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When Jesus Wept

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


There are about 697 references to crying, weeping, and tears recorded throughout the Bible. However, there are only two reasons recorded when Jesus wept. Those references are in the gospels of Luke and John.

Since Jesus wept so few times, it is interesting to know why He wept.

Weep, Cry, Sob

Before discussing the times when Jesus wept, it is important to know that saying, "Jesus wept" is much different from saying, "Jesus cried" or "Jesus sobbed." While all three terms are synonyms and mean almost the same thing, they are still different. They all involve shedding tears but in different ways. It takes away the sacred meaning when people misquote the Bible and say, "Jesus cried" or "Jesus sobbed." You can't go wrong by saying what the Bible says.

Babies cry because of a need to eat, drink, or be changed. When adults cry, there are loud and convulsive gasps to express distress, pain, grief, or sorrow. To weep is to shed tears in a silent manner without being loud. Weeping denotes pensive thoughts as you weep.


Luke 19:41-44

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, according to Luke 19:41-44. What is really interesting is that He wept over the destruction of the holy city while it was still flourishing. He wept over what He saw in the future much like Jeremiah did thousands of years before. Remember, Jeremiah was called the "weeping prophet." He wept all the way through the Book of Lamentation over Jerusalem.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He looked over the holy city and saw what it would be like in the future. He anticipated the destruction of the temple and everything Jerusalem represented. It wasn't in ruins then, but Jesus knew it would eventually be destroyed. He foresaw the fighting and killings that go on in Jerusalem today.


John 11:35

When Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, many people thought He was weeping over the death of His friend, It would seem that way, but Jesus knew He would ultimately raise His friend from the dead. Jesus' personal friendship was also with Lazarus' sisters, Martha and Mary. This might seem strange for some, but Jesus wept more for Martha and Mary than for Lazarus. Jesus wept over the unbelief of the community who gathered around the grave.

Bystanders and some people who read this passage believe Jesus wept because Lazarus died. Because Jesus resurrected him from the dead disproves this. It makes more sense that Jesus wept because of the unbelief of His disciples, Martha, Mary, and the Jews around the grave. Jesus wept because those closest to him failed to recognize that He was "the resurrection and the life" as He said in John 11:26. Jesus knew He would resurrect Lazarus. Therefore, He didn't weep because His friend died. He did weep in sympathy with others' sorrow over Lazarus' death. Jesus's deep emotional response to his friends' weeping and his own weeping demonstrate that Jesus was truly human.

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I grew up in a small country town. Everybody had to recite a Bible verse in Sunday school. All the little children and some adults memorized John 11:35 because it is the shortest verse in the Bible.

Needless to say, Jesus wept a lot in that country church every Sunday morning. Person after person recited "Jesus wept" throughout the recitation period and no one felt ashamed for having done so.

Other Biblical People Who Wept

Jesus was not the only one who wept in the Bible. There are many accounts of others who wept for different reasons.

In the Book of Genesis, Abraham wept over the death of Sarah. Also, in the same book, Joseph wept when he saw his brothers in Egypt after they had sold him into slavery, according to Genesis 45:15. It was not because of what they had done to him that caused him to weep. He wept because he was seeing them since they sold him into slavery so long ago.

King David wept a lot in the Bible. He wrote in several of his psalms about how his tears were his portion day and night. David also wept over the death of his son Absolom. He wept when Nathan confronted him about committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband Uriah.

Hannah was barren, and she wanted a male child. Therefore, she wept before the Lord. Jonah wept for having to go to Ninevah to pronounce God's judgment. The Israelites wept when they heard the scriptures read. They grieved for not following the Lord their God and His law.

In the New Testament, a synagogue leader wept over the death of his 12-year-old daughter. Jesus raised her from the dead, according to Mark 5:38. Peter wept when he heard the rooster crow for the third time as he remembered Jesus' prediction. Mary Magdalene wept when she found Jesus in the garden after His resurrection. At first, she thought he was the gardener.

Life Application

In the Bible, God's people wept for various other reasons. Jesus wept over a place and over people's unbelief. That proves it is not unusual for us to weep over situations that bother us.

So, what causes you to weep?


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on September 14, 2019:

Yes, MsDora, it was not uncommon to see both men and women weeping in church long ago. You are right. That doesn't happen much these days. My late father used to weep every time he heard me preach. He stated that he believed the spirit moved him to weep.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 14, 2019:

Interesting! This verse is popular everywhere people are asked to recite from memory. Thanks for underscoring the freedom to weep. It seems that back in the day church folk wept in church more than they do now.

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