What Does the Shortest Verse in the Bible Reveal about God’s Character?
- David Sanford Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 1 Mar
“Jesus wept.” Did you know this phrase appears in the gospels twice?
The first “Jesus...wept” appears in Luke 19:41. It says Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, saw it, and wept.
The second “Jesus wept” appears in John 11:35. It’s the easiest verse to memorize in the whole Bible. It’s not the easiest, however, to think about.
What does “Jesus wept” reveal about God’s character? A lot!
Let’s begin by looking at other times when Jesus and others wept during His public ministry and after His ascension back to heaven.
“Wept” in the New Testament
1. The Gospels
Jesus not only wept on several occasions but responded when others were weeping. In some cases, Jesus comforted them. In one case, He rebuked a group of professional mourners. He also comforted His closest friends after His resurrection.
Seeing the funeral procession for a widow’s only son, Jesus stopped her and said, “Don’t cry” (Luke 7:12-13). He then raised the young man from the dead. What a great picture of our eternal hope!
While she repeatedly kissed Jesus’ feet, a repentant woman kept weeping (Luke 7:38). This was in the hope of a Pharisee named Simon, who judged her and Jesus. As God’s Son, of course, Jesus knew the Pharisee’s thoughts, told a quick parable, rebuked the Pharisee, and told the woman that her sins were forgiven. That provoked much criticism of Jesus, who ignored it and went on to tell the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50). What a great picture of God’s desire that none perish, but that all come to repentance (1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9). It’s the gospel in action!
When Jesus came to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, professional mourners were weeping and wailing (Mark 5:38-39 and Luke 8:52). Jesus rebuked them, sent them out of the house, and asked Jairus and his wife to take Him and three disciples to the girl. Jesus raised her from the dead. Again, what a great picture of our sure hope.
After her brother Lazarus died, Mary’s crying deeply moved Jesus (John 11:32-33). After denying Jesus three times, Peter wept (Matthew 26:75, Mark 14:72, and Luke 22:62). As Jesus carried the cross, many women wept and wailed (Luke 23:27-28). After finding the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene wept (Mark 16:10 and John 20:11-15).
Peter comforted the friends and beneficiaries of Dorcas and raised her from the dead. Paul sought to challenge and comfort two groups while heading for arrest in Jerusalem.
When Peter came to raise Dorcas from the dead, many widows wept (Acts 9:39). After saying goodbye to Paul, the Ephesian elders and wives wept (Acts 20:37). After hearing what would happen to Paul, Philip’s home filled with weeping (Acts 21:12-14).
Near both the beginning and end of Revelation, John is greatly comforted. During his heavenly vision, after seeing the sealed scroll, John wept and immediately was comforted (Revelation 5:4-5). Near the end of his heavenly vision, John hears that God will wipe every tear from His people’s eyes (Revelation 21:4).
“Wept” in the Old Testament
Job’s three friends: Job 2:12 says, “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.”
Hagar’s son, Ishmael: Genesis 21:17 says, “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.’”
Abraham after Sarah’s death: Genesis 23:2 says, “She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.
Jacob and Esau: Genesis 33:4 says, “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”
Joseph meets his repentant brothers: Genesis 42:24 says, “He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again.” Genesis 43:30 adds, “Deeply moved at the sight of his brother [Benjamin], Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.”
Joseph reveals his identity to them: Genesis 45:2 says, “And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.” Genesis 45:14-15 adds, “Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.”
Joseph meets his aged father: Genesis 46:29-30 says, “Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.” Years later, after Jacob’s death, Genesis 50:1 adds, “Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him.”
At the right time, the Lord calls Moses. Exodus 3:7 says, “The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.’” Before the final plague, Moses warns Pharaoh and his court. Exodus 11:6 says, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.” Afterward, Exodus 12:30 adds, “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”
3. After the Exodus
Crying and wailing in the Promised Land. Due to unrepentant sins: Judges 2:4, Judges 11:37-38, Judges 20:23, 26, and Judges 21:2.
Righteous Hannah cries because of her barrenness: 1 Samuel 1:7-8. While pleading with God: 1 Samuel 1:10.
Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah weep aloud. When Naomi says she’s returning home: Ruth 1:9. When Naomi says her final goodbye: Ruth 1:14.
Many accounts in 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 2 Kings, and Psalms, plus two more instances in Isaiah 38:3 (Hezekiah) and 2 Chronicles 34:27 (Manasseh).
What the Act of Weeping Reveals about God
We cannot read these many verses without seeing the Lord’s emotions.
As men and women created in God’s image, we’re designed as emotional beings. That includes expressing our emotions. And that includes weeping.
We weep as a loved one is dying and after they have died. In these cases, God is moved and comforts us.
We’re also designed to weep when we repent of our sins. In response, God forgives us and celebrates. He also honors us if someone else mocks our repentant tears.
Weeping Over the Unrepentant
While we’re designed to weep when we repent of our sins, that doesn’t mean everyone repents. If they absolutely refuse to repent until their dying day, God already knows and has wept. We saw this in Luke 19:41, where Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, saw it, and wept. We also see this repeatedly throughout the Old Testament.
It’s important for us to always keep both aspects of God’s justice in mind. We usually think of what God’s against. We also need to remember what God’s for. The latter actually takes top priority. The former makes sense only in light of the latter.
In the Garden of Eden, God was for innocence. Therefore, He commanded Adam to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
In Egypt, God was for the Exodus. Therefore, He commanded Pharaoh to let His people go and sent a plague each time Pharaoh said no.
At Mount Sinai, God was for a holy and happy people. Therefore, He gave Moses the Ten Commandments for their protection and well-being.
The same is true at the climax of history. When God wipes tears from your eyes, you will know His character and heart better than ever!
What a good, loving, compassionate, and, yes, emotional God He was, is, and always will be.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Aliyah Jamous
The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.