olive tree at sunrise
The Life of Faith

The Truth Behind the Reasons Why Jesus Wept in the Bible

While He was on earth, Jesus experienced every human emotion that all people do, “…yet without sin…” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus had to walk through temptation, frustration, pain and suffering, grief and more yet only a few times is Jesus recorded in the Bible as weeping or crying in the days of His flesh. What would compel the Son of God to break down in tears?

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would be, “…despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… [and] Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows…”

Isaiah also noted the One coming would be: “…wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him…” and that He would be “oppressed” and “afflicted.” (Isaiah 53, MEV)

Yet, in the New Testament, the Scripture references with examples of Jesus’ tears only show a few times that actually He wept or cried. Even on the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ is not recorded as weeping with tears, even though He experienced suffering, agony, and torment until death.

So, why did Jesus weep?

cross with draped red fabric

Why Did Jesus Weep in the Bible When Lazarus Died? 

When Jesus experienced the death of His close friend Lazarus, the account in the book of John records one of the most well-known instances of Jesus weeping with the shortest sentence in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Many mistakenly think Jesus cried tears of loss or sympathy, but that’s not why Jesus cried at the tomb of Lazarus.

​At Lazarus’ tomb, many people had gathered to grief as he had been dead for four days. The disciple John noted:

“When Mary came to where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him.” (John 11:32-36, MEV)

But when Jesus wept in John 11:35, He wasn’t crying for the same reasons that His friends were. He wasn’t even crying the same kind of tears! 

While mourners and family members like Martha and Mary were wailing and grieving, John wrote that Jesus also “wept”, but more specifically John’s choice of words show that Jesus had “tears in His eyes.” Jesus was not weeping about the death of Lazarus as the Jews assumed He was. 

​Jesus Wept About Life, Not Death

Jesus’ emotions and the tears in His eyes were about life– the life He’d come to give. He cried because His friends had forgotten who He really was. Jesus wept for their lack of faith in the name of the Lord. He wept because His friend, Mary, accused Him. 

At this point in time, Jesus’ disciples and friends had seen many of His miracles:

  • demons cast out
  • turning water into wine
  • walking on water
  • blind eyes open
  • lame walking

yet when Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ tomb, His friends blamed Him. They still didn’t really believe in who Jesus was. Not really.

“…He groaned in the spirit and was troubled…” (John 11:33)

How could His friends have turned on Jesus so quickly? Because they had never really grasped who Jesus was, even though they had seen His wonders. “Jesus wept” with tears in His eyes because those who had once seen had become blind.

“Jesus wept” with tears in His eyes because those who had once seen had become blind.

~Alicia Purdy

Their grief at Lazarus’ death was a natural expression of the deepest pain while Jesus’ grief was a spiritual expression of His deepest pain. They “wept”, but Jesus’ eyes filled with tears from the inner turmoil He experienced at the spiritual loss – seeing how quickly and easily His disciples abandoned their faith in Him when they should have known He’d come to raise the dead to life.

Mark 11:24 bible quote

Why Did Jesus Weep Over Jerusalem?

Much later, after the events with Lazarus, in the gospel of Luke, Jesus did weep, crying out in the kind of desperate, agonizing pain and grief that others had experienced when Lazarus had died.

After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the people had taken off their robes to lay at His feet, and had broken off palm branches to wave in worship, what caused Jesus to weep with more passion than He ever did over death? 

“When He came near, He beheld the city [of Jerusalem] and wept over it, saying, “O Jerusalem, if you, even you, had known even today what things would bring you peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42, MEV)

When Jesus saw the ravages of human nature and the brokenness of the human condition, He became overwhelmed and wept tears of sorrow for the people He had come to save. 

Jesus Wept with Agony for the Lost He’d Come to Find

Jesus’ heart was broken for the people of Jerusalem. The kind of weeping noted in this Scripture passage is the messy, desperate, gasping kind of grief that is overwhelming and Jesus wept this way for the lost He had come to rescue.

Jesus wept for the people who had rejected Him. The most passionate tears Jesus ever cried was for the people He knew would soon betray, reject, mock, beat, and crucify Him. The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) broke down and wept saying, “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace!” (Luke 11:42, NLT)

“The most passionate tears Jesus ever cried was for the people He knew would soon betray, reject, mock, beat, and crucify Him.” 

~Alicia Purdy

Out of all the temptations Jesus experienced on earth, the Bible repeatedly shows that His greatest struggle was with trying to breakthrough to the darkened minds and hardened hearts of the people He loved so much He’d come to save them.

Jesus was devastated because He knew He was the Savior of the world, the One they had been looking for and yet the world toiled and fought, suffered and died, all while rejecting the only One who could save them.

olive tree at sunrise

Jesus Wept in the Garden With the Cross Before Him, the World Behind Him

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, many believe it was the third time Jesus wept, but in reality, there is no record of Him specifically weeping with tears. 

  • Matthew 26:37-38 (MEV) says Jesus, “…began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” 
  • Luke 22:44 (MEV) says, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Did Jesus weep before willingly taking up His cross? 

His intense sorrow seems to suggest so, and knowing the depth of Jesus’ genuine love for people, and how intensely He prayed and asked the Lord three times to “remove this cup” from Him, the emotional turmoil He experienced may have led to His weeping. However, the Bible does not specifically say Jesus wept in the Garden.

The beautiful story of the life of the Savior Jesus Christ shows that, while He was here on earth, He experienced the fullness of the human condition-including temptations, turmoil, and tears. However, it is important to maintain the integrity of the Holy Bible and not add to what is not there.

If Jesus did indeed shed tears in the Garden, it was in His most private and intimate moments alone in prayer as the disciples slept and they were not recorded. 

The shortest verse of the Bible, “Jesus wept” is, in reality, not the greatest display of passion that Jesus showed during His time on earth. Even at the cross, the Bible doesn’t record that Jesus wept. In fact, the greatest and most passionate emotion Jesus showed was for the lost when He wept over Jerusalem.

Even as His friends and companions and disciples worshipped Him, they had no idea who He really was. Even people of faith today worship the Lord and still have no idea who He really is.

It’s easy to look at life with natural eyes, but Jesus sees your life with spiritual eyes, with a perspective of eternity and a Kingdom purpose. As you draw near to Him in worship and dwell in His presence, you’ll find the strength we need to stand in faith and see Him raise the dead to life. 

“It’s easy to look at life with natural eyes, but Jesus sees your life with spiritual eyes, with a perspective of eternity and a Kingdom purpose.”

~Alicia Purdy

Don’t be like Jesus’ disciples and look at the death, pain, loss, the hopeless situation, the diagnosis, behaviors, lack of progress, or at the things getting worse around you. Don’t blame Him for not being there.

Instead, cling to your faith in Jesus Christ and fix your eyes on Him because He said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23) Worship will keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and keep you strong when you feel weak.

“Let us firmly hold the profession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Find Words of POWER in What Jesus Said Before He Ascended: “The Life-Changing Final Words of Jesus Christ”