THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST
by Octavius Winslow

The Tears of Christ

"Jesus wept."  John 11:35

In our inquiry into the emotional nature of our Lord, where shall we find so instructive, consolatory, and touching an exhibition of His sensibility as this? It appeals at once to every heart. Tears are a universal language. The sensibility which they express engirdles the human race. Travel to what nation we may, who cannot interpret the tear of woe- the tear of need- the tear of gratitude- the tear of sympathy- the tear of joy? Now, our Lord could not fully have partaken of our nature, and failing this, He could not have understood the condition of man, apart from this particular emotion. Had He allied Himself only with our joys and smiles, avoiding our sorrows and tears, His fellowship with our humanity had been but partial and defective. He could not in all points have been like us. We are composed of varied emotions, which are inspired and called into play by different objects. And until the finer feelings of our nature have been trained in sorrow, interlaced and edged with suffering, our own humanity is but partially understood. We are unequal to the task of educating and molding others, until we ourselves have been educated and molded in the school of human sensibility, which is the school of suffering- the school of sympathy. The character that is not reflective, aud instinct with sensibility, is incapable of the true condition of natural life, and is inadequate to its high mission. We must be taught by chastening, be purified by trial, be subdued by sorrow and suffering, in order to minister to the condition of man. Thus was our adorable Lord fitted for His great mission. He was born and cradled, educated and trained in the school of suffering. "Though He was a son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." And all that sorrow and all that suffering was not for Himself alone, but for us. The sensibilities of His human soul were being "made perfect through suffering." He was by this process disciplined to lessen our burdens by participation, to soothe our griefs by sympathy, and to comfort our hearts by the comforts with which His own had been comforted of God. Oh, who would part with this precious truth- Christ, schooled in sorrow, perfected in suffering, a man of grief, with all a man's sensibility, all a man's sympathy, all a man's compassion and yearning! Welcome the affliction, shared, soothed, and sanctified by such a Savior- such a brother- such a Friend.
We cannot, then, conceive of an incident in our Lord's life which presents Him in a light more truly human than that which now engages our thoughts- weeping at the grave! His human sensibilities would now seem to have attained their highest development, and to have found their most exquisite expression. Could He, in touching tenderness, have surpassed it? Does it not in sympathy meet all that we need? Could there be another incident better fitted to elicit the finest feelings of His heart, and to illustrate the noblest traits of His character? Let us examine it more closely.
It was one of the most memorable occasions of His history. Look for a moment at the picture. The first feature that arrests the eye is, the marvellous assemblage, the strange yet perfect blending of opposites, around the lowly grave of Lazarus. Here was bereavement, and the affection that soothed it. Here was death, and the Essential Life that conquered it. Here was the grave, and the Resurrection that emptied it. Here was the melting, weeping sensibility of man, in the closest alliance with the Divine majesty and commanding power of God. What a study! The Creator of all worlds, the Author of all beings, the Upholder of the universe, raining tears of human woe and sympathy upon a grave! But WHY DID JESUS WEEP? Is it possible to analyze
those tears? Let us at least attempt it.
The spectacle of death would stir to its depths His holy sensibility. No being in the universe could form so vivid a conception of death- its pathos as an event, its terribleness as a reality, its ravages as a spoiler, its despotism as a sovereign, and its awful solemnity as a crisis of our being introducing us to the eternal world, as the Son of God! Here stood Essential Life, with Death. To His mind, the fountain of all life- to His heart, pulsating with all that was tender and benevolent- to His eye, familiar with all that was bright and beautiful- what a strange, what a revolting; what a solemn thing must death have appeared! More than this- He beheld the ravages of the spoiler! Imagine the feelings of an artist gazing on a work of art upon which He had concentrated all the loftiest powers of his genius and labor- the best work of his chisel or his pencil- lying shattered at his feet! A faint emblem of Jesus! As the Divine Artificer of man bent over that grave, and with eyes that pierced its deep sepulchral gloom, beheld in the shrouded form the destruction of His masterwork, His Father's image defaced, the temple of the Holy Spirit in ruins, and death's pale conquest proudly planted upon the cold, marble brow of one for whom He was about to shed His most precious blood- Jesus wept!
The love of bereaved friendship would enter deeply into this expression of Christ's sensibility. His affection for this family, to whom He was now proving Himself the "Friend that sticks closer than a brother," was of the tenderest character. He seemed to have found in them another existence, a second self. If this be a correct definition of true friendship, then Jesus realized it in its fulness. Homeless in a world which He had filled with homes for all but Himself, He loved to steal away from its rudeness and turmoil, and nestle His sad and weary spirit in the warm bosom of the home of Bethany,
"And share the inward fragrance of each others heart."
