jesus goes to the tomb and orders them to roll away the stone. Martha, always practical, points out that the smell will be terrible. The body, after all, has been there for four days.
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God? Jesus responds. He is about to perform a miracle, but miracles are two-sided. You have to believe them to see them.
The rebirth, the tomb with the stone; it offers a prefiguration of the empty Easter tomb. Another reason for the tears of Jesus.
“Lazarus, get out! (11:43) He says in a loud voice, and sure enough, Lazarus comes out, his feet, hands, and face wrapped in cloth. “Loosen him, and let him go,” says Jesus (11:44).
Jesus defies our expectations. So, now and forever.