Jesus Our Lord – His Tears

Jesus Our Lord – His Tears

April 16th, 1981 @ 12:00 PM

John 11:35

Jesus wept.
Print Sermon
Downloadable Media
Share This Sermon
Play Audio

Show References:

Pre-Easter Sermon


Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 11:35

4-16-81    12:00 p.m.



You remember that this is a busy lunch hour for those who work downtown, and if you have to leave any moment, we are just grateful that you came.  Stay as long as you can.  The theme for the services this year: "Jesus Our Lord": on Monday, His Face; on Tuesday, His Shoulders; yesterday, His Hands; tomorrow, His Wounds, His Blood; and today, His Tears

One time, Jesus asked His apostles, "Who do men say that I am?"  Whom do you think I am like?  And they replied, "Well, some say that You are John the Baptist, raised from the dead. Some say that You are Elijah, the prophet that was promised to come.  Some say that you are one of the other prophets [Matthew 16:13-14].  But many of them say You are Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.   What an unusual impression that Jesus made upon the people. 

Do you remember Jeremiah begins the first chapter of his Lamentations; "Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?  Behold, and see that there is no sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me" [Lamentations 1:12].  Do you remember, in his lamentation over Judah, "Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night over the lost of the daughter of my people!" [Jeremiah 9:1].  They said: "You are Jeremiah, the weeping prophet." 

When you consider that it is never recorded that the Lord ever smiled or that He ever laughed – though, when you minutely study the Scriptures, there is subtle humor in many of His confrontations with the leaders of His day.  Yet, it is never written that He laughed or smiled.  But three times in the Bible we are told that Jesus cried, that He wept. 

Is crying, is weeping an indication of weakness?  I used to think so.  When I was a boy and would attend church services, sometimes they were so moving to me that I couldn’t keep from crying.  But a boy shouldn’t cry; what I did, I put my head down between the pews so nobody could see me because a boy ought not to cry.  In one of my village churches, the high school superintendent, principal, was a tremendously large man.  He had been the center, and a famous one, on the football team of the university that he attended.  And I asked him to give his Christian testimony, and when he did he cried and apologized for his tears.  Is crying a sign of weakness?  Who cries?  Who weeps? 

 A Simon Peter, having denied the Lord: the Lord turned and looked upon him as he cursed and denied to a little maid that he ever knew Him.  And when the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, he went out, and wept bitterly [Luke 22:62].  Who cries?  In the closing verses of the twentieth chapter of Acts, the Ephesians elders are told that they’ll see Paul’s face no more, "And Paul knelt down, and prayed with them all.  And they wept sore" [Acts 20:37].  They cried profusely that they would see Paul’s face no more.

Who cries?  My mother cried.  Bless her heart, when I was converted, she cried.  My father cried.  He said, "Son, I feel I’ll never see you again."  And he didn’t.  My father cried.  Who cries?  A mother heart, a father heart, a shepherd heart, a sorrowing heart, a broken heart, a contrite heart, a loving heart, a caring heart; who cries?  Jesus cries. 

Three times in the Holy Scriptures is the Lord described as weeping.  First, in John chapter 11, verse 35.  And, isn’t it an unusual thing that the translators have pulled that little verse off by itself?  "Jesus wept," John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, Jesus cried.  The occasion is well known to you.  When He saw Mary and Martha, so brokenhearted over the death of their brother, Lazarus, Jesus burst into tears, tears of sympathy and compassion.  That little verse speaks more volumes about our Lord than a library of descriptions.  You hardly need to say anything.  It says itself beautifully, preciously, eloquently: "Jesus cried tears of sympathy and compassion."  That’s a beautiful thing in any heart and in any life. 

A little girl came home from school and said to her mother, "My little desk mate is so sad.  Her mother died."  And the child’s mother said to the girl who is telling her about it, she said, "And sweetheart, what did you say to your little friend?"  And the little child replied, "Mother, I never said anything.  I just put my arm around her and cried too."  Eloquent, beyond what any descriptive word could ever say. 