Gently lifting its latch, He might say, "No disappointment here! no upbraidings here! no coldness or unkindness here!" And as He entered, Lazarus would advance to welcome Him, Martha would hasten to spread the evening meal, and Mary would quietly take her place at His feet to hear His words. All loved Him, and each testified their affection in their own way. The first, would illustrate the courtesy of the Christian host; the second, the hospitality of the Christian home; the third, the devout earnestness of the Christian disciple. Hallowed home, where Jesus is a guest! happy, happy family, all whose varied gifts and spheres of duty are consecrated to His service! Reader, see that your home has attractions for Jesus. See that He has good entertainment when He comes- the first of your time, the best of your powers, the supremest of your love. He is worthy- oh, how worthy!- of the highest honor and the sweetest service.
But the home of Bethany was now the scene of mourning. Lazarus was dead! Jesus revisits it, not, as He was wont, to indulge its sunshine, but to share its gloom- not to participate in its joy, but to soothe its grief. It was just the place and the scene where the finest feelings, the deepest sensibilities of His nature would find their freest and their sweetest flow. And as He sat within that house of mourning, and remembered that it was the bereaved home of the friend of His heart, the companion of many a happy hour, the confidant of many a sacred feeling, the sharer and the soother of many a lonely, chafing sorrow- Jesus wept. Are you deploring a like loss? Are you mourning with a like grief? There is One who has known how such a sorrow wrings the sad soul, and bends it down to earth, and is prepared to embosom Himself in it with such a sense of its reality and keenness, and with such a delicacy of feeling and sympathy as no other can. There is a depth of agony and loneliness in the sorrow of bereavement into the secrecy of which the bereaved only can enter. It touches the finest and most hidden springs of the soul. It lies fathoms deep, and seldom passes the lips. The crushed affections- the annihilated hopes- the severed ties of friendship- the grave
entombing life's charm, attraction, and sweetener- quenching the sunbeam that illumined the dreary wilderness- is a grief not always apparent, or that may be known and told, but which yet ploughs the deepest furrows on the brow and silvers the hair with its earliest gray. But, oh, to know that Jesus can enter into its sorrow, is touched with the feeling of this grief, and is prepared to accompany us to the grave and weep with us there, is a solace no language can describe! Precious Jesus! must You feel Your own sorrows thus to enter into ours? Was ever love like Yours!
But not His remembrance alone of the dead but His affection also for the living, His compassion for the bereaved sisters, would contribute not a little to this outgushing of melting tenderness and grief. They were the tears of love. It is a touching parenthesis in the narrative, "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." That love was the secret of His present tears. He knew what a brother Lazarus had been. How like weak and clinging tendrils these sisters had entwined around him for their sunshine and support. And now that He was removed, they were torn from their support, and lay prostrate and bleeding on the earth. And as He beheld their grief- Martha's impetuous and chiding, Mary's veiled and silent, yet both real, intense, and agonizing- Jesus wept. Beloved reader, the Lord is acquainted with our domestic ties, and takes an interest in each one. No act of kindness, no breach of faith, no tie tenderly cherished or rudely sundered, no duty faithfully discharged or wilfully neglected, no relation honored and sanctified, escapes His all-seeing- approving or condemning- eye. And when death enters and sunders a domestic link, and fills the home with mourning and the heart with woe, Jesus comes and makes all grace abound, giving submission to the will, peace to the mind, and consolation to the heart. Oh, there lives not a being in the universe who can enter into our bereavements with the sympathy, the support, and the soothing of Christ!
