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.