The shortest verse in our English translations of the New Testament contains only two words: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). The Messiah’s sorrow comes in response to the death of his friend Lazarus, whom he will soon raise from the dead (11:38-44). It is common for Christians to compartmentalize this show of emotion into Jesus’ “human nature” because weeping is associated with vulnerability—a character trait that they assume couldn’t possibility apply to the Divine. However, Gospel readers should not be too quick to limit outward sorrow to Jesus’ humanity, since Scripture contains more than one instance of God shedding tears.

Jeremiah contains the clearest reference to divine weeping when God cries alongside the women of Israel: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider, and call for the mourning women to come… let them make haste and raise a wailing over us, that our eyes (עינינו; eyneynu) may run down with tears (דמעה; dim’ah) and our eyelids overflow with water’” (Jer 9:17-18). This passage highlights God as the speaker and includes the deity among those who weep over Israel’s coming exile. In light of Jeremiah, it is clear that to weep is both human and divine.

A similar picture of heavenly mourning appears in Isaiah. In the midst of an oracle against Moab (15:1), the text includes a lament for the towns of Israel’s contentious neighboring country, “I weep (בכה; bakhah) with the weeping of Yazer for the vine of Sibmah; I drench you with my tears (דמעה; dim’ah)… my innermost parts moan (המה; hamah) like a lyre for Moab” (16:9, 11). While one might assume that these verses describe the prophet’s own sorrow, the text that follows explicates that these were the words of God. Isaiah declares, “This is the word that the Lord spoke concerning Moab in the past” (16:13). As with Jeremiah, Isaiah presents the embodied outpouring of divine distress. According to the prophetic Scriptures, the God of Israel weeps. Therefore, when we read that “Jesus wept,” we must conclude that such emotion reflects both his humanity and his divinity.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Beautifully said. Thank you. It seems man always tries to separate God and His Son. It happens, I think, when man completely separates the Hebrew Scripture from the New Testament and yet we know they are one in purpose.

  2. Thanks for this! This story has intrigued me, because He knew He would be illustrating what none of them were getting – eternal dimension, & resurrection. He wept as as the sacrificial Lamb – his own cup; and the broader vision of comprehension they would need in the future.

  3. Beautiful explanation. Thank you. I had often felt it was human and divine but had no basis to make that assumption. You have blessed me with this understanding.

  4. the depth of sorrow, I wept. I understand from the very bottom of me where that came from. the emptiness of nothing. a void that should have been filled with love and care, I wept not at a given time or place only when devoid of all.. I wept.

  5. One of my favourite verses in Scripture is Isaiah 63:9 “in all their distresses he too was distressed” it fits in with your helpful explanation. Thank you so much.

  6. Jesus wept over his friend which is one more manifestation of his mission, to experience all the pain and sorrow that mankind would experience, so that his atonement, and our redemption would be complete.

  7. It is clear Jesus wept in His whole person, but the deeper question is why did He weep? It cannot be for the death of His friend for He raised to new life. It must have been His sorrow for the failure of the people to realise His purpose

  8. He knew days before that Lazarus was dead..the Pharisees assume he wept because He loved His friend..there must be more depth here..perhaps it is His conversation with Mary and Martha that brings Him to tears..because they “do not believe”..that He is the resurrection and the life???

  9. Wow, beautifully said! Weeping is not a sign of our distinction from Hashem but is a sign of our similarity to Him as His created beings that are made in His likeness and image. We weep, simply because He weeps. We mirror Him. Not the other way around.

    • Similarly, we as humans, have the ability to love because Hashem is love. We have the ability to demonstrate/show/exemplify mercy and compassion because Hashem is full of mercy and compassion. We, as humanity, are the imperfect reflection of Hashem. Yeshua, as the Last Adam, was the perfect reflection of Hashem.

