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Practical Theology | Jesus Wept

  • June 2021 Issue
Practical Theology

"More than anything else, Jesus’ tears remind us that He is a faithful High Priest who can sympathize with our sorrows as well as our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15)."

If you want to begin memorizing Scripture, an excellent place to start might be John 11:35 which is one of the shortest verses in the Bible. It simply says, “Jesus wept.” Why did Jesus shed tears at the tomb of Lazarus? Did Mary’s grief move Him? Did He consider her assertion that things would have been different if Jesus had been there to be a criticism or a confession of faith? Maybe He was troubled by the wailing crowd that had followed Mary to the tomb.

Although we cannot know what lay behind the tears of Christ, we do know that they were genuine. Some in the crowd saw them as proof of Jesus’ love for His friend Lazarus (v. 36). Others viewed Jesus’ tears as a reason to criticize. “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” they complained (v. 37).

Jesus’ tears are proof of both the humanity and the compassion of Christ. On the one hand, they are proof that even though He was God, divinity was united with true human nature in the one person of Christ. Jesus was not half God and half-human. As the Nicene Creed confesses, Jesus was “very God of very God,” a phrase that does not mean that Jesus was like God but that He was truly divine. Jesus was also truly human. His divinity did not detract from His humanity, and His humanity did not nullify His divinity.

More than anything else, Jesus’ tears remind us that He is a faithful High Priest who can sympathize with our sorrows as well as our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). The accusation of the crowd shows how they misread Jesus. They saw His tears as evidence of powerlessness. Jesus would go on to prove them wrong, not only by raising Lazarus but by rising Himself. Jesus’ sorrow was grief born of compassion, not helplessness. The one who weeps is also mighty to save.

For Further Study

To learn more, read The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ by Bruce Ware (Crossway).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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