At the end of the preceding chapter, we are told that Jesus went into the place where John the Baptist was first baptizing. This place was Bethania; but not the Bethania where the sisters of Lazarus resided. The Bethania where Christ was at this time was beyond the Jordan, and was likewise called Bethabara; whereas the Bethania where Lazarus lay sick, was two miles to the south of Jerusalem, and formed a part of the suburbs of that city. It is called the town of Martha and Mary, because they lived there; in the same manner as Bethsaida is called the city of Peter and Andrew.
John 11: 3 states, “So the sisters sent word to Him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.'” John 11: 5 states, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Both of these verses point to the fact that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.
Most people know this famous phrase because it is the shortest verse in the Bible. First, we must know the context in which this verse occurs. In the beginning of the chapter Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, send word of their brother’s illness to Jesus. Four days after Lazarus’s death Jesus finally arrived. Martha went to talk to Jesus and He said to her “Your brother shall rise again” but, she seems to already know of this resurrection of the last day. (verse 24) Martha goes to get her sister and Jesus sees how distraught they were as they wept. When He seen their grief He “was troubled” (verse 33) He then asked where they had laid Lazarus (verse 34) and went to see. This is when Jesus wept. He weeps in front of Lazarus’s tomb and “the Jews were saying ‘Behold how He loved him!'” (verse 36) However, others became spectacle of His miracle and began questioning. (verse 38) Jesus then declares the people to remove the stone and then prayed to God. He prayed to God in the interest of the people so that “they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” (verse 42) After this, Jesus orders: “Lazarus, come forth.” (verse 43) His friend rose from the grove. Another miracle! Jesus had to call Lazarus by name. If he had not, and simply stated “Come forth”, all the dead would have risen because of Jesus’ power and glory.
One theory is that Jesus wept to reveal that He was indeed a true man with physical bodily functions just like any other human. This would then in return expel the idea of Docetism which is a belief that he was actually a spirit and not physically real.
Weeping for Lazarus could just be a result from the simple fact that Lazarus was indeed dead. After all, Lazarus was the one “whom Jesus loved” so the reason is clear and obvious. (verse 3)
Another theory is the idea that Jesus was actually weeping for those closest to Him, such as his disciples and Mary and Martha were still blinded and did not believe what Jesus told them in verses 25 and 26. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me shall liven even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die…”
There is also and idea that His grief was for the events to come. Jesus is known to have divine knowledge even that of the after life. With that said, some believe that Jesus wept because He knew that He would resurrect Lazarus, the one whom He loved (verse 3). With that said, Jesus was sad because Lazarus would have to leave paradise (Luke 23:43) and return to the imperfect and evil world.
The raising of Lazarus is the climax of the series of ‘signs’: whatever doubts they might have had before, Jesus’ divine glory was evident (verse 40). It is not surprising that many believed in Jesus. In verse 31, two groups of people with very different intentions are included in ‘The Jews who had come with Mary’. One group, the consoling group, were those who presumably left her house and followed her ‘thinking she was going to the tomb to weep there’ (v. 31). The other group, who had less friendly intentions, had a different reaction. As soon as they saw what Jesus had done they went off and told the Pharisees (verse 46).
The raising of Lazarus in not found in the synoptic gospels; however, there are connections between this scene and the synoptic trial of Jesus. The raising had the same reaction many other miracle stories had. This included both positive and then negative reactions. Furthermore, a meeting of the council of Sanhedrin was called to figure out what to do about Jesus. “With this hearing the wheels are set in motion that will eventually carry Jesus to his death. Jesus gives life and his enemies decide to put him to death,”.