From this brief glance at some of the probable causes of Christ's tears on this occasion, let us consider THE WEEPING ITSELF. The emotions of Christ were perfectly true to nature. The Savior dissolved in tears, presents a spectacle of apparent effeminacy of character not in keeping with His dignity and greatness. Yet, was it really so? Tears are not always marks of weakness, they are oftener evidences of power. Springing from the depths of the soul, they are sometimes the exponents of great thoughts, of mighty purposes, of manly feelings, and have a language and a meaning more eloquent and effective than ten thousand tongues. Such were the tears of Jesus. In Him they betrayed no cowardice, exhibited no weakness, expressed no softness of character, but were the interpretation of a sensibility in alliance with the omnipotence of power. Let us not, then, give place to the idea that emotions are indices of a feeble faith in God, of a languid hold upon Christ, of a weakness of Christian character. Ah, no! See how close was the sensibility of Christ's manhood with the power of His Godhead. He wept over the dead like a man- He raised the dead to life like a God! Feeling is an essential element of real religion. A religion that is without feeling, embraces the intellect only, is not true to nature, and is radically and fatally defective. If it enlists but the judgment and not the heart, appeals solely to the intellectual; leaving the emotional of our nature untouched, it is lacking in one of the grand essentials of the religion of Christ. An enlightened perception of sin, a Godly contrition springing from the conviction of its existence and guilt, an experience of pardoning love, a sense of God's goodness, nearness to the cross, a faith's view of Jesus crucified- His dying love, His deep sorrow, His unparalleled agonies, His profound abasement, all, all endured for us- will break up the hidden fount of feeling, will stir our sensibilities to their depth, and dissolve the entire soul in tenderness and tears. Oh, deem not a sensibility like that of the Incarnate God unbefitting the strength and greatness of a natural or a gracious character. Affect not to despise a religious experience, the prominent element of which is emotion. The richest and deepest veins of feeling often underlie the incrusted and rugged surface of our nature. The loftiest genius, the profoundest intellect, and the most manly dignity and courage, have been found in union with a woman's delicacy of perception, tenderness, and sensibility of feeling. Condemn not, then, a religious feeling, the prominent feature of which is tears. It is equally as essential that the heart should be affected as that the judgment should be enlightened; both are indispensable elements of real religion. Weep on, then, you mourner for sin and sorrow- weep!
"Hide not your tears, weep boldly, and be found
To give the flowing virtue manly way
It is nature's mark to know an honest heart by,
Shame on those hearts of stone that cannot melt
In soft adoption of another's sorrow!"
They were also tears of sympathy. We must not omit the sympathetic in Christ's present emotion. His heart was not only touched with a sense of His own personal affliction, but it was also touched, deeply touched, with sympathy for the sorrow of others. He wept because the mourning sisters wept. He mingled His tears with theirs. This is true sympathy, "weeping with those that weep," making their sorrow our own. How really our Lord does this with His people. So completely is He our Surety, that He takes our sins and infirmities, our trials and sorrows upon Himself, as if they were all and entirely His own. Our sins were so completely laid upon Him, that not one remains charged to the account of those who believe in Jesus. And our present griefs are so entirely absorbed in Him, that, softened by His love, soothed by His sympathy, supported by His grace, trial is welcome, affliction is sweet, and the rod of a Father's chastening, buds and blossoms into delectable fruit. Bereaved mourner! the sympathy of Christ is yours! The Savior who wept at the gave of Bethany, now shares your grief and joins your tears. Deem not your sorrow is isolated , or that your tears are forbidden or unseen. You have not a merciful and faithful High Priest who cannot be touched with your present calamity. There exists no sympathy so real, so intelligent, so deep, so tender, so sanctifying as Christ's. And if your heavenly Father has seen it wise and good to remove from you the spring of human pity, it is but that He may draw you closer beneath the wing of the God-man's compassion, presence, and love. O child of sorrow! will not this suffice, that you possess Christ's sympathy, immeasurable and exhaustless as the ocean, exquisite and changeless as His being? Yield your heart to this rich compassion, and then, "though you have laid among the pots, yet shall you be as the wings of a dove covered with silver and her feathers with yellow gold."
Learn a lesson from the practical sympathy of Jesus. Compassion is as luxurious an emotion of our nature, as it is manly and graceful in him who shows it. "To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend." What a sacred privilege to imitate Him "who went about doing
good!" To visit the widow and the fatherless in their distress, the prisoner in his dungeon, the bereaved in their grief, the sick in their solitude, the poor in their need, the fallen in their self-reproach; in a word, to be an angel of comfort to some child of woe from whose bosom hope has fled- this, oh! this is sympathy. Truly,
"No radiant pearl which crested fortune wears,
No gem that, twinkling, hangs from beauty's ears,
Not the bright stars which night's blue arch adorn,
Nor rising suns that gild the vernal morn,
Shine with such luster as the tear that treks
For others' woe down virtue's manly cheeks." (Darwin)
But Christ's emotion was not only in sympathy with grief, but He wept also in sympathy with souls. We think no spectacle presents in idea so vividly the moral sympathy of the Savior- His compassion for the lost- as when He wept over Jerusalem. He was on His way, accompanied by His disciples, to the doomed city. As He reached the brow of Olivet, it burst in magnificence upon His sight. Its high encircling walls, its costly edifices, its splendid palaces, its sacred temple, the central seat of God's chosen people- towering in holy sublimity above them all, was a spectacle which might have impressed His mind at any other time with rapt delight. "But when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it!" And why those tears? He wept because of its impenitence and unbelief- its rejection and slaying of His prophets- its yet more awful and fearful rejection and slaying of Himself. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone those who are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!" What must have been its sinfulness, its guilt, its doom, to have made Jesus so sad, to have wrung those tears from the Son of God! Christ's tears over Jerusalem! what a life-like picture of the compassion of Jesus for lost sinners! But more sacred, more precious tears He afterwards shed when He agonized in Gethsemane, and hung upon the cross. Tears of blood then gave expression to the deep, tender, loving compassion of His heart for man, sinful man. And do you think, O weeper over your sins, that this weeping, bleeding Savior will reject you if you come to Him? Never! no, never! The tears of Christ, in their mute, persuasive tenderness, bid you come and be saved. What more could Jesus do?
