Reflections on John 11:17-44: The Reason Jesus Wept

This morning, I’m meditating on a familiar passage: John 11:17-44. The raising of Lazarus was one of the most spectacular signs Jesus did prior to his death. As I slowly look over what Jesus accomplished, one of my primary questions regards his emotional state. What was going on that made Jesus weep in this story? John doesn’t tell exactly why Jesus wept, but merely gives the context. We know from Isaiah, Jesus was a man of constant sorrows. (Is. 53:3). But I believe this is the only time a Gospel writer specifically mentions Jesus weeping.

A couple of thoughts come to mind as I chew on this story:

First, Jesus was not crying because he missed his friend Lazarus. He told the disciples before they left for Bethany, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I go to awaken him.” Jesus was aware Lazarus had passed away, but describes the event as good that he might manifest the glory of God.

Secondly, God’s glory does not hinge on the people’s knowledge and understanding. God’s glory exists regardless of the acceptance or rejection by people. Therefore, when Jesus did things for the sake of God’s glory, he was demonstrating glory that existed from before time began. God’s glory has not grown or developed through time. He has the same glory now as he had when their was nothing.

Also, Jesus came to reveal existent glory. Jesus never needed to win God glory or honor. From the earliest civilizations, men have done things to win themselves glory and honor. Their glory didn’t exist until they proved it. Not so with Almighty God. His glory is eternal, regardless of whether He demonstrates it or not. The Word of God gives us several different flavors of God’s glory. There are things about God we won’t know until heaven, but they remain true.

Which leads me to why I think Jesus’ wept. He wept because he saw the desperate ignorance in the people around him. Mary, Martha, and the other mourners were drawn away from the glory of God present with them. God’s glory, manifested in Jesus, was with them, yet they were blind to it. I believe Jesus wept because he realized some of his closest followers didn’t know him. He looked around and observed so many who knew so little about their Creator. Perhaps, Jesus desired his followers might have already known what was coming. Maybe Jesus wept because he looked around and saw that everyone would soon be shocked and surprised that he could raise the dead man. For Jesus, the ignorance of his followers was not bliss, for him or them.

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