This article is about the humanness of Jesus Christ, specifically about the three times Jesus cried.

Source: The Monthly Record, 1999. 2 pages.

The Tears of Jesus

Central to the biblical doctrine of the Person of Christ is the twin asser­tion that the Lord had both a divine and a human nature. From all eternity he was, and remains, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in nature, and equal to him in power and glory. This divine glory is underived – it belongs to Jesus in the fulness of his deity. Truly the fulness of the godhead dwells in him.

The glorious mystery of the incar­nation is that this fulness comes to dwell in Jesus in a bodily form and in a bodily manner. In addition to all that is true of Jesus as the eternal Son of God, some things come to be true of him in his assumption of our nature. He be­comes man, not in place of his being God, but in addition to his being God. The wonder is that while he comes to be what he was not, he does not cease to be what he was. He retains all the properties of Godhead while assuming to himself all the properties of man­hood.

This means that Jesus takes to him­self what our catechism calls 'a true body and a reasonable soul'. Not only is he genetically one with us, physically modified according to his genetic struc­ture; he is also emotionally one with us. He has a soul that enters fully into our emotional life and into our feelings and thought processes. There is a complete identification, even to the point of affectionate and emotional response to all that he sees around him and be­comes acquainted with.

Perhaps nothing registers this for us like the three records of the tears of Jesus that we have in the New Testa­ment. These are the references which fill out for us the terms of the Old Testament prophecy which said that Jesus would be 'a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief'. There is so much of an identification with us that Jesus cries. Events and occurrences take their emotional toll. He cannot remain un­moved by what he sees.

Tears Over the City🔗

Luke records for us that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. Luke 19 recounts the preparation Christ made for his coming to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man would be handed over to the Gentiles and ultimately put to death on the cross. As he looked over the city, the sweeping panorama of the city moved him to tears. His holy mind viewed the city in the light of genera­tions of biblical history: this was the city of David, "the Bride of Kings and the mother of Prophets" as George Adam Smith described her. Within her walls kingly exploits had been per­formed and prophetic messages had been delivered. God had placed his name here, making Zion a residence for himself.

Yet as Jesus looked over the city, he wept, because what his soul registered above all was the fact of spiritual death. Jerusalem, in spite of untold privileges, still did not know the things that be­longed to her peace! This was the more ironic in that the original name for the city was Salem, which comes from the Hebrew root for 'peace'. The city was named 'Peace', but the city did not know the meaning of real peace and fulfillment.

Perhaps we have remained unmoved for too long by the plight of those who are still spiritually dead, ignorant of what true peace is and where it can be obtained. We need to cultivate the spirit of our Lord, who could not remain unmoved. In him, love and compassion joined, and his heart broke as he viewed a city divorced from God.

Tears Over the Grave🔗

In the most famous verse of the Bible, we read that "Jesus wept" by the grave of Lazarus, his friend (John 11:35). Jesus had often visited the home in Bethany, and had been warmly re­ceived, enjoying fellowship and com­panionship. But now death shadows had fallen on the home, and its peace was shattered by the weeping of Mary. Martha and their "comforters".

Jesus was not one to ignore the needs of men. His was a caring minis­try, one which was affected and affec­tionate. People were his life's work. As he approached the grave of Lazarus, he 'groaned in the spirit and was troubled'.

This, incidentally, is a reminder to us that the Bible is not simply a piece of human literature, for all our insistence on the Bible as literature. The evange­list could not know about Jesus' secret groaning or his feeling troubled apart from special revelation. And the super­natural revelation of the Bible reveals to us a Saviour who entered so much into the stream of our emotions that he wept over the natural death of Lazarus, as he had wept over the spiritual death of Jerusalem. He is not indifferent to our pain.

Here again, as Warfield expresses it, "love lies at the bottom of compas­sion". What sin had done – in its effects on Lazarus as well as on his sisters – is what moves the Saviour to tears. There is sympathy and empathy, a willingness to feel the hurt and share the pain. Incarnational Christianity addresses the sensitivities of the human heart and does not shrink from sharing the load with those who are hurting most.

Tears Over the Cross🔗

If spiritual death and natural death moved the Lord to tears, so also did his own death. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was not unaf­fected by the horror of Golgotha. He gave himself to the one who could save him from death, only with strong cry­ing and tears (Hebrews 5:7). The dread­fulness of the cup, as Jesus saw himself answerable for sin before a holy and just God, tore at his very soul. Yet he chose this road, out of love, for his people.

Perhaps Warfield was right to warn against the tendency both to minimize Christ's emotions to guard his deity, and to maximise them to guard his humanity. One thing is certain. It was not easy for him to live in a sin-sick world, one that lived without God, sub­ject to death and decay, that only the cross could remedy. Perhaps it is a sign of how easily we become conformed to it that we do not weep enough.

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