The shortest verse in the English Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” While there isn’t much content, there is a ton of application in those two short words. It is one of the verses in Scripture that gives us a glimpse into the mind of God. It guides us and it shows us who He truly is.
I want to warn you. To know God and His thoughts is a tedious task. It requires a diligent study and a humble approach. It requires time and contemplation. It requires a person say, “some things are unknowable.” Thankfully, it also allows you to see for yourself some things that are just plainly obvious.
For years, I’ve read John 11:35 and asked the question, “what does it mean?” I’m not sure I’ve fully come to terms with it, but events this week have forced me to appreciate it even more. For those of you who don’t know, my Father passed away unexpectantly last week. He suffered a massive heart attack in the middle of the night. While I am sad, shocked, and a bit numb, I am comforted by knowing he was a faithful man devoted to God, the Church, and his family. Yesterday, I spoke at his funeral and was compelled to repeat something I often say at funerals. It goes something like this:
Have you considered John 11:35 today? Not only is it the shortest verse in the Bible, it’s one the most poignant. It gives us insight into how God feels. Most of us know the circumstances. Lazarus, a man Jesus loved, (see Jn 11:5) had died and Jesus, alongside His disciples, have journeyed to Bethany to comfort the family. The text says in 11:33-34:
Therefore, when Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
At the moment Jesus saw those who gathered at the grave of Lazarus and their grief, He wept. He cried with them, because of them, and for them. In that reaction, I’m obliged to believe that God hurts when we hurt because His natural reaction to the sight of those suffering was to suffer as well.
I have uttered those words (in some form or another) at countless funerals. I’ve looked into the weary eyes of those suffering and told them how much my heart hurts for them. I’ve relayed to them my sincere belief that God suffers with them, but I never felt compelled to look into my own soul and feel it as well. I have to admit that the words of John 11:35 mean more to me today than they did last week. I’ve watched those who suffer because my Dad is gone and I’ve suffered with them. I’ve cried because of their tears. I’ve groaned and been troubled as I see their reaction to the news. I’ve wept as I saw them say goodbye.
I now love the words, “Jesus wept,” more than I can adequately describe here. I have no doubt God was hurting because I was hurting. That thought comforts me and gives me hope. I know the promises of God and I have every reason to believe my father is enjoying the splendor of Paradise, but I’m still sad. I wish he was still here. I wish I could call him and hear his voice. I wish I could text him and tell him something insignificant just to read his response. I wish my children could play with him again on the floor of our living room. I wish so much more could be said and done. I wish I could tell him, “I love you. Thank you for everything.”
Yesterday, when I prayed, I thanked my Heavenly Father for the man who raised me. Then I told Him, “I love You. Thank You for everything.” I did it because I know He understands me better than anyone else. Today, as I write about John 11:35, those two short words mean everything to me, because I know yesterday, “Jesus wept,” because I wept.