When I was a child my father would quiz me with this trivia question: “What is the shortest verse in the Bible?” The answer was simple (John 11:35, Jesus wept.), and I always got it right, but still he would continue to ask the question from time to time. I don’t remember how often he would ask, or how many times, but I know it was enough that I remember it being repetitive. (Read to the end of this article to find out the real shortest verse in the Bible.)
As an adult, I have often wondered why my father so often asked that question. I lost my father when I was only 21, so I’ve never been able to ask him. Maybe there was a reason he liked that bit of trivia. Perhaps the verse was his way of remembering Jesus was human, like us. Or maybe it was his way of telling me that Jesus understood the pain of losing a loved one…and that it’s okay to cry. Maybe still, that verse had told him, it was okay to cry in a time of grief. I just don’t know. I never asked. But what I do know is that we all weep, we all grieve, and that our Lord experienced the same depths of sorrow and sadness that we do, so He is able to not only comfort us in our trials and tribulations but also to understand our pain.
Scripture Records Three Times When Jesus Wept
The First Time
In the John 11 passage, Jesus wept when He heard of the death of His friend Lazarus. Of course Jesus knew that He could, and would, raise Lazarus back to life, but He also knew of the pain and suffering that death brings to those who lose a loved one. Death is a consequence of sin, and will always be a reminder that things on this earth are not as God intended them to be. God gave Adam and Eve His perfect love, but they succumbed to their own lusts and sin and death entered into the world. We weep when a loved one dies and Jesus wept (John 11:35) when Lazarus died…and the next verse tells exclaims, “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:36)
Jesus loved His friend and He wept over sin and death.
The Second Time
In Luke 19:41, we are told that Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
God had given Adam and Eve a perfect Garden and perfect communion with Him. When they sinned they lost everything. But God in His mercy and grace began preparing a way to rescue mankind. He raised up a people and gave them a land that would be their own. In that Promised Land was God’s city, Jerusalem, the city of peace.
God first gave His people a garden and next He gave them a city—a place to dwell, a city on a hill, shining as a light in the land of Israel. And yet, in their disobedience, they failed to keep it holy and set apart for God’s plan and purpose. In Luke 19:41 Jesus looked out upon God’s city, and, just as in times past, Jerusalem was now a city controlled by a pagan world power.
Jesus loved Jerusalem and He wept over the city.
The Third Time
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to His Father, knowing what was soon to take place. He was in extreme anguish and we read in the Gospel of Luke:
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)
Some will debate whether He wept tears from His eyes, but there certainly was deep grief accompanied by a type of weeping. His body now “wept” with “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood.”
Perhaps these were “tears” from the essence of His being. And with such intense anguish, it’s likely these “tears” were accompanied by tears flowing from His eyes.
- Jesus loved His friend, Lazarus, and wept at his death.
- Jesus loved His city, Jerusalem, and wept at the thought of its demise.
- Jesus hated sin and wept knowing the high price He would pay to redeem mankind.
No Greater Love
It was the love of the Father for His creation that sent Jesus to live among us and die for us (John 3:16-17). It is the love of the Father for us that we are made alive in Christ through His life, death and resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-22).
We are the ones who should have hung on that cross. Jesus was the only One who could take upon Himself our sin and pay the penalty for it and secure forgiveness and eternal life for us. He lived the life we could not live, and He died the death that we should die. And in His life, Jesus experienced all the pain and suffering that we know. Therefore, when we weep, we can find refuge in Him, strength in Him, and we can know that He is our very present help in all our troubles (Psalm 46:1).
“Written at the Foot of a Crucifix” by Victor Hugo
In 1847, Victor Hugo (1802-1885, author of the novel Les Miserables) wrote a short poem following the death of his beloved daughter:
You who weep, come to this God, for He weeps.
You who suffer, come to him, for He cures.
You who tremble, come to him, for He smiles.
You who pass [in death], come to him, for He remains.
As I think about my father at this time of year, I wish I could have known him longer and spent more time with him during my adult years. It would have been fun to share with him a bit of trivia of my own. I know he would have enjoyed it, but since he is not here (he has been in Heaven for many years now), I’ll share it with you.
Is John 11:35 the Shortest Verse?
John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” is certainly the shortest verse in the English translation of the Bible. However, technically, it is not the shortest verse in the Bible. In the original language of Greek, this verse is “edákrysen o Iesoús” (16 letters) and literally means “Jesus shed tears.” Another verse 1 Thessalonians 5:16, which is translated Rejoice evermore, is Πάντοτε χαίρετε (14 letters). But the shortest verse in the original language is Luke 20:30 καὶ ὁ δεύτερος (12 letters), translated “and the second.”
My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20)
Do not be anxious about anything. (Phil 4:6)
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must rightly remember who is in control. Our God is sovereign over all things, including COVID-19. As Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, “The sovereignty of God is a soft pillow on which weary people lay their heads.”
Remember also God’s gracious promise, and that it is true and He is faithful to keep it: Hebrews 13:5 …”I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” The next verse remind us of the power that comes in trusting God and how we can live: Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man [or COVID-19] shall do to me.
God loves us, and in Christ we find confidence and calm in times of uncertainty and trouble. When we trust in God, fear is replaced with faith, stress is replaced with strength, anxiety is gone and hope abounds, problems become opportunities, and we are able to receive the blessings God has for us in the midst of difficult circumstances. Turn to Jesus. He will lead you to the still waters and give rest for your troubled soul.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…Hebrews 6:19
Be Ready Always...
to give a reason for the Hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). When you can’t share the gospel with your words, share it by leaving tracts that tell people about God's grace.
When leaving a tract, always be diligent to pray about the short gospel message. Pray that it be found by someone who is in need of Jesus’ saving grace, and pray that the person will have a tender heart and open ears to receive the gift Jesus desires to give them.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, even a small tract can help in turning a broken sinner from darkness to light.
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