"The Son of God in tears
The wondering angels see!
Be then astonished, O my soul!
He shed those tears for thee.
He wept that we might weep,
Each sin demands a tear;
In heaven alone no sin is found,
And there's no weeping there."
We will only further remark, that the tears of Christ were associated with prayer. "Who, in the clays of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears." Christ was a man of prayer. He walked with God as man, and as the Mediator He maintained the closest and most continued communion with His Father. His sensibility did not evaporate in mere emotion- in sighs, and groans, and tears. He turned all into prayer. So let it be with us! Let us not indulge in mere grief; let our grief take us to prayer, urge us to the throne of grace, prompt us to rise and call upon God. And though we breathe our grief, and our needs, and our sins in no language but that of strong crying and tears, yet, He who Himself once so prayed to His Father, will interpret their meaning, and respond to their request.
Deem it not sinful to give free scope to the emotions of your nature. The religion of your Savior encourages not stoicism. It is not the religion of Seneca nor Plato- it is the religion of Jesus! of Him who wept! And although, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, that, holy joy and chastened cheerfulness are inseparable from the gospel of Christ, that the believer is called upon to rejoice all the day long, yet it is not designed to suppress and crush those finer feelings of our humanity which find their suitable expression in tears of penitence and love, of sadness and sympathy. Do you water your couch with your tears? Are tears your food day and night? Do you feel it a relief to the full heart thus to weep? Weep on, Jesus forbids you not. Only see that your emotions are not in opposition to the mind and dealings of God. Weep, but weep in filial, mute submission to the Divine will. Let not the feeling of rebellion, the emotion of hostility to God, blend with your tears. Then, with David you may pray, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8.
BE OFTEN A WEEPER AT THE SAVIOR'S FEET. The woman who was a sinner, who followed Jesus into the house of Simon, and stood behind Him weeping, then stooped and bathed His feet with her tears, found her heaven upon earth in that position and in that act. Simon rebuked, but Jesus encouraged her; the one condemned, the other approved. Man may forbid your tears, and when they fall fast and thick, may deem you weak and sentimental; but Jesus invites and will commend them when you lie at His feet a penitent, loving, grateful disciple. Oh, precious tears that flow from a contrite heart for sin, and from a loving, grateful, subdued sense of its full and free pardon!
"Why, O my soul, why do you weep?
Oh say, from where arise
Those sacred tears that often flow,
Those groans that pierce the skies?
"Is sin the cause of your complaint,
Or the chastising rod?
Do you departed friends lament,
Or mourn an absent God?
"Lord, let me weep for nothing but sin,
And after none but Thee!
And then I would- oh, that I might!
A constant weeper be!"
Have you long been a weeping suppliant at the mercy-seat? And does the vision tarry? Is there no response? Let me remind you of the promises so appropriate to your case, which, perchance, your intense emotion has veiled from your eyes. "Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest." "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Humble penitent! earnest, sorrowing seeker of Jesus! tried, afflicted child of God! listen yet again to the promise, "You will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you."
When you go to the grave of some loved one to weep and meditate there, take Jesus with you. No mourner will bend with you over that tomb with a deeper sympathy, with tears more real, more warm, more soothing than His. Realizing His presence, you will indulge in a chastened sorrow, blended with a faith that rises above the scene, with a hope that anticipates heaven, and with a love that adores God for all His dealings.
Honored grave, bedewed with Christ's tears! It is pleasant to visit it, holding fellowship with the unseen world, and blending the conscious presence of the Savior with the ideal communion of departed friends. Is it a pious mother's grave? Memory loves to make its pilgrimage there as to the Mecca at whose shrine it kneels, travel where we may. If, of all the graves which bestud the earth, there is one more attractive, more holy, more sacred to Jesus than another, it is this- the precious urn which contains the ashes of a once godly, praying mother! And of all the friends