John 11:35 Commentary

Jesus Wept – John 11:35

We are discussing what is considered to be the shortest verse in the Bible. However, what you may not be aware of is that, while this is the shortest verse in English, it really isn’t the shortest verse in Greek. Now in Greek the verse is rendered, “edakrusen o ihsouV” (εδακρυσεν ο ιησους), or “Wept the Jesus” in a word for word translation. Instead,  I Thessalonians 5:16 can be considered the shortest because it only has two words in Greek: pantote cairete (παντοτε Χαιρετε) or always Be-Rejoicing (rejoice evermore in KJV). But this really isn’t relevant to the verse at hand (though you may have been looking for the shortest verse in the bible).

In context:

32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” 3 8Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 11:32-42

A Full depiction of the seen can be found in John 11.

Many people consider these verses to show the humanity of Jesus, and I agree that Jesus is human. However, I believe that this verse more clearly shows the sovereign nature of God and the fact that we humans usually ignore his divine will, and cannot understand the plan set before us. Jesus cries, yes this is a human action, however, the question then moves to “what is he crying about?” It is the answer to this question that shows Jesus as God on earth.

What is Jesus crying about? A superficial reading might suggest the answer “Oh Jesus is crying over the death of Lazarus.” But this cannot be so; this superficial reading is wrong because Jesus came to raise Lazarus. Jesus demonstrated the ability to heal the blind, dying, and sick. He could have easily healed Lazarus, had he only been there. Indeed Jesus notes this when he says “I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (Jn 11:15). It is only after the declaration of the death of Lazarus that he beings to travel to the house of his friend.

So Jesus is God, and a characteristic of God is that he is also omniscient (all-knowing) in addition to omnipotent (all powerful i.e. having the power to raise the dead). Therefore, Jesus came wit the full intention of raising the dead. Indeed this intention is noted in the latter part of  john 11:15 where Jesus notes that is future actions are done “so that you may believe.” Jesus’ divine nature is even partially recognized by some of the people present, however Mary, brother of Lazarus, does not fully recognize Jesus’ divine nature and that Jesus had the power to control death (though Martha did). The full extent of this ignorance is revealed when the bystanders comment “’See how he loved him!’ (Jn 11:36)” None of these people recognized Jesus as God like Martha did; none of these people realized that Jesus has the power to raise the dead ,and they assumed that Jesus was a man, a special man, but still a man without any power the control death (the power of which lies solely in the hands of God). They wrongly assumed that Jesus was crying over the death of Lazarus.

Jesus didn’t cry for Lazarus; His tears were shed for the people around him, for Mary, and those bystanders that did not believe. Jesus “was deeply moved” (Jn 11:38). In the King James version, this phrase is rendered as “groaned.” This is especially important to note, as in Greek the word is embrimwmenoV (εμβριμωμενος). This word carries the connotation of indignation and this indignation is directed to the people around him. The people around him had clearly seen or heard about miracles (as demonstrated by Mary’s actions) but they did not believe that Jesus was fully divine and able to raise the dead. These people have no faith. People today may ask for miracles, and hope that they can see some sort of divine action, but these actions are not the tools that convert people. These actions do not create faith, and if they happened today, people would still not believe , much as the people in Jesus’ time did not believe.

Jesus’ ability to cry still demonstrates that Jesus is human. He as able to feel emotions to a point where he cries. Jesus could experience all our emotion, and feel all the same temptations that we do. In every way, Jesus is fully human, a perfect human untouched by the ravages of sin. Jesus felt love and sorrow, sadness and joy, and even hate – though that hate was directed towards sin. All our emotions, all our temptations were felt by Jesus. Jesus’ sorrow is deeper than the death of a friend (though I’m sure he was saddened). Rather, it was sorrow for people who would not believe him in the face of unwavering evidence. Jesus has love for all humanity, an empathy towards people. Jesus does not wish for any among us to be lost to sin. However, even after the miracle, some people did not believe (and some plotted for his death).

We can apply this short passage to our lives. First, we can recognize that God knows exactly how we feel. he knows all our hopes and dreams, and he can understand them personally through Jesus Christ. He is not impersonal or uncaring and he wants to hear our problems from our own mouths. Let us not hide our emotions from God, and let us take him as a kind ruler, a friend, and a caring father. He is our help, our guidance and shield. Let us view him as such. Second, we can see that we need to have faith in God’s plan and recognize his divinity. It may be hard, but God has a plan for each and every one of us and we may not always comprehend his actions in our lives. Nonetheless, let us have faith in god’s divine will.


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