The Tears of Jesus


The Tears of Jesus

March 27th, 1975 @ 12:00 PM

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Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 11:35

3-27-75    12:00 p.m.


As Dr. Draper announced, the theme for our noonday Easter services this year is “The Compassionate Christ”: Monday, The Compassion of Jesus; Tuesday, The Love of Jesus; Wednesday, yesterday, The Spirit of Jesus; tomorrow, the day He was crucified, The Blood of Jesus; and today, The Tears of Jesus.

Did He ever laugh?  He had a subtle sense of humor.  And I have read where scholars who carefully look through the sayings of the Lord will point out such and such was said in ridicule or in merriment or in laughing scorn.  But whether He ever laughed or not, or smiled, it is never openly said.  But three times is it written in the Holy Scriptures that He cried.  In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, it says, “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it” [Luke 19:41].  In the fifth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, it says that our Lord “In the days of His flesh offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from death” [Hebrews 5:7].  And the third time that He cried is in the beautiful picture of our Lord standing before the tomb of His friend Lazarus, and the shortest verse in the Bible describes His compassionate response: “Jesus wept” [John 11:35].  Those three times is it mentioned that He cried.

Is it a weakness that a man would weep?  I so well can remember when in some of the services in the church when I was a boy, I was so moved I would bow my head between the pews and cry.  I did not want people to see me weep.  Somehow I felt it was something that a boy ought not to do, was openly to cry, so I’d bow my head between the pews and weep.  I remember a big, big, big university, college football star.  He was the center on a nationally famous team.  He weighed about two hundred eighty pounds, a giant of a man.  He was giving a personal testimony before the church that I pastored, and the big fellow cried as he gave his word of trust in the Lord, and he apologized for his tears and asked the people to forgive him that he cried.  Is it a weakness in a man that he cries?  My mother cried when she asked me to trust in Jesus as my Savior, and I cried.  When we took my father to the railroad station and he climbed on the train, he turned first and put his arms around me, and cried, saying, “Son, I feel I will never see you again.”  And he didn’t, not till heaven.  Is it a weakness for a man to cry?

When Simon Peter was denying the Lord, the Lord turned and looked upon him, and the Scriptures say that he went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-62].  In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Paul had his meeting with the Ephesian elders at Miletus, he said that they would see his face no more.  And the Book says that the Ephesian elders cried, wept for the saying that Paul had said, that they would see his face no more [Acts 20:36-38].

Did you ever cry, maybe at the tomb of someone loved, laid tenderly away, or at a bitter and grievous disappointment?  Who cries?  It is the mother heart that weeps, it’s the father heart, it’s the shepherd heart, it’s the tender heart, it’s the humble heart, it’s the broken heart, it’s the sorrowing heart that cries; and so and thus we read in the life of our Lord; the compassionate Christ, the tears of Jesus.  First:  He wept for the lost, “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it [Luke 19:41].  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how oft would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and you would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” [Luke 13:34-35], and He cried as He looked out over the lost in the holy city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41].  I wonder if He weeps today as He looks over the great secular cities of the world.

I read yesterday, in preparing this message, of a preacher who had just gone to a city pulpit, and when time came for him to preach he wasn’t there, and the sexton was commissioned to find him.  And the sexton found him: he was standing at the window in his study that overlooked a vast slum area in the sprawling city, and as the new pastor stood at the window, looking over the illimitable slums, he was crying.  And the sexton said to him, “But sir, the service is waiting and time is come for you to preach,” and the pastor replied, “I was just caught up in the sorrows, and poverty, and necessities, and distresses, and brokenheartedness, and helplessness and hopelessness of the people.  Just look,” he said, “Just look!” and the sexton replied, “Yes sir, I know.  But you’ll soon get used to it.  Time is come to preach.”  That’s what I’m afraid of in me, in the church, in the whole kingdom of God: we get used to it.  People are lost; what of it?  They live in need and necessity; what of it?—and pass it by.  In that we are different from our Lord; “And coming near He beheld the city, and wept over it” [Luke 19:41].

