The Tears Of Jesus
( Originally Published 1895 )
"Jesus wept. "—John xi. 35.
"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. "—Heb. v. 7, 9.
"He beheld the city, and wept over it. "—Luke xix. 41.
TEARS are the common language of sympathy in all time, among all people, throughout the world. Men may be divided by language and race and national prejudice, but there is a common bond of fellowship in the tear of gladness or sympathy or sorrow. I saw once in Paris a funeral procession following on foot a little white casket; and though I could not understand a word the mourners said, the tears sprang involuntarily to my eyes, for I knew how a father's heart felt when he followed his little child to the tomb. I stood once on a Dutch ship in Amsterdam and watched a company of stalwart Hollanders, largely fathers and mothers, come in from the country round about to bid farewell to their sons and daughters who were coming in the emigrant steerage to America to seek their fortune in a strange land. I could not understand a word they said. I had never seen any of them before. But when they pressed each other to the heart in long embrace, and wet each other's faces with their tears as they gave the kiss of farewell, my face also was wet with tears. I knew what it meant to separate from loved ones.
Humanity may be separated and broken into fragments by national lines, by prejudice and caste, but we are bound together by the fellowship of tears. Surely there cannot be a more interesting theme for us to study than these three occasions, the only occasions about which we have any record that Jesus Christ shed tears during bis earthly pilgrimage. I do not think anything else could reveal to us so clearly his attitude toward humanity. Language may be misinterpreted, but there is something in every one of us that makes us understand the meaning of tears.
We have illustrated in this first scripture Christ's sympathy with human sorrow and trouble. When Martha aroused Mary in the house at Bethany and told her that the Master was come and called for her, she arose quickly and went to meet him. Her friends who thronged the house supposed she had gone to the grave of her brother Lazarus, and they followed after her, hoping to comfort her, no doubt, if they could ; but if not, to at least mingle their tears with her in sympathy. But Mary was seeking not the grave, but her friend Jesus. And when she came to him, she fell down at his feet and cried out, " Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." And when Jesus saw her, and her friends who followed weeping, his great heart was filled with sorrow and sympathy for them. He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled and said : " Where have ye laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Then it was that Jesus wept, and all the company looking on said one to another, " Behold how he loved him !"
How close this brings the Lord Jesus to us! When he speaks to the raging billows and they are still at his voice; when he touches a blind man's eyes and he goes seeing; when he speaks to a palsied man and he goes away carrying his bed on his shoulder; when he heals the leper at a word—we stand back to bow down in reverence before the majesty of our God. But when he goes with us to the grave where our dead are lying, and stands in the group with tender face, and sobbing heart and tear-wet eyes, he is our elder brother, and our hearts go out to him and take him in to be Lord over all forevermore. Let us emphasize it in our hearts this morning that Jesus Christ is full of sympathy, tender, tearful sympathy, for the sorrowing and the troubled ; and we shall never have to stand by the sick-bed of our loved ones, or follow them to the grave, but that he shall stand by us or walk with us to comfort our hearts.
Grand-Pierre, the great French preacher, exclaims, What is a tomb without Jesus? It is an empty and a gloomy place, adapted but to afflict the heart with melancholy and despair. It contains a heap of dust, and a few moldering bones. It is a place of bitter regrets, of ever-flowing tears, and of painful recollections. But when we see Jesus standing at the tomb, hope and life and immortality are grouped about him to console and gladden the heart. No doubt there are many here this morning who are often drawn to visit the spot where are deposited the remains of a father, mother, husband, wife, child, brother, sister, or friend, in regard to whom you cherish the sweet hope of meeting again on the heavenly shore. Then, like Martha and Mary, always ask the Savior to go with you there. Then you will not seek among the dead those who live clothed upon with glory and immortality. Your soul will not be filled with gloom and sad thoughts, but will be drawn upward with hope, and made to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. If Jesus stands with you by the tomb of your loved ones, you will see the dawn of the eternal day; you will hear his voice who is "the resurrection and the life" saying, " The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live."
In our second scripture we see the Savior on that dark night of Gethsemane, with prayers and supplications, and with strong cryings and tears, pursuing his work of intercession and mediation for us toward the hour when he is to enter upon his trial and upon the agonies of the cross. Oh, how dear and sacred to us should be those tears of intercession ! t was for our sakes that he took upon himself that hour of awful agony and loneliness; for our sakes that he was bowed down beneath that awful load; for our sakes that hour of anguish and suffering, when great drops of bloody sweat fell from his sorrow-stricken face and the weight of a world's sin for which he was to die rested upon him until he cried out in the agony of his soul, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done."
