The shortest verse in the English Bible is John 11:35- “Jesus wept.” (although it is not the shortest verse in the Bible, at least in the original Greek of the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 is- “Rejoice evermore.”) But while the verse may be short in length, it is long in meaning. What were the circumstances that caused Jesus to weep?
In order to answer this question, it may be helpful to take a look at an Old Testament character whose life paralleled that of Jesus in many respects. His name is Joseph, the son of Jacob. The parallels are significant. Joseph had a unique relationship to his father (Gen. 37:3), as Jesus was the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). Joseph was rejected by his brethren (Gen. 37:5, 23), as was Jesus (John 1:11). Joseph suffered for a crime he did not commit (Gen. 39:11-20). Jesus, in whom there was no sin (2 Cor. 5:21), bore all of mankind’s sins on the cross of Calvary (1 Peter 2:24). Lastly, one day, the nation of Israel will recognize Jesus as their Messiah (Zech. 12:10) and be restored as a nation. In order for that to occur, Israel will endure a time of tribulation (Matthew 24). Joseph’s brothers also suffered through a time of great drought that caused a famine in the land, which eventually led to their restoration with Joseph.
It is during that process of restoration that we find that Joseph also wept. Genesis 43:27-30 reads, “And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive? And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance. And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son. And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.”
So why did Joseph weep? 3 things took place in this passage that stirred the emotions of Joseph. First, in a couple of verses before the passage cited above, the brothers began dealing truthfully about life. They had recognized their sin and repentance was beginning to come to pass. Second, God had just fulfilled a promise that He made to Joseph in a dream over 20 years earlier. In the dream, Joseph saw his family bowing to him (Genesis 37:5-11) and now his brothers were doing just that. Finally, he was about to reveal his identity to his brothers and be gracious to them in forgiving them and restoring their relationship. These are all things that Joseph could not accomplish in his own power or ability- it was something that only God could do. I suggest that Joseph’s tears were tears of joy on account of the sovereign workings of God in the lives of his brethren.
Jesus, in John 11, was dealing with similar circumstances. His friend, Lazarus, had died. Death’s ultimate cause is sin. Had sin not come into the world on account of Adam and Eve, neither would have death. But both Martha and Mary had recognized that Jesus was the answer to the problem of sin (John 11:32). A prophecy, which was given to Martha, was about to be fulfilled; her brother would rise from the dead and Jesus would reveal Himself so that all could see the glory of God in Him. Could it be that when Jesus wept, He too, wept tears of joy in what God was sovereignly doing in the lives of those there?
God is still sovereignly working in the lives of His people today. As we see His hand moving to accomplish His will, might our emotions be stirred that it will bring tears of joy to our eyes.