Tears in the Bible


This weekend is Palm Sunday. It’s the first day of Holy Week, a week of extreme emotions, both ups and downs. The week begins with jubilation, climaxes with the most terrible event in human history, and ends with the most wonderful one.

And yet as I read over the accounts of the Triumphal Entry, something is missing. I’ve always thought of Palm Sunday as a day of joy. This time, I don’t see joy. Not true, lasting joy anyway.

I see sadness.

The crowd surged around Jesus and shouted his praise, expecting him to swoop in and defeat their political enemies. But we don’t read that Jesus pumped his fists in the air and high-fived his palm-frond waving fans.

Jesus cried.

Jesus cried over Jerusalem. He cried for the people he loved who were lost.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  Luke 19:41

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Luke 13:33-35

As I pondered this, I decided to search for other instances when Jesus’s tears are recorded.

Jesus wept.

Of course the first verse I flipped to is the favorite for school children to memorize:  “Jesus wept.”

He wept when Mary told him his friend Lazarus had died. (John 11:33-35)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

The people watching thought he cried for Lazarus. You may, too.

But I don’t think he cried for Lazarus. He knew he was about to call him to walk out of the tomb. I believe he wept because he saw the fierce grief his friends felt. He cried because they hurt.

Jesus wept because he cares.

He cares about our pain. In Psalm 56:8, we read that God keeps our tears in his bottle. They are precious to him. Our sorrow and grief is never wasted.

You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

One of the things I love most about Jesus is his deep emotion that he so freely expressed. Joy, laughter, righteous indignation, tenderness, sadness. He experienced it all. Even when the Bible doesn’t explicitly say he cried, his life was filled with suffering. He came to die.

Jesus grieved.

Jesus sympathizes with our pain because he knows what it feels like.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Isaiah 53:3

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.  Hebrews 5:7-8

In Garden of Gethsemane, he was deeply troubled and distressed, grieved to the point of death. He prayed:

“Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36

God’s heart grieves.

Jesus is the physical expression of the heart of God toward us. He shows us what God is like.

A dear friend of mine, who has experienced intense grief, told me that she is learning to trust God’s heart in her pain. I love that. Trust his heart in our pain.

What do you know about his heart?

Do you trust what you know?

On Palm Sunday, as Christ-followers around the globe begin to commemorate the week ahead, we know what’s coming. God’s heart is about to grieve like no one’s heart has ever grieved before or since.

He was willing to have his heart broken because He cares for us.

May we get to know, and trust, his heart in a much deeper and more profound way this Easter season.

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