As the mountain lifts its head into the sky and bears the brunt of the storm, and carries on its broad shoulders the depths of snow that would crush out all life in the valley below, and draws the thunderbolt from the cloud that would cut its swath of ruin if it struck the forest in the lower lands, so the great soul of our Savior stood between us and doom, and by his stripes we may be healed. O my brother, how can you harden your heart against these tears of intercession? for they were shed for you, and he still makes intercession for you. When Stephen was being murdered he kneeled down and, looking up, exclaimed, " I see the heaven opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God!" He is there as your intercessor. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, , Jesus Christ the righteous." And again the apostle exclaims, " He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." And Paul, giving rein to his meditation on the intercession of Jesus, cries out in triumph, " Who is he that condemneth? t is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Are there any here this morning who have been tempted to doubt the warnings of God's Word, which declares that the wages of sin are disaster and death; who have been inclined to go on recklessly in their sins, presuming on the fact that they have sinned as yet without punishment? I bring home this great truth to such an one this morning, that the reason why your life has been prolonged, and your blessings continued, in spite of your wickedness and rebellion against God, is not be-cause God has forgotten, but because of the inter-cessions of the Lord Jesus Christ. You remember that tender parable of the Savior about the husbandman who came into his orchard and found a tree on which there was no fruit, and he said to the man who had the care of it, " Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" And he came year after year with the same result. But it was spared again and again because the workman pleaded, "Spare it another year, and I will dig about it, and give it my special care, and possibly it may bear fruit." So, unfruitful tree that you have been, rendering no return for God's infinite tenderness and love to you, long ago you doubtless would have been swept away as a cumberer of the ground but for the intercessions of the tender, loving Christ. He who shed tears and uttered prayers for you while on earth, and tasted death for every man, still makes intercession for you in heaven.
Surely this tender view of the Savior, weeping and crying in his agony of supplication for us, ought not only to melt our hearts in love for him, but ought to encourage us to bring all our sorrows and griefs to him without doubt or fear. There is not a single fear that he cannot dissipate. There is not a care so heavy that he cannot relieve it. There is no danger so immediate or so terrible that he cannot deliver us. There is not a loss so great or so sad that he cannot repair it. There is not a tear so bitter that he cannot wipe it away. There is not a wound so deep or painful that he cannot heal it. Surely if when on earth he wept for us, now that he is glorified at the right hand of God, he will not be less compassionate to deliver and to console ! Oh, I pray that every one here to-day, whether you have hitherto known him or not, may turn to him for that consolation and comfort and abiding peace which the world can never give. Let us thank God that "we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet with-out sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Let no one stay for fear that your sin will turn him from you. Your very needs will arouse his deepest sympathy.
Dr. Bernardo, of London, the great philanthropist, relates that he was once standing at his front door on a bitter day in winter, when a little ragged chap came up to him and asked for an order of admission into his Home. To test the boy, he pretended to be rather rough with him. . " How do I know," he said, "if what you tell me is true? Have you any friends to speak for you?" "Friends!" the little fellow shouted. "No, I ain't got no friends; but if these 'ere rags,"—and he waded his arm about as he spoke—" won't speak for me, nothing else will." So you may be sure your very needs are the strongest appeal to the Savior. And if you come to him with all your heart, just because you need him most, you shall have most of his sympathy and love.
And now we come to the saddest tears of all—the tears of sorrow over lost souls. Jesus on one occasion drew near to the city of Jerusalem, and as he came near and beheld the city which had been so greatly on his heart, and which he had given such great opportunities for salvation, and which was so soon to reject him and with cruel hands to crucify him, he could not restrain his sorrow for their coming doom, and as he wept sad and bitter tears he exclaimed, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." What makes these tears of the Savior so inexpressibly sad is that they were hopeless tears. Jerusalem had sinned away its day of grace, and, though the city knew it not, it was doomed. O my brother, I bring you this solemn truth, that even the dying love of Christ for your soul, which finds its expression in tears, may after all be in vain and may not save you. t is possible for you to frustrate the grace of God. It is possible for you to grieve the Holy Spirit until he will take his farewell. It is possible for you to resist the tender knocking of the Savior at the door of your heart until he will go away with hope-less tears. The scripture gives us the record of one who resisted the Spirit of God and so wasted his birthright that after a while, when he would turn to God, he found no place for repentance, that is, no chance for change—though he sought after it with bitter and hopeless tears.
