Why did Jesus Weep?
Today I want to talk about the famously "shortest verse in the Bible"*, John 11:35: "Jesus wept." It might seem straightforward, but the important question here is: "Why did Jesus weep?"
There are are a few possibilities here. It is important to note that it is VERY unlikely that Jesus is weeping simply because His friend Lazarus is dead, because He knows that He is about to resurrect Lazarus (see 11:23). That leaves us with three main possibilities:
1) Jesus weeps because death is ugly and has power over man. Jesus is lamenting the "unnaturalness" of death. 
2) Jesus weeps because those around Him are sad. Jesus empathizes with them. 
3) Jesus weeps because of the unbelief of those around Him. 
Though all of these options are possible when reading, deeper study definitely shows us that option 3 is the best choice. Coming into this passage today, I was torn between these options: I have heard each of these interpretations before, and had not yet formed an opinion about which of them was true. After studying, I am certain that the correct way to understand this passage is option 3, and I want to take you through the Bible study process that got me there. We're going to cover two reasons that option 3 is best: context and language.
a. Verse 14-15: "Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." The stated reason for not being there to heal Lazarus is that "you may believe".
b. Verses 23, 26: "Your brother will rise again", then "....do you believe this?" Again, the purpose of belief comes up. Martha expresses her belief.
c. Verses 33-38: Mary and other Jews come to Jesus weeping, expressing that if only Jesus had been there, Lazarus could have lived. They believe that Jesus can certainly heal, but not that He can raise the dead. After the first statement lamenting He wasn't there, Jesus weeps. After the second, He is "deeply moved" again.
d. Verse 40: Jesus' response to Martha again focuses on belief: He has just told her that her brother will rise and she affirmed belief in this power. Jesus rebukes her here because she lacks the belief she said she had in verse 26.
e. Verses 41-42: Jesus prays to God out loud. Why? Verse 42: "I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me."
Summary: The entire context of this story focuses on the issue of belief. Jesus performs this action in order that people may believe. Jesus weeps and is troubled following statements that fail to believe that He has the power to raise the dead. Study of the context of the passage strongly suggests that the weeping has to do with lack of belief, not the death itself. Careful observation in this passage points to option 3 as the best option.
I realize that most of you do not have original language skills or Bible software to dig into this part of what I studied, but I wanted to summarize for you here, as I think it makes the case for option 3 even stronger. Also, good Bible Study software (click the link and watch it!) can enable you to do studies like this without a deep knowledge of the original languages. Think about getting some Bible software to deepen your study!
a. Now to the language stuff. First interesting observation about "Jesus wept." The word used in verse 35 about Jesus is NOT the same word used of Mary and the other Jews. When Mary and the Jews weep, the word used is "κλαίω" (klaio), which means: "to weep or wail, with emphasis upon the noise accompanying the weeping."  The word used of Jesus weeping, however is "δακρύω" (dakryo), meaning more simply and generally "to weep". The interesting part about the word used of Jesus is that it is what we call a "hapax legomenon", a word that occurs only ONE TIME in the New Testament. This means that it's harder to define precisely because we have no other usages in of the word in the NT to compare it to in order to help us better understand the specific meaning. There are some usages in other Greek documents, but the verdict is that there is nothing that is specifically helpful about the meaning of the word. The takeaway from this portion of study: by using a different word, John is showing us that the way or reason Jesus is weeping is different than the way/reason that the others are weeping.
b. So now what do we do? The definition wasn't helpful. Is there anything else we can do? Absolutely. Let's check the close context for further clues. Important words/phrases connected to Jesus weeping in the context are "deeply moved" (vv. 33, 38) and "greatly troubled" (v. 33). Checking the meaning and usage of those words gives us A LOT of help. The English translation is a bit vague as to what kind of "moving" is happening to Jesus, so I check the other usages of that word. The word is "ἐμβριμάομαι" (embrimaomai), and other meanings of the word as translated in the ESV are: scolded, charged, and warned. It is used in Mark 14:5 when they "scold" the woman who anoints Jesus' feet with expensive perfume and also in Mark 1:40 when he "charges" a leper He has healed to say nothing. It is used in Matthew 9:30 when Jesus "warns" the two blind men he has healed to tell no one. The usage of the word is definitely negative: when understanding that Jesus was "deeply moved", the usage of this word would strongly suggest that it is not moved by pity or empathy, but rather that He is "deeply moved" with a desire to rebuke or warn. This goes along with the other phrase, "troubled", which is also translated as "disturbed" (NRSV). The language suggests to us that it is not empathy or even sadness that is moving Jesus, but something more along the lines of frustration or anger, with a desire for rebuke behind it.
So....take context and language together and what do you get? Option 3. The passage emphasizes belief, but people doubt the power of Jesus. The emotions that the language conveys are those of warning and rebuke. Jesus then DOES rebuke Martha and additionally prays out loud to make it obvious to everyone why He is performing this miracle: in order that they may believe the Jesus was sent by God.
Whew....that's a lot of work for two words, but I think it was worth it. By taking the time to understand this short verse, we understand the purpose of the story as a whole much better: this is not a story that shows us that Jesus feels emotion (we know that from plenty of other passages), but a story that demands belief as Jesus offers proof that He is the Son of God.
Do you believe?
 B.B. Warfield, The Emotional Life of our Lord. You can read it here.
 This is a very common interpretation. Here is an example of it.
 This is the viewpoint held by the NIVAC John commentator and many other commentators.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 303.