I am still pondering over why Jesus wept in John 11:35 when he knew he would bring Lazarus back to life.

Was he not sure he could raise Lazarus back to life? But he earlier told his disciples that he was going to wake him up. So why did he weep when he knew he would bring the dead back to life? Why did he call him forth with a loud voice when he spoke softly to the son of the widow of Nain?

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” (John 11:43 ESV)

Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” (Luke 7:14)

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    If you search "Jesus wept," you will find this question has been asked at least eight times.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 1:25
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    The real answer is Jesus felt Mary and Martha's pain.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 1:26
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    I'm not just trying to investigate why Jesus wept. I'm also trying to understand why he had to cry out with a loud voice to call him forth when he spoke softly to the son of the widow of Nain. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 11:42
  • You already gave the check mark but there are two very simple explanations that have been ignored so far: (1) Jesus wept because of the reactions he had encountered, He wept because they didn't believe He could raise the dead, He wept at their doubt, (2) the loud voice was for the benefit of those present so they all would understand that it was Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead. He did it to be heard by those present who would have been wailing and crying.
    – Ken Banks
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 14:41
  • But people were also present who would have been wailing and crying at the son of the widow of Nain. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


Good question! The scriptures record Jesus weeping on three occasions (although I'm certain that He wept far more than that, but it's interesting that the Holy Spirit included the fact that He wept at the times that He did, which, to me, seems to give a broader sweep or 'deeper' meaning behind the context, etc.). He wept in John here, and He wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41, and the Holy Spirit records that He wept at Gethsemane in Hebrews 5:7. Obviously this is indicative of the immense sorrows, all acquainted with grief (as Isaiah 53 informs us).

When one examines the context of what is going on in John 11, it is clear that when Jesus arrives, Lazarus' sisters point to the location of where Lazarus is buried, and it's interesting to point out, as well, that they make an admission that if Jesus Christ had of been there much sooner, then Lazarus would still be alive, and after He saw all of these people weeping over this incident, in verse 33 it says that Christ "groaned in the spirit" and that He "was troubled." Understandably. They believed in Christ; they had put their faith in Him; they were believers; they had seen Him perform many miracles, and they knew that "if only Jesus had of been here, Lazarus would be alive right now!" This scene is dramatically tragic when you envision what was taking place, etc., and the fact that Christ, Himself, groaned and felt troubled is perhaps an understatement!

So, why was He weeping? Perhaps there's a far greater meaning here, and I believe there is! I would posit that Christ is weeping here, not only for Lazarus (and of course, He was seeing others weeping, as well), but that Christ was weeping for the entire position of Humanity, in general. Satan had seized upon that of which was intended for Man, and Christ knows that "death" was never a part of the "ultimate plan," but because sin had entered into the picture, this obviously resulted in death, and the universal depravity of Humanity.

Christ is "groaning" in his spirit; He's "troubled" because not only is his friend, Lazarus, dead in the tomb, but Christ, as a man, recognizes, understands, and even identifies with "the sting of death." He also realizes that the Cross awaits Him (as God) and that by the shedding of His Innocent Blood, He will be the means that restores the depravity of Humanity/etc. back to its original state. I think that Christ is weeping here because He recognizes and even feels deeply (flesh and spirit) that Humanity, itself, is fully fallen, and that Satan is "the god of this age".

Could it be that Christ is weeping for all of Humanity here, and not only for Lazarus, individually? As fully God, Christ knows what is to come in the ages ahead: centuries of more wars, death, destruction, as Satan goes about as a lion seeking to devour All. Christ knows what is ahead: from pestilence, famine, The Holocaust, and every other horrible tragedy that will befall mankind, as death reigns for the time-being. He knows what is ahead...

So, "Jesus wept."

One of the shortest sentences, but one of the most intense, of which could have far greater underlying meaning that merely the fact that Lazarus was dead in the tomb. Death is the ultimate looter, the ultimate robber, the ultimate thief, of which we're all subjected to; at least, that is, our mortal bodies. When He comes again, Mankind will be restored and Death will "die," ultimately liberated from Death altogether.

So, "Jesus wept."

This seems to have far greater meaning than just this incident here with Lazarus.

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    It can also have a very small but significant meaning. We cry with one another as well. He shared the sorrow of Lazarus's sisters because he was not indifferent to them. And the crowd draws this conclusion: his tears are not the sign of his despair. They are the proof of his love. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 1:12
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    Excellent answer +1
    – user25930
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 3:57
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    Why did he also cry with a loud voice call him forth when he spoke softly to the son of the widow of Nain? Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 11:45
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    This could be to indicate audibly by implication that in reality, He is shouting for him out of Sheol, not the literal grave! Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 13:48
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    I see that the gap between his actions at the two scenarios is so large even though the same outcome was being expected. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 17:42

This one already received an answer checkmark but here a survey of the whole passage, which explains the reasons for His grief and sadness. It was not the death of Lazarus because He promised from the very beginning that Lazarus would live, He never waivered in that. He was grieved at the lack of belief in what He had promised and the lack of belief in the person of the Son.

