Dear John: Please Give us Some Direct Objects!

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” (John 11:33 ESV)

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 ESV)

The two verses above are notoriously difficult to interpret.  Why?  Because John didn’t give us any explanatory  objects for some reason!  We read through verse 33 and see “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” and we are thinking, “because….because…” and John never tells us.  There is no object associated with being deeply moved and greatly troubled.”

Same problem with “Jesus wept.”  We are left wondering, “Why?  Why did Jesus weep?  What was he weeping at?”  John doesn’t tell us and so we are left to kind of make an educated guess.  And guess commentators do!

Here are some possible reasons why Jesus was “angry in His spirit and deeply moved.” (HCSB)

  • “He was angry because he found himself face-to-face with the manifestations of Satan’s kingdom of evil. Here, the realm of Satan was represented by death.” – NET Notes
  • “The feeling in the Lord was clearly one of rising sympathy, which vented itself at last in tears.” – Henry Alford
  • “He was indignant at seeing the hypocritical and sentimental lamentations of His enemies the Jews mingling with the heartfelt lamentations of His loving friend Mary (comp. 12:10): hypocrisy ever roused His anger.” – Plummer
  • “It is difficult to know exactly what is meant by the phrase his heart was touched.”- UBS Commentary [Translation:  We have no clue]
  • “His problem in this story, however, was not death. It was the mourners. Jesus was not a helpless human in the face of death.” – New American Commentary
  • Jesus was “angry with the sin, sickness and death in this fallen world that wreaks so much havoc and generates so much sorrow.” – Don Carson
  •  The men and women before him were grieving like pagans, like ‘the rest of men, who have no hope’ (1 Thes. 4:13). – Also Don Carson

As you can see there is a quite wide variety of interpretations of why Jesus was angry/troubled among commentators.  Perhaps we will fair better in regards to why Jesus was weeping.  That’s pretty straightforward isn’t it?

Some possibilities:

  • “It seems that in the context the weeping is triggered by the thought of Lazarus in the tomb: This was not personal grief over the loss of a friend (since Lazarus was about to be restored to life) but grief over the effects of sin, death, and the realm of Satan.” (Net Notes)
  • ‘Now He sheds tears, not because He is ignorant or doubtful of what is coming, but because He cannot but sympathize with His friends’ grief. He who later shared the pains of death, here shares the sorrow for death. “It is not with a heart of stone that the dead are raised.”’- Plummer
  • “Jesus’ weeping here is directly related to the failure of his followers to recognize his mission as the agent of God. God’s Son was in their midst. They really missed the point.”- New American Commentary
  • “The same sin and death, the same unbelief, that prompted his outrage, also generated his grief.” – Don Carson
  • “His tears here are like those He sheds over the unbelieving city which will reject Him, missing its day of opportunity, its only hope for peace and healing, and so finally be destroyed (Luke 19:41).” (The Preacher’s Commentary)

So, um, also no consensus among commentators.  Indeed, the interpretations are so broad that it’s hard to even make an educated guess.  Who knows, perhaps John purposefully wanted to be vague to give commentators something to argue about in order to focus our attention on what is really important about this passage.  Jesus raised a dead guy who had been in the tomb for four days already!

What is my position?  Why was Jesus angry and troubled?  Why did he weep?  I have no clue, but I do know that in short order he raised Lazarus from the dead by speaking words.  I imagine that the weeping from everyone was over at that point, unless they were tears of joy.

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