Two Words

Read: John 11:1-45

Jesus wept. (v. 35)

My parents occasionally required us to recite a Bible verse before being dismissed from the supper table. We’d argue over whose turn it was to use John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible. Years later, I would come to see how profound those words are in the larger story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection. John included this seventh “sign” in his gospel to reveal the glory of the Son of God (John 11:4) and his power over death. It even foreshadowed his own rising from the dead. By telling us that Jesus wept, however, John revealed more layers of Jesus’ heart and the nature of grief.

The word used for Jesus’ weeping (v. 35) is different from the word used for the weeping of Mary and the crowd (v. 33). Their weeping was that of wailers at a first-century funeral: loud, almost snorting, sounds of frustration and disappointment. Jesus’ weeping (the word occurs only once in the New Testament) still included an outburst, but more tender and tearful at the same time. What does this tell us?

Even though Jesus knew that the story ends with resurrection, he entered into the very personal, time-bound grief of Mary. He was saddened by the grief that was their present experience. This is the God who is “with us”—Immanuel. He enters deeply into our experience. Perhaps Jesus did not weep for Lazarus, for he knew that Lazarus would soon be raised. But he wept with those who wept (Rom. 12:15). What loss are you grieving today, dear friend? You are not alone. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, bring your grief to Jesus.

About the Author

Jon Opgenorth

Rev. Jon Opgenorth serves as president of Words of Hope. Previously, he served for 18 years as senior pastor at Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa. In preparation for ministry, he received a BA in Religion from Northwestern College, and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary.