Jesus wept (John 11:35).
John 11:35 is famous for being the shortest verse in the Bible, and yet its message is profound in its depth. Jesus’ weeping demonstrates His emotion and relationship with humans.
The issue of God and “impassibility” has been one of the matters of dispute in theology for generations. Does God have emotions, and is He swayed by them? Many throughout time have argued that God is beyond emotion and is not emotionally impacted by other agents or causes in an attempt to raise God above the emotional fray.
Yet we humans are created in the image of God, and we do have emotions (Genesis 1:27). While we cannot imagine that God experiences emotions in the exact same way we do, the Bible is too full of discussions about God’s emotions for God to have none whatsoever. God was sorrowful when He saw the sin of men (Genesis 6:6). God demonstrates His love and mercy toward us through Christ (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 3:3-8). These are strong reasons to affirm that God does have emotion.
Jesus’ weeping is a powerful demonstration of the emotions of the God-man. Is Jesus weeping because Lazarus died? Is He weeping because of the grief and pain of Mary and Martha? Or is He weeping because sin and death lead to such results? John 11:33, 36 indicate that the first two are certainly legitimate reasons, and the third may also be true. But does Jesus not know that He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, and turn grief to joy (cf. John 11:4, 9-10, 24-26, 38-44)? Of course He does. But that moment has not yet come. At this very moment, those whom Jesus love are suffering and grieving, and their suffering and grief are real and based in a real problem. Jesus proves willing to weep with those who weep.
Truly, here, Jesus the God-man sympathizes with human weakness (cf. Hebrews 4:15). His great love and compassion leads Him to share in the sufferings of His fellow man, even though He is able to overcome them. He is not so unreachable or too important or mighty to shed tears with those who are in misery.
As Jesus does consistently, He leaves us an example to follow (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6). Many people are afraid to open up and love others because of the risk and exposure. Love, at times, does hurt. If at no other point, love hurts when we lose the one we love in death. We think that if we close ourselves off we “free” ourselves from experiencing pain.
Yet, as we see, Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, and was willing also to suffer pain with them. He was willing to take the risk and to suffer the pain in loving them, just as He suffered the ultimate pain and misery of death on the cross because of His love for all of us (cf. John 3:16). Since God is love (1 John 4:8), and we ought to be like God (Matthew 5:48), we would do well to open ourselves up to the risk of love and its consequences, just as God was willing to do so.
God is not so distant that He cannot sympathize with us throughout our difficulties. We can have confidence that God has feeling, and has demonstrated His goodwill toward us through the offering of His Son. His Son, in life and in dying, loved, and experienced the pain that can come with love. Let us love as Jesus loved, weep with those who weep, and strive to be more like God!
Ethan R. Longhenry