Why Did Jesus Weep When Lazarus Was ‘Asleep’?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I was looking up an article on how Pope John Paul II (2003) urged Christians to do their duty and be involved politically. It was a wonderful article especially in the light of the recent elections. One thing puzzled me though. There was a quiz on the page about who Jesus wept for in John 11:35. The correct answer you gave was Lazarus?? Why would He weep for someone sleeping? John 11:11 says, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." If he was crying for Lazurus, wouldn't he have cried when he was first told of the death and not stayed two more days before coming? He knew the Father had power over life and death and that this would be a situation that would glorify God. Couldn't it be that Jesus wept because of Mary and Martha's unbelief?

Thanks for your time!

Vincent Kelly


Dear Vincent,

Scripture doesn't tell us why Jesus wept. It merely notes that he did. It also doesn't tell us that Mary and Martha disbelieved. Indeed, it very specifically states that they declared their faith that he was the Christ who was to come into the world. Jesus may have wept for the death of Lazarus just as we too weep, even though we believe in eternal life.

Mark Shea
Senior Content Editor
Catholic Exchange

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    Yes, Mark, yes . . .

    I have no doubts, and have not from her instant of death, that my wife has taken her sainthood to her Father to present to Him. No fear of judgment, she would proudly give her life’s experience over to Him for His inspection and His pleased and satified embrace. The very night of her death, my first thoughts, exchanged with our devastated ten-year-old daughter, were about ‘your Mom’s parade into heaven’. I noted that we were just crushed, and, expectably; but that her Mom, Sharon, was in joy, peace, no more pain . . . after a life of diabetic agonies. (And, perhaps, Jesus knew as only He could of Lazarus’s death agonies, and felt them before raising his friend.)

    But – but – for my daughter, and her children, my grandchilden who never got to know Sharon and be loved by her, within Sharon’s arms and under her joyous face, and still to this day for me, I weep and weep and weep – weep at the death of my best-friend, weep at giving up a life’s treasure, weep at the loss of my life-partner – and Jesus treated all His beloved as if they fit such majestic roles. Such losses will just bring one to tears – even the God-Man of Galilee. Jesus was just being Jesus, our beloved and gentle, sensitive and kind Brother.

    I remain your obedient servant, but God’s first,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @mail.catholicexchange.com or …yahoo.com)