    • We cannot adequately compare and contrast the exact differences between the functions of the human body with the functions of the divine and heavenly bodies, as no man has seen Hashem or has been close enough to a heavenly body to know the distinct differences between their functions…

      • (e.g. eyes filling up with tears as an outward demonstration of weeping). But we know through scripture that we, as humans, are made in Hashem’s image and that our ability to elicit emotion is a part of our created nature as human beings who are made in His image…

        • Any outward demonstration of a pure and good emotion is a reflection of the nature of Hashem (although it is imperfect). This emotion was perfectly exemplified by Yeshua, who was the perfect human reflection of the perfectly divine Hashem.

          • As Yeshua is the perfect human reflection of Hashem, those of us who were foreknown by Hashem and predestined by Him, will join Yeshua in also becoming perfect reflections of Him through being conformed into the image of His Son so that Yeshua might be the Firstborn among many brethren.

          • Sharing in that perfect image with Yeshua that He might become the Firstborn among many bretheren (Romans 8:29); of brethren who are regenerated by a second birth from above [ánōthen] (John 3:3).

  10. I have always felt that as stated above was the reason that Jesus wept. But could it also be that he was raising him to go through the persecution that was soon to hit Israel. After all He would be in the Father’s care? Just a thought.

  11. Therefore, when we read that “Jesus wept,” we must conclude that such emotion reflects both his humanity and his divinity.

  12. The two words God and Lord are used interchangeably.do the mean the same thing or are they different?. What is the difference between God,the creator of heaven and earth and YHWY/JEHOVAH.

    • “The Lord” is the English translation for God’s personal name — i.e., the Tetragrammaton. “God” (elohim) constitutes the Lord’s job description; think of “God” as kind of like calling a superior “Boss.”

  13. Dr Nicholas, please help me here, I read somewhere that the word “Elohim” is plural as to mean “Gods”. In one of the SAfrican languages, you pluralise when you respect, i.e you wouldn’t say mother but mothers while you talking about one mother, is this maybe something like that?

    • Thanks for your question, Kolitsoe. Elohim is, indeed, plural; it can mean both “God” and “gods.” When it refers to the one God of Israel, its plural form may well reflect the notion of the “divine plural” or plural of respect.

  14. What I find most amazingly, is that, after weeping and being deeply moved in Spirit, by verse 43 He is calling out to him, ”Lazarus, come out!” and as we know, verse 44 explains he came out with his hands and feet bound in strips of linen, and his face wrapped in a headcloth. It begs the question, why would Jesus weep and then raise Lazarus? Why not just cut to the chase and do it? There is a deep connection with miracles and compassion of love in the Spirit. As He thanked the Father in total belief that the Father always hears Him, before raising Lazarus. Amen!

  15. Apparently its only the shortest verse in English? In Greek, there’s one shorter (can’t remember which one though)…Love the article though Dr Nicholas! Some great thoughts on the topic 🙂

  16. Apparently John 11:35 is 16 letters in Greek. 1 Thess 5:17 (rejoice always) is only 14 letters in Greek! Nothing like pedantic semantics 😂😂

    Thanks again for your emails by the way! I’m spending some time re-reading them and your references today! Grace and peace to you

    • That’s some good detective work, Shaun 🙂 Thanks for your continued interaction with our articles and for your attention to detail! I’m happy to dialogue with you — you’ve clearly got the study bug, which is a great trait to have when it comes to understanding Scripture.

  17. HE wept divinly aswell as humanly, although HE knew what HE was to do but still felt their pain, and also dissapointed that they did not have enough faith that even if HE was not in time, that HE would raise him, or because of so many others that are lost.
    I knew one thing is that HASHEM is still crying, because while I am a SPIRIT filled child, I can feel HIS pain everytime we speak to, or speak off, or speak with lost souls. People don’t seek HIM anymore, and don’t worry by living up to what HE is expecting from us. Altough HE is long suffering and abundantly gracious, people take that for granted and live as if their is no GOD. I can understand Jeremia’s pain, it hurts

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