I asked an old family friend “Why would Jesus cry?” and he said, “Because he was sad.”
Verse 33, “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled” and verse 35 “Jesus wept”
You could amplify the emotional words of the verse by trying to bring out the color from the Greek. It would read, “Jesus was greatly agitated, grieved in spirit and was in acute emotional distress.” (my paraphrase).
I have really been wondering what was the source of distress for Jesus. So after giving it a good deal of thought and doing some reading and talking with friends I think the best thing to say is what F.F. Bruce wrote in his commentary,
“Most probably it was the presence of sickness and death, and the havoc they wrought in human life. On this occasion, no doubt, their effect was to be overruled by God for his glory (see verses 4, 40); but their effect was plainly to be seen in the grief of Mary and her friends. So powerful was Jesus’ emotional reaction to the spectacle that he ‘shook’ (literally, ‘troubled himself’) under the force of it. Not only did he shake, but when he was shown (in response to his question) where the body of Lazarus was, he burst into tears…” ((Bruce, F. F. The Gospel & Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983. p. 246))
The contrast is really strong for me. Jesus is life. He has life in and of Himself and even says, “I have authority to lay it down [His life] and authority to take it up again.” ((John 10:18)) At the beginning of the book John says of Jesus, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” ((John 1:3)) Jesus is the life giver. Here He saw life taken. He saw again the agonizing effect the parting of loved ones has. Sadness overwhelming Him, He wept.
I know that you cannot see me right now as I write this but I took a moment of silence. The death of Lazarus was a contradiction of everything that Jesus wants for us and His emotional response to it made me pause in reverence. “I came that they might have life…” “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live…” “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ((Colossians 3:4))
We, like God in this, want life. Our instinct for self preservation and deep desire to see our friends and relatives prosper and live testifies to it. Our weeping at funerals and the sympathy we have for people who have lost loved ones shows it. And in Jesus we have a high priest who can sympathize with us. ((Hebrews 4:15 Here the author of Hebrews talks about Jesus sympathizing with our weaknesses but I believe that He also sympathizes with us in our loss as well.))
I called this post “The colliding of worlds” because I see this experience that Jesus had as the sadness that is produced when your life purpose and deep desires are contradicted in a very real and meaningful way. Jesus, the life giver saw death take His friend and saw the grief of His friends.
Do you have worlds colliding? Death vs. life is the big collision. On a smaller scale we have the colliding of our values and desires with their opposites. That brings us grief and produces loss. Let us be fully human as Jesus is fully human and allow grief to be painful. Let us not ignore it or try to simply numb it. Let us not seek comfort in the things that, in the end, only bring more grief. Let us find comfort in Jesus who can sympathize with us in our weakness and in our grief. He provides life–eternal, present and abundant life. He does that through community, through redemption, through the indwelling of His Spirit, through the love that is unselfishly given from person to person, by people who are forgiven and who can therefore forgive and help. ((Colossians 3:13-14 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.)).