I so well remember holding a funeral service for a little girl.  And the mother, a young mother, wept so inconsolably, lamented.  It broke my heart just listening to her and looking at her.  At the head of the casket stood her young husband with his arms folded like this, immobile, unmoved.  I stood there by his side and looked at him in astonishment.  "Man," I wanted to say, "couldn’t you at least put your hand upon your wife or couldn’t you say something endearing?  But to stand there unmoved, to me, unforgivable and inexplicable; tears of sympathy and understanding.

We are prone to think that our Lord in the days of His flesh was moved in human compassion, but now that He is ascended into heaven and is immortalized, that He is not touched and He is not moved with the feeling of our infirmities any longer.  Nothing could be wider from the truth.  The Scriptures go to great and meticulous pains to explain to us that our Lord in His human recognitions is the same now as He was in the days of His flesh.  He is no different [Hebrews 13:8].  He has a human body of flesh and bones, though immortalized, glorified.  He has scars of suffering in His hands, in His feet, and in His side; the same Lord Jesus.

When He appeared to Saul of Tarsus, making his way to Damascus, to arrest and to hail into prison and to death those that called upon His name, the Lord stopped him and said: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" [Acts 9:4].  Not, why persecute you My people, or why persecute you My church?  But, why persecute you Me?  He is identified with us; our sorrows are His sorrows, our tears are His tears, our perplexities and frustrations belong to Him.  And the whole Book of Hebrews presents to us that faithful High Priest, who is moved with the feeling of our infirmities, who was tried and suffered in all points like as we are.  And on the basis of the humanity, and the sympathy, and the compassion, and the understanding of our Lord, we are invited to come boldly to the throne of grace [Hebrews 4:14-16].  You’re speaking to Someone and praying to Someone who understands; tears of sympathy and compassion: "Jesus wept." 

The second time that in the Bible our Lord is described as crying is in the forty-first verse of the [nineteenth] chapter of the Gospel of Luke.  When Jesus came to the brow of Olivet and looked upon the city of Jerusalem spread before Him, He cried [Luke 19:41].  He burst into tears, tears for the lost.  That is a rebuke to me, when I read it, and a rebuke to our church.  How long has it been since you ever saw a congregation bowed down in tears because of the burden for the lost?  When was the last time you bowed before the Lord in intercession and in tears for someone lost?  The world calluses our hearts.  It hardens our spirits, and we become thus more and more unlike our Lord, who wept over the lost. 

I read of a young pastor who came to the city, and an associate came into the study where he was and found the young pastor looking out the window, over the rooftops of the city that lay before him, and the young pastor was weeping.  And the associate asked him, "Why do you weep?" 

And the young pastor replied, "These people – look upon them, in their sorrows and lostness, my heart is moved, and I can’t help but weep over them."  

And, the associate said, "There, there young pastor.  You’ll get used to it, and you’ll get over it."  What a harsh observation to make, but how tragically true.  "Don’t worry.  You’ll get over it.  You’ll get used to it.  You’ll be able to look upon a whole city lost and never feel anything at all.  You’ll be able to walk down their streets and drive down their ways and look upon the thousands and the thousands that don’t know God and be unmoved.  Don’t worry.  You’ll get used to it."  And we do. 

 In the long years that I have been a pastor, once in a while I will see somebody who has been won to the faith of the Lord by an intellectual forensic presentation of the merits and worth and value of the Lord Jesus.  Once in a while a man is intellectually convinced, and he becomes a Christian.  But in the long years of my pastoral work, that man thus saved by an intellectual forensic approach is an exception.  Most of us have been saved through the love and prayers and caring tenderness and interest and intercession of somebody who loved us.  Most of us were – practically all of us were. 

