Believe it or not, the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus Wept” (John 11:35), is highly debated as to what it means. What’s debated is not that Jesus cried, but why He cried. The scene is set at Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus’ friend had been dead for four days (John 11:17). When Jesus approached the grieving family, they were a little disturbed that He didn’t come sooner in order to save Lazarus from death (11:21, 33). When Jesus arrived, and saw everyone weeping, John tells us, “He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (11:33). Then our Lord wept.

But, why did He weep? Scholars and theologians don’t agree. Some say Jesus wept because of death in general. He was weeping because death, disease and suffering were never meant to be a part of God’s good creation. Therefore, Jesus was lamenting the effects of sin and the havoc it’s wreaked among God’s people. Others say, however, that Jesus wasn’t upset about sin’s effect necessarily but because of the people’s unbelief. When He came to the place where everyone was grieving, Jesus was also grieved because they didn’t believe He could remedy the problem.

I don’t think either one of these interpretations properly explains why Jesus wept. First of all, Jesus came across the effects of sin all the time. This was certainly not the first time He was confronted with death, disease and suffering. Therefore, I don’t think we can say that He was crying because of this broken world. I also don’t believe Jesus was grieved due to unbelief. This too is something the Son of God encountered every day. To think He’d cry now because of unbelief is a little hard to believe.

I believe Jesus wept because He saw His loved ones in pain. Lazarus and his family were close to Jesus. He loved them dearly. When He saw them weeping, He was moved to tears because He loved them. Even though He knew that He was getting ready to raise Lazarus from the grave, it still agonized Jesus to see them so upset.

I believe this is the correct interpretation of this text because of the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but I also experienced a similar situation recently when I buried my wife’s grandmother, Ruth Braden. Like Jesus, I care a great deal for this family. During the funeral service, we conducted a rose ceremony. Ruth’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren all carried a rose and placed it in Ruth’s casket. I don’t think any of them had a dry eye. As they performed this honor, I stood above the casket overseeing the ceremony, and it took everything in me not show my tears. I was moved to compassion and heartache when I saw their pain. Just as Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise again, I too know that the family will see Ruth again, but, like our Savior, it was still painful to witness their anguish.

This all points to the reality of what a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus Christ. He’s not indifferent to our pain. He understands our heartache. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).