Jesus, the Son of God, came to the world as a human being. He experienced the fullness of humanity, including something that we know all too well: emotions. It might be surprising to think that Jesus wept. Not once, but the New Testament records three times that Jesus showed His feelings through His tears.
Let’s take a look at the biblical texts where we find those episodes.
The 3 Times Jesus Wept
1st Time Jesus Wept:
“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 KJV)
John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the English translations of the Bible. That two-word verse from the book of John tells us of Jesus’s reaction when He got to the tomb of Lazarus, who had died four days before (John 11:39). Jesus and Lazarus were close friends. Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. The Bible tells us that Jesus loved them (John 11:5).
All that grief over Lazarus’s death moved Jesus to tears. He later turned grief into joy when He resurrected Lazarus (John 11:38-44). But that miracle was the tipping point that made the religious leaders decide to kill Him (John 11:45-53).
2nd Time Jesus Wept:
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,” (Luke 19:41 KJV)
Luke 19:28-40 tells us of Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. That’s when verse 41 comes. Luke is the only evangelist that recorded that reaction of Jesus. Our Savior knew that the people of Jerusalem would soon reject and condemn Him. He also knew the calamity that would come upon that city because of it (Luke 19:44), which happened a few decades later, in 70 A.D.
3rd Time Jesus Wept:
“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;” (Hebrews 5:7 KJV)
The context of this verse doesn’t identify when that event happened, but it is clear that it was very close to Jesus’s death. Some scholars attribute this reference to Jesus’s prayers at the garden of Gethsemane, right before He was arrested (Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-52; Luke 22:40-53; John 18:1-11). Even though none of the evangelists mentioned that Jesus wept, they wrote that Jesus was very sorrowful (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33-34) and in such agony that He sweated drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
Other scholars argue that Hebrews 5:7 happened while Jesus was at the cross. They point to Psalm 22:24 as the moment when the Father heard Jesus’s prayers, connecting Psalm 22 to Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Note that Hebrews 2:12 also makes that connection when the author quotes Psalm 22:22 as words said by Christ Jesus Himself. Jesus also quoted Psalm 22:1 when He was at the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
Even though Scripture doesn’t make it clear why Jesus wept on all of those occasions, we can still find possible reasons for His tears and learn from them. So, let’s take a look at 11 lessons that Jesus’s tears teach us about Him and how we should apply them to our lives.
11 Lessons for Us
Lesson #1: Jesus was fully human
The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human (John 1:1,14; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; 1 John 4:2). He lacked no divine or human attributes when He came to earth. This concept is beyond what our limited minds can understand, but that’s what Scripture affirms.
As a man, Jesus experienced everything a human does, including human emotions. He felt sorrow (Matthew 26:37), marvel (Matthew 8:10), agony (Luke 22:44). And He wept. His body was not merely some kind of shell for a divine being (Luke 24:39).
His weeping, among other manifestations, shows Jesus’s humanity and confirms that He experienced human life in all aspects. That’s why the author of Hebrews says that we have a High Priest that can understand us so well (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Lesson #2: Jesus showed compassion for those who were grieving
The Gospel of John tells us that, before Jesus got to the town of Bethany, where Lazarus’s tomb was located, He already knew that He was going to bring His good friend back to life (John 11:11-15). His purpose was to show the glory of God and be glorified through that amazing miracle (John 11:4). However, a logical question comes to mind: if Jesus knew that, why did He weep?
He wept because He felt compassion for those grieving for His dear friend, especially Lazarus’s sisters. Even though He was going to solve the problem miraculously, He still partook of the sadness and grief of the people there.
Lesson #3: Jesus was troubled by the people’s lack of faith
When Jesus met Martha at Lazarus’s burial site, He told her that He was going to resurrect him (John 11:20-28). However, both she and later Mary told Jesus that their brother wouldn’t have died if He had arrived sooner (John 11:21,32). Then, the Bible tells us that Jesus “groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” (John 11:33 KJV), right before He wept.
A few days earlier, Jesus’s disciples didn’t believe Him either when He told them His plan (John 11:11-16). It seems that everyone there thought it was too late for Jesus to do something about it (John 11:37). Lazarus had been dead for four days by then (John 11:39). That may suggest that Jesus also wept because of their lack of faith. No one believed that Lazarus’s resurrection was even possible. They probably didn’t think that the power of Jesus could bring a dead man back to life.
Lesson #4: Jesus showed sorrow for those who rejected Him
Upon entering the city of Jerusalem, Jesus wept at the thought of the great destruction that would befall the city as a consequence of their rejection of Him (Luke 19:41-44). He was sad because He knew that the great city wouldn’t enjoy His peace.
A few days later, the people of Jerusalem asked Pilate to crucify Jesus, despite Him being an innocent man (Luke 23:13-25). Still, He was sad for them (Luke 23:27-29). Note that this was not the first time that Jesus expressed His sorrow for Jerusalem’s rejection (see Matthew 23:37-39).