I remember going to the home to try to win a boy of thirteen or fourten years – a younger teenage boy – to the Lord.  His sister, a little older than he, so importune my appeal to her brother.  So I went to the home and sat down in the living room by the side of the lad.  And just beyond sat his sister, just a few years older than he, who had asked me to come.  I took my Bible, and I explained the way of salvation to the boy.  And I pled with the lad the best I could that he accept the Lord as his Savior.  Literally, I had might as well have been making appeal to that camera right there or to that stand over there.  The boy was uninterested and plainly showed it.  And I was about to despair in the failure and was ready to bid adieu and to go my way.  And as I came to the conclusion of the best appeal I could make to that boy, and he responded so indifferently and callously, the sister on the other side, covered her face in her hands and began to cry and to cry profusely.  The boy turned and looked at that sister.  And you could see the tears falling down between her fingers as she wept.  That lad looked at that girl and back at me, and to the girl and back at me.  And it was not long until his own heart was broken, and he began to weep.  And in a few sentences of appeal, I had the lad into the kingdom of God.  Most of us have been won to the Lord, not by the tremendous intellectual arguments, theological persuasions of the Lord Jesus.  Most of us have been won by a loving, caring, compassionate heart: the tears of Jesus.

 The third instance of the praying and the weeping of our Lord is in the fifth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, verses 7 and 8.  There our Lord is described like this:


Who in the days of His flesh, when He was to be offered up as a sacrifice, made in prayers and intercessions strong appeals to God with strong crying and tears. 

And though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 


I don’t know where in that Passion of our Lord this passage refers to "in the strong crying and tears" of Jesus.  It could have been in Gethsemane.  It could have been when His disciples forsook Him and fled.  Could have been when He looked upon His grieving mother.  Could have been when they nailed Him to the tree.  Could have been when they mocked Him – maybe all the way through.  The author just describes our Lord as, "in the days of His suffering, He prayed to God with strong crying and tears."  I feel that I am now treading where I ought not to tread, I’m entering a Holy of Holies in which I don’t belong – the sufferings of our Lord that elicited from His soul, strong crying and tears.

In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, in verses [10] and [11], it says, "That God shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied,It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; and that God shall make His soul an offering for sin."  What does that mean?  I don’t know.  God makes His soul an offering for sin.  I don’t know.  I can’t enter into it.  Just that the Scriptures say that, when He made Himself and gave Himself a sacrifice for us, that He did it with strong crying and tears.  I suppose that was the inspiration for that Negro spiritual:


Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there?

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

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?


Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there?


Were you there when He bowed His head and died?

Were you there?

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

Were you there when He bowed His head and died?

[from "Where You There?"; traditional African American hymn., 1865


The tears of our Lord for us, that we might be saved; I don’t think any man can look honestly and fully at the sacrifice of Jesus and be unmoved.  I don’t think any man can really look at the Lord in all of His compassionate love and ever be the same again.  It changes us.  It moves us, even to repentance and to the bowing in His presence. 

Lord, Lord, that God should do so wonderful thing for me as to die for me, seek me out, call me by name, bless my soul and life in forgiveness and salvation.  Lord, Lord, that we might praise Thee, love Thee the more forever and ever, amen.  So precious Savior, that there might be more of us in love and praise and service for Thee, and less of us in selfishness, and in all of those little things that make us small.  Lord, may we grow big in our souls and great in our hearts, loving Thee, in Thy wonderful name, amen.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

John 11:35



I.          He is like Jeremiah

A. "Who
do men say that I am?" (Matthew 16:12-14,
Jeremiah 9:1, Lamentations 1:12)

B.  Never
recorded that He smiled; but it does say He cried (John
11:35, Luke 19:41, Hebrews 5:7)

C.  Are
tears a sign of weakness?

D.  Who
cries? (Luke 22:62, Acts 20:36-38)


II.         Tears of Sympathy (John 11:35)

A.  Quiet tears over the
death of Lazarus speak volumes of our Lord

      1.  Little girl
crying with her schoolmate

B.  Scripture confirms
His humanity (Acts 9:4, Hebrews 4:15-16)


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

A.  He lamented

      1.  Young pastor
called to city church

B.  The power of a
Christian heart to care

      1.  Teenage sister
weeping for her brother


IV.       Tears of atonement (Hebrews 5:7-8)

A.  He wept facing the

B.  God makes His soul an
offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10-11)