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Jesus wept

It is known as the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Actually, in many Bible translations, two other verses are just as short, containing only two words: 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray continually.”

Jesus wept—more than one time. On Palm Sunday, the Lord viewed the city of Jerusalem and “wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Jesus had just received a king’s welcome into the city, but he knew how widespread the people’s rejection of him was. That rejection pained him.

Then there is Hebrews 5:7: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears.”

Author James Pope
Rev. James Pope, executive editor of Forward in Christ

There were more tears on Jesus’ part, but these were mingled with his prayers.

John chapter 11 presents the account of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha in Bethany after their brother, Lazarus, died. When Jesus met the sisters, they expressed faith in him as their Savior. But in addition to confessions of faith, grief also filled the air. And it was for that reason that Jesus wept.

Jesus did not weep because he was feeling sorry for Lazarus. Jesus wept because he observed how Lazarus’ death was affecting people. Death is the great intruder into God’s perfect world and a cause of sorrow. “When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33). Jesus’ reaction to the people’s grief came in the form of sympathetic tears. Our Savior is mighty and majestic, but the God-man is not aloof. He is empathetic (Hebrews 4:15). His tears illustrate that.

Today, it is no different than it was in Bethany. There is sorrow at a Christian funeral when survivors look at their lives and consider how death has brought about a temporary separation from their loved one. But Christian faith produces joy when survivors remember how death has resulted in eternal gain for their loved one.

The season of Lent has death as its destination. Alex Groth’s devotion describes events that took place the evening before the Lord’s death. And that death was one that was filled with unimaginable agony and indescribable horrors.

So how are we to look upon Lent? Is it a time to feel sorry for Jesus as he heads to Calvary? Are the special worship services and mournful hymns designed to elicit sympathy for Jesus? Not at all. The Lord was not a victim trapped in unfortunate circumstances. He did not resign himself to suffering a painful and humiliating death. The cross was his desire.

Consider what Scripture teaches. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:11,17,18).

The cross was not only Jesus’ desire but also his delight. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus found joy in seeing that his death on the cross would bring salvation to sinners.

So, don’t weep for Jesus as Lent leads us to Calvary once again. Tears for other reasons, though, can certainly be appropriate. A Lenten hymn demonstrates that. “Savior, when in dust to you low we bow in homage due, when, repentant, to the skies scarce we lift our weeping eyes” (Christian Worship 393:1). “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sometimes tears are part of that godly sorrow.

It’s a loving Savior, a Savior who himself shed tears, who dries the tears of his followers with the message of sins forgiven.

Author: James Pope
Volume 111, Number 3
Issue: March 2024

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This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series before-you-go

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