The historians tell us that Charles IX. of France, in his youth, had humane and tender sensibilities. The demon who tempted him was the mother who had nursed him. God have mercy on a mother who so forgets the sacred boon and bond of motherhood that she does not throw all the power of her influence and life for the good of her child and the safety of its soul! It is said that when at first this unnatural mother proposed to Charles the massacre of the Huguenots, he shrank from it in horror : " No, no, ma-dame! they are my loving subjects." Then was the critical hour of his life. As Professor Phelps so well says, had he cherished that natural sensitiveness to bloodshed, St. Bartholomew's Eve would never have disgraced the history of his kingdom, and he himself would have escaped the fearful remorse which crazed him on his death-bed. To his physician he said in his last hours, " Asleep or awake, I see the mangled forms of the Huguenots passing before me. They drip with blood. They make hideous faces at me. They point to their open wounds, and mock me. Oh, that I had spared at least the little infants at the breast !" Then he broke out in agonizing cries and screams. Bloody sweat oozed from the pores of his skin. He was one of the very few cases in history which confirm. the possibility of the phenomenon which attended our Lord's anguish in Gethsemane. That was the fruit of resisting, years before, the recoil of his conscience from sin. He trampled his conscience under foot, but he did not escape that which we call "remorse," a word which comes from the Latin word which means "to bite back."
O my brother, my sister, you may sin against your conscience, and trample upon those tender impulses of your soul that would turn you to the Savior, but the day will come when your con-science shall grow rabid, like canine madness, and "bite back" with a malignant venom which has no remedy. For persistent and unrepented sin even the divine Savior has only bitter and hope-less tears.
But no doubt many turn away from this awful picture and say : " I am in no such danger. Against any cruelty, or any vicious crime, my soul re-volts." O my friends, it is sadly true that perhaps more souls are lost through frivolous and giddy sins than through those that have about them the outward elements of tragedy.
Some year ago a gentleman from New York was traveling in the South, when he met a young girl of great beauty and wealth and married her. They returned to New York city and plunged into a mad whirl of gaiety. The young wife had been a gentle, thoughtful girl, anxious to help all suffering and want, and had never dreamed of living other than a Christian life. But in her new sphere she had troops of flatterers, and her soul was carried away with the intoxication of society. She lived for the one object of enjoyment. She dressed and danced, hurried from ball to reception, from dinner to opera. Scores of young girls supposed her to be a proper object of envy, and that her life was without a care and the most desirable to be imagined. But on her return from a trip to California an accident occurred on a railroad train and she received a fatal injury. She was carried into a wayside station, and there, attended only by a physician from a neighboring town, she died.
The physician afterward declared that it was the most painful experience of his life. He had to tell her that she had but an hour to live. She was not suffering any great pain ; her only consciousness of hurt was that she was unable to move, so it was no wonder that she found it bard to believe him.
" I must go home to New York," she said, imperatively.
"Madam," said the doctor, "it is impossible. If you are moved it will shorten the time you have to live."
She was lying on the floor. The brakemen had rolled their coats to make her a pillow. She looked about her at the little dingy station:
" I have but an hour, you tell me?"
The doctor was greatly moved by her anguish, but was compelled to say sadly, " Not more."
"And this is all there is left me of the world? It is not much, doctor."
The men left the room, and the kind-hearted physician locked, the door that she might not be disturbed. She threw her arms over her face and lay quiet a long time; then she turned on the physician in a frenzy
"To think of all that I might have done with my money and my time ! God wanted me to help the poor and the sick; it's too late now. I've only an hour." She struggled up wildly. " Why, doctor, I did nothing—nothing but lead the fashion ! Great God ! The fashion ! Now, I've only an hour! an hour!"
But she had not even that, for the exertion had proved fatal, and in a moment she lay dead at the doctor's feet.
The physician declared that he never heard a sermon like that woman's despairing cry, "It's too late."
I fear there are some here this morning who are in danger of destroying their souls for time and for eternity with giddy, silly, foolish pleasures and frivolous sensualities that will seem to be such nothings indeed when you see them in the light of the glorious destiny which you threw away recklessly in exchange for them,
Oh, I thank God it is not yet too late ! If, like Peter, who, when he was brought face to face with the fact that he had denied him and grieved his loving heart, turned to his Lord again with bitter tears of repentance, you shall come to him to-day, repenting of your sins, and forsaking them and accepting his salvation, you may know the joy of his tears of fellowship and sympathy and enter into glorious union with him here and forever.