Lesson #5: Jesus endured unimaginable suffering in our place
The last time Jesus wept was close to the moment of His death, as explained earlier. He had endured deep agony at the garden of Gethsemane in anticipation of what was coming. Soon after, He was arrested, tortured, humiliated, and scorned. Then, He was crucified. This death sentence was the most humiliating condemnation that the Roman Empire imposed upon the worst criminals.
At the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), so He satisfied the wrath of the God (Isaiah 53:5-11; Hebrews 9:26). There, somehow, He experienced the forsaking of the Father (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1).
Jesus’s tears remind us of what He went through for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only sinless human being that ever lived, paid the price of our sin to allow us to be forgiven and have eternal life with God (John 3:16; Romans 5:1,8-9).
Lesson #6: Jesus cares about us
Looking at the three episodes that mention that Jesus wept, we can notice how Jesus cares about us, humans. First, He wept with those who were grieving, not ignoring their pain. Second, He wept for those who were going to reject Him, not ignoring their terrible fate. Third, He wept to the Father, not giving up on His mission to pay the terrible price for our sins.
Jesus’s tears show that He cares about us. In fact, He showed how much He loves us (John 15:13), even though we don’t deserve it (Romans 5:8). And those tears also remind us of a precious promise: one day, God Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more reason for weeping, ever again (Revelation 21:4).
Lesson #7: Jesus grieved over the sin of the people
Those three episodes when Jesus wept give us some examples of the consequences of sin that brought tears of sadness to our Lord’s eyes:
- The death of Lazarus was a reminder of the reality of death brought by sin. The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 KJV). Death first entered the world with the fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:17-19,22-24).
- The people in the city of Jerusalem sinned when they rejected Jesus.
- Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22), but He paid the price of our sin and suffered its consequences Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’s own death happened because of sin, our sin. Our loving Father gave His own Son to pay for them (John 3:16).
Sin was the underlying reason that brought those tears to Jesus’s eyes.
Lesson #8: We should weep over our sin
Except for Jesus, every human being sins (Romans 3:23). That is the reality of our fallen human nature. However, we cannot get used to it. Every time we realize that we’ve disobeyed God’s Word, it should bring a sense of deep sadness and cause us to weep.
Jesus wept for the presence of sin in the world and its consequences. He wept for the suffering He went through to pay for our sins. We must not forget that. We should keep in mind the calamity of sin, how awful it is, and what it represents: an offense to our loving God. If we love Him, we must weep over our sin (James 4:8-9).
Lesson #9: We should weep over the sins of others
When Jesus faced unbelief and rejection, he felt sorrow for the people. He wept over their sin and its consequences. The prophet Jeremiah wept “rivers of tears” over the destruction of Jerusalem (Lamentations 3:46-51), which was the consequence of the sins of the nation of Israel. The apostle Paul wept for believers and unbelievers (Acts 20:31; Romans 9:1-3; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18).
Those are examples that we should follow. Instead of judging people (James 4:12), we should weep over their sin (Psalm 119:136). We should feel sorrow and pray for them, asking God to forgive them, help them repent, and change their ways.
Lesson #10: Weeping is not a sign of weakness
Jesus’s tears show us that there are situations where weeping is not only appropriate, but it is the right thing to do. The Bible tells us to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15 KJV). That’s what Jesus did in Bethany. He also expressed His sorrow and agony through His tears. He didn’t hide them. The Old Testament tells us that the Messiah was going to be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 KJV).
Jesus showed us that it is okay to grieve, to acknowledge our pain in times of trouble, and to cry, even if we believe that everything will be fine in the end. Tears are not a sign of unbelief. We must learn from Jesus and be free to express our pain, our sorrow and to reach out to God with our tears because He doesn’t ignore them (Psalm 34:15, 56:8).
Lesson #11: Jesus’s tears inspire us to follow His example
There are many lessons we can learn from Jesus’s tears. We can learn from Him and follow His example whenever we are in similar circumstances:
- When we find ourselves among people who are suffering, we should empathize and weep with them (Romans 12:15).
- When we see unbelief in others, we must still believe (2 Corinthians 5:7).
- When people reject us and the message of the Gospel we bring, we must not feel resentful or vindictive (Matthew 5:11-12; Romans 12:19). We must feel sorrow for the sin that keeps them away from the one true God (Luke 23:34, Acts 7:59-60).
- When we suffer for Jesus, we must be confident in God’s plan (Romans 8:28-29). Even if we die, we know that when Jesus returns on the last day, He will resurrect us, and we will enjoy everlasting life with Him (John 6:40).
Jesus Christ wept with those who were grieving, even though He knew He would fix the situation in a short time. He wept for those who rejected Him, for He knew the consequences of their choices. And, when He was suffering Himself, He wept to the Father, to the only One who could do something about it. May we learn from Him and do our best to live our lives in a way that honors His tears and brings God glory.