Everything that follows in John 11:33-44 must keep in mind what occurred in John 11:1-32. There is one common theme throughout this entire chapter--belief in the person and work of Christ. Everything Jesus does with the disciples is to bring about belief in Him and His ability to raise Lazarus from the dead. His reactions to the disciples, Mary, Martha, and the crowd are His reactions to their belief or unbelief that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead. Even the events following emphasize that it was about belief. In fact, John's entire gospel is about belief in Jesus--"these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31).

In John 11:1-16 Jesus is informed that Lazarus is sick. The sisters having sent word that Lazarus was sick. Implicit in their sending a message is the idea that Jesus could heal Lazarus. Notice what Jesus said:

John 11:4 4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

Everything that follows must keep this verse in mind--the sisters had learned from Jesus that Lazarus would live. After Lazarus died it would take a greater faith in Christ to believe that Lazarus would live but believe they should have done. So if Jesus expected them to believe His words and to believe in Him you can now easily see why later He was grieved and saddened by their unbelief.

He tells the disciples "let us go again unto Judaea again." To paraphrase their reaction -- you want to go back to Judaea? The Jews just tried to kill you back in Judaea.

John 11:11 ..., Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

The disciples, still fearful say, well if he's just asleep then he will be OK, we don't have to go back to Judaea where we, might die too (John 11:12).

John 11:14-15 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

Thomas gives his reaction to the disciples and not Jesus that says OK you want to go to Judaea, OK lets go, and we can die along with Lazarus.

John 11:16 16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

The next passage is amazing, Martha expresses her deep belief in Jesus in verses 11:17-27. There is the exchange between Jesus and Martha in which Jesus draws out her belief in Him. Jesus states affirmatively what He had said from the beginning, Lazarus would live--"Thy brother shall rise again." Martha though it would be on the last day.

Then Jesus gave a simple offer of the Gospel: John 11:25-26 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Then Martha showed that to believe in Jesus is to believe things about Him.

John 11:27 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

She affirms that Jesus is Lord (κύριε and not despostes), The Messiah (the Christ), and that He was the Son of God.

It's not stated exactly but I think this exchange was enough to calm the heart of Martha but it would explain why she told her sister Mary to go to see the Master.

A key to this whole passage and the questions before us is the quite different reaction of Mary in 11:32

John 11:32 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

OK, that is the same as Martha's initial statement. The difference is that Martha affirmed that Jesus could bring about the resurrection of Lazarus (11:22). After Mary's statement she then broke into tears, along with those who had followed.

John 11:33 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.

The "therefore" applies to the first two phrases in verse 33 explicitly. Verse 35 is sandwiched between two expressions of unbelief, 11:33 and 11:36-37. So it would be reasonable to conclude that this was the reason for His grief and sadness.

God is terribly grieved and saddened whenever a sinner fails to trust in the person and work of Christ. God desires that every sinner might be saved and can you imagine how pained He would be when people fail to trust in Christ, the one and only means God has provided for sinners.

Back to the context, Mary again expressed her lack of belief in the ability of Jesus to make good on His initial promise that Lazarus would live.

John 11:39 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days

Jesus, again centers everything on belief in Him:

John 11:40 40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

Jesus prayed to the Father, (because it is the Father that draws a sinner to the Son (John 6, Matthew 16). Notice that the Son did not ask the Father to raise Lazarus because the point was to show forth the power of the Son.

John 11:41-42 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

Then Jesus spoke with a loud voice.

Why would Jesus have used a loud voice, When He didn't have to say even a word?

The answer to this basic question is found in the context as well, Jesus prayed to the Father in a public prayer for the benefit of those present"42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it. Jesus spoke with a loud voice so that everyone present, even over the noise of the crying, would be heard, and in being heard they would all know that it was the Son who raised Him from the dead.

John 11:43 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

To further emphasize the most important point is belief in the Son, John doesn't mention one word about the reaction the family would have had to the raising of Lazarus. It's not that it was unimportant, it is just that what really matters in the end is how look at the Son.

John 11:45 45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

It comes down to either faith in Christ or a lack of faith in Christ. Faith in Christ says we believe things to be true of Him and at the same time we trust in His finished work. Not in our works but in His works, including the raising of Lazarus.

  • This is the most precise and relevant answer.
    – olivecoder
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 19:59
  • Excellent answer! Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 14:59

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