Martin Copenhaver: Jesus Wept

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. - John 11: 32-25

In a recent article in The New York Times, Roy Peter Clark, a teacher of writing, reflects on the unique power of a short sentence. A short sentence brings clarity and emphasis. If a sentence is five words long or fewer it seems to pop off the page. It is a call to attention. This is particularly the case when a short sentence is set like a cut stone amid longer sentences. 

The above passage from John contains the shortest verse in the Bible, a sentence consisting of just two words: "Jesus wept." He wept for all the reasons mourners weep-because he had lost his friend Lazarus, because he felt helpless, because this is a stinging encounter with the fragility of life. 

Some biblical commentators express puzzlement that Jesus would weep over the death of Lazarus when he is about to restore his friend to life. But death is painful even when we know that eventually it will be swallowed up in victory. Grief is baptized with tears even as it enters into the promise of new life. 

The shortest of sentences-"Jesus wept"-is an arresting reminder of a very big truth: Jesus was human. He joins us in our grief so that we join him in his victory. How wonderful. 


Jesus, let my tears be mingled with yours, so that I can also know your consolation.


From UCC's StillSpeaking devotionals. Visit