“Jesus wept” (John 11:35). This is the shortest verse in the Bible, and it occurs in the context of death—the death of an individual named Lazarus, a brother to Mary and Martha, and a friend dear to Jesus. While there have been attempts over the years to read something more into the verse, it’s best to let it mean what it means: Jesus broke down and cried.
But there’s another passage in Scripture where Jesus cried. It’s tucked away in Luke 19, as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey. The whole crowd following Him began to shout, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38). But as usual, a number of Pharisees were there and told Jesus to silence His supporters. “He answered, ‘I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out’” (v.40).
And as He inched closer and closer to Jerusalem, Luke tells us that Jesus wept (v.41). Again, it’s best if we understand this literally; Jesus broke down and cried. But this time, His tears were not for a friend, but for a city that God had set apart from all others. And instead of crying over something that had already happened, this time Jesus’s tears flowed for future days when the beautiful city would be crushed by its enemies. Jesus said these enemies would not “leave one stone on another in your midst, because you did not recognize the time when God visited you” (v.44).
Earlier in the chapter, Zacchaeus went to great lengths to see Jesus, knowing He was more than just another teacher. Now, Jesus sheds tears because Jerusalem did not see Him for who He was, God in the flesh, the Savior of the world, the King of kings and Lord of lords, come to deliver people from their sins. Yes, there were some disciples who knew who He was, and creation itself (the stones) knew too. But most people missed the One whose love drove Him to tears, and in the days to follow, to a cross.
The Son of God’s love for sinners is this way. He left the glories of heaven to enter the stage of history, only to die so that those who rejected Him as King might one day turn, repent, and be saved. If there had been no crowds that Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the rocks would have shouted “Hosanna!” Even so, He would have entered the city all the same, because Jesus’s love for His people is greater than any force that would try to stop Him.
Written by John Blase