“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
It’s the shortest verse in the entirety of the Bible; yet, it is packed with a very powerful punch! Many have used this verse to teach how Jesus was human and how He grieved with Mary and Martha at the death of His friend. It’s been used to teach how much He loves us and does not want us to taste the sting of death. This day, I’m going to attempt to show, in its context, how these two words portray a completely different teaching than that. Yes, Jesus loves us. Yes, He grieved as a Man. What I am referring to is unbelief.
You see, this verse is bathed in Jesus being both frustrated and concerned with those closest to Him not believing all that He had been teaching them and showing them, namely that He is God. He knew that His time to go to the Cross was close and He remained vigilant and focused on the salvation of the souls of these very people.
This entire passage, He is following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, living this life as a Man, not using His Godliness to accomplish one single thing. He only knew, by choice, what was shared with Him by abiding with the Father through the Holy Spirit. By doing so, He qualified Himself to be our sacrifice. This must be understood to best understand what I am trying to show today.
He lived as a Man and His Purpose was revealed to Him somewhere earlier in His lifetime. I don’t know when that was, but when He knew Who He was, He believed it as a Man. The reason He was here was to save all mankind, and He couldn’t force anyone to believe.
They had to believe in Him and the Redemption Plan by choice, just as He did, just like we all do. The biggest obstacle to living this life according to God’s Will and trusting Him with all things is unbelief. Jesus spoke of it several times.
When He went home:
“And they were offended in Him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13:57-58
When the disciples couldn’t cast out a demon:
“Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief:” Matthew 17:19-20a
When He rose from the grave:
“Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.” Mark 16:14
Jesus was trying to teach them then, just as He is trying to teach us now, to rely upon God for all things and to believe that God is good and has our best in mind. After so many instances of those around Him doubting, not truly trusting in Him and what He said fully, still following in their flesh, He showed signs of frustration at their unbelief.
“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the Spirit, and was troubled,” John 11:33
He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled. Why was He troubled? Why is it that in teaching we skim over this part? He was troubled. He was bothered in His Spirit. He had just spoken to Martha about how He is the resurrection and the life, as though He expected Martha, who was always so busy, to not quite understand. But when Mary arrives and is weeping, grieving her brother Lazarus as though Jesus could do nothing, Jesus changes His countenance. Mary knew more than any other Who He was, and yet she did not believe He could overcome death. He was so frustrated with her unbelief and the unbelief of the Jews, that He groaned inwardly and wept. He would, however, move forward with the Will of the Father.
“And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto Him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.” John 11:34-35
Notice how they showed Him. They were still living in the flesh. They were not living a life of faith. Remember a certain Centurion?
“And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man , Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Matthew 8:5-10
Remember what Jesus said about His people beyond not having that great of faith?
“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:11-12
He said that many will become a part of the kingdom, but will be cast out. That is the ultimate price for unbelief. It’s that big a deal. We must believe what He says. We must believe that God is good and that He always has our best in mind. We must. It’s the hardest work we will do, but it is the most important.
When He miraculously fed thousands, they would follow Him and He told them all that they sought Him because they were fed and not to labor for the fish and bread, but for spiritual food, they would ask of Him:
“What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent.” John 6:28b-29
To believe is the work we must earnestly do. If we do not work at it, we fall into unbelief in our finances, our relationships, our marriages, our jobs, our health, and so on. When we do so, we end up trying to do these things, everything, in our own strength and in our own way. That is when we find ourselves in trouble. This is exactly what was most upsetting to Jesus. He knew what was at stake, and while He was there among them, they were in unbelief.
That would frustrate any man, and if it were over the most important thing to that man, it might drive him to tears. I’ve been there. Haven’t you? I have been so frustrated that, in holding back, it comes out in tears. I have groaned within and bitten my tongue, only to have it all overwhelm me and be released through tears.
Then, as if right on cue, because the Jews (at least most of them) wouldn’t believe in Him, they began to speak from the viewpoint of their flesh. They spoke what they knew.
“Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him! And some of them said, Could not this Man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” John 11:36-37
Without insulting your favorite pastor/teacher/preacher, I will briefly point out the correlation between what the Jews said about Jesus loving Lazarus and what is most commonly taught in our church. I am sure you can extrapolate the rest of it. Howbeit, see what they say next.
Couldn’t Jesus have stopped this death? How simple minded. How faithless. Why did not even one, not even Mary, have asked, “Cannot Jesus bring Lazarus back to life?” No, they did not exhibit that kind of faith. In fact, we saw that they did not exhibit that level of faith regarding Jesus with Lazarus at all. They sent a messenger to go tell Jesus about Lazarus being sick, quite unlike the Centurion who understood and believed that Jesus was Lord and could do things from afar. Mary and Martha, who were so much closer in relationship to Christ should have believed the same way. But they and the Jews around them just plain didn’t. So, Jesus groaned again.
“Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” John 11:38-40
So, even after Jesus just spoke to Martha and told her that Lazarus would be raised and reminded her of Who He was, Martha again questioned from what she knew and believed, her flesh. Then, Jesus, spoke to her again, and I can almost hear my own father’s tone of voice saying, “Didn’t I just tell you this?” He knew she was not alone and neither did anyone else believe that anything could be done. So, He prayed, knowing the Father was listening, but moreso knowing that as He prayed aloud, so was everyone around Him.
“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it , that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” John 11:41-42
He prayed aloud so that they would believe once Lazarus walked out of that tomb. Turns out, the Jews were actually right about that one thing when they said Jesus loved Lazarus, just not quite in the way they saw it. He did. He does. That was never in question. But, the love He had and has is so much greater than even they knew. He loved them all so much, that even in their unbelief and His resulting frustration with it, He worked to get them to believe. He did all He could to provide ample evidence and opportunity for them to accept the Truth. Many would believe that day, but still many would not. They would run tell the Pharisees. It was then, just as it is today.
If angels rejoice when a soul gets saved and written into the Lamb’s Book of Life, does Jesus still weep over our not completely trusting Him with our entire lives? He intercedes for us at this very hour at the right hand of the Father. The Bible says that in Heaven there will be no more tears. So, perhaps Jesus no longer weeps when our belief is weak and small. I do know this, though: at one point, because faith was lacking, Jesus wept.