You know, if I were to live a thousand lifetimes, I can never, ever forget the deep and abiding and indelible impression that was made upon me as I went through the nation of Germany soon after the Second World War.  Standing in the center of a great city like Hamburg, as big as Chicago, and from side to side, from horizon to horizon, see nothing but rubble, not one building standing, not one; and so through Berlin, and so through the great cities of Germany.  There was just, when we went through those vast heaps of debris, there was just a road that had been shoveled out for a car to drive through.  And looking at those cities I could not help but think of our own.  A New York, a Los Angeles, a Chicago, a St. Louis, a Houston, a Dallas.  What preserves us, and what keeps us?  Is it our armies?  Is it our navies?  Is it our air force?  I poignantly remember Hermann Goering, who was chief of the air force of the Nazi army under Hitler.  I well remember Hermann Goering saying, “These bombs are falling on England, they’re falling on Poland, they’re falling on France, they’re falling on Russia; these bombs are falling from our planes on our enemies, but never will a bomb fall on Der Vaterland.”  Are you real sure?

Out there in the Gulf of Mexico now, all up and down the Atlantic seaboard now, there are Soviet submarines with multi-headed atomic missiles, and they can pinpoint any city in America, including Dallas.  What frightens me is whether we live or die is not the size of our air force or the technique of our army; whether we live or die lies in the imponderables of Almighty God.  And when I read in the Holy Scriptures, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” [Psalm 9:17], I don’t think we can survive in that forgetfulness, in debauchery, and drunkenness, and promiscuity, and sin, in a floodtide of evil and iniquity.  I don’t think any people can ever escape the ultimate judgment of Almighty God.  And when the Lord stood on the brow of the hill called Olivet, and looked over the great city, who would have thought, who would have thought that in 70 AD, forty years later, one generation later, the great battering rams of the legions of Titus would be hammering down the gates and the walls and setting fire to the holy temple of God?  “Your house is left unto you desolate [Luke 13:35].  And He cried, He wept” [Luke 19:41].

The second time we are told that He cried was in the days of His flesh, “when He had offered up prayers and supplications unto Him that was able to save Him from death with strong crying and tears” [Hebrews 5:7].  Those are tears of atonement.  I feel I enter where I ought not to tread.  I’m in a place to which I do not belong when I look at our Savior in Gethsemane, and He is crying before God with deep, unutterable lamentations.  What is that, when He suffered in agony so that in prayer His sweat looked like great drops of blood falling down to the ground? [Luke 22:44]  I don’t think any man could ever know.  The prophet Isaiah said, “God shall make His soul an offering for sin” [Isaiah 53:10].  Isaiah said, “God shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11].  Somehow, in a mystery into which we cannot enter, God made Him to be sin for us [2 Corinthians 5:21].  And in bearing the weight and the burden of all the sins of the world [1 John 2:2], He cried with strong crying and tears [Hebrews 5:7].

“Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” [Matthew 26:39].  Why, my dear people, there have been tens of thousands of men who have been crucified, martyred, who never uttered a word.  But Jesus cried with great crying and with heavy tears, bearing our sins.  “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Mark 15:34].  “And He bowed His head and cried, It is finished… and gave up His spirit” [John 19:30].  I don’t know, I cannot enter into it, how the Lord offered His soul in travail for us and was satisfied, propitiated, made favorable toward us in His suffering [Isaiah 53:11].

Isn’t that sometimes like black people say it in ways that we could never utter it:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, sometimes it makes me to tremble.

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when He bowed His head and died?

Oh, sometimes it makes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

[“Were You There?” traditional Negro Spiritual]


“With strong crying and tears,” He faced the cross [Hebrews 5:7].

The last:  tears of sympathy and understanding and compassion before the tomb, with Mary and Martha, crying [John 11:32-35].  Could you conceive of a more human picture than that?  He knew what He was going to do, for He said to His disciples, “I go to awaken him, that is, to raise him from the dead” [John 11:11].  Christians don’t die; they just fall asleep in Jesus [1 Thessalonians 4:14].  And what the old people called a graveyard: to us we coined a word, a koimētērion, a cemetery, “a sleeping place,” where we lay our beloved dead until the Lord shall awaken us.  He knew what He was going to do, and delayed those days in order that the miracle might attest to His deity, that they might believe in Him [John 11:14-15,40-41].  But human like, seeing Mary and Martha cry, and the friends who loved Lazarus weep by their side, He, and the word literally, “burst into tears” [John 11:35], moved in compassion by those who sorrow;  the tears of Jesus.

Do you remember when John the Baptist was beheaded? [Matthew 14:10-11]. The Scriptures say, “And the disciples took the headless torso of the great Baptist preacher, and buried him.”  And then the next verse, “And they went and told Jesus” [Matthew 14:12].  I would think that has been repeated ten thousand times ten thousand times, “And they went and told Jesus” [Matthew 14:12].  Have you ever done that?  I have.  Tell the Lord all about it.  “For we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tried as we are; though He without sin.  Wherefore come boldly, boldly to the throne of grace, that ye might find grace to help in time of trouble” [Hebrews 4:14-16], the sympathizing Jesus.

Do you know, one time, in our little church, I was seated here, and right there was our neighbor who lived cater-cornered across the street from our house?  He was our town marshal.  And in the wee hours of the morning, he came upon some men who were burglarizing a store in the little town; and those robbers shot him to death.  And when the townspeople awakened the next morning, they saw our neighbor and friend and town marshal lying there in his own blood.  It was his little wife that was here at prayer meeting the following Wednesday night.  We had testimony meetings in those long ago days.  She was big with child, I can remember her, just see her right now; she was heavy with child, and she had a little child at her side.  She stood up to testify, and said, “Were it not for Jesus, I don’t know what I would do.  But He promised to take care of me, and my hope is in Him.”  All of us who love the Lord feel that kinship with her and with Him.

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pains we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to Him in prayer.

[“What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” Joseph Scriven, 1855]


Our tender, compassionate, shepherdly, sympathizing Jesus [Matthew 9:36].

[another man praying]  Our Father, we are grateful to have that kind of Savior.  Thank You that He cares; what hurts us affects His heart.  He shares that grief.  So may our faces, often tanned with the sun, often added to with the powder of human cosmetic, find fresh furrows of tears as we share with tender heart in the compassion and the tears of our Lord.  May we reach out to each other in encouragement and in faith and in strength, and Father, from this group today, may there be many of us who will again turn to this Christ in faith.  Thank You that He is ready, and willing, and open, and cares.  In Jesus’ name, amen.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

Luke 19:41,
Hebrews 5:7, John 11:35


I.          Introduction

Never recorded that Jesus laughed; but three times that He cried (Luke 19:41,
Hebrews 5:7, John 11:35)

B.  Is
it a weakness that a man would weep? (Matthew 26:75, Acts 20:36-38)

II.         Tears for the lost (Luke 19:41)

A.  City of Jerusalem
(Luke 19:34-35)

      1.  Preacher new
to a city pulpit

      2.  Visiting
Germany post World War II

      3.  Soviet
submarines in the Gulf of Mexico (Psalm 9:17)

III.        Tears of atonement (Hebrews 5:7)

A.  Looking at our
Savior in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44, Isaiah 53:10-11)

B.  Bearing
the weight and burden of all the sins of the world (Matthew 26:39, Mark 15:34,
John 19:30)

IV.       Tears of sympathy (John 11:35)

A.  Crying over the
death of Lazarus (John 11:11)

B. “And they went and
told Jesus.” (Mark 6:29-30, Hebrews 4:15-16)

      1. “Were it not
for Jesus…”

      2.  Hymn, “What a
Friend We Have in Jesus”