John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 11:35, Jesus Wept

Jesus wept.

The smallest verse in the Bible, we were taught as children. Perhaps the only verse I’m able to memorize. But what is interesting enough in this little nibble to warrant a blog post?

It’s that this verse is not the way first-century citizens thought about God.

Jesus wept as he walked toward the grave of Lazarus, the man he would raise from the dead. John’s Gospel, you will recall, is the Gospel that portrays Jesus as God. It is this Gospel, more than any other book in the Bible, that steered Christianity toward the Trinity doctrine; the understanding that, in some mysterious way, Jesus is God.

God wept.

But, you see, gods don’t weep. To the Greeks (and all of the Gospels were written in Greek and among the Greeks) the primary characteristic of God was something they called apatheia, which means total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever. This verse, one commentator of John supposes, may be the most astonishing verse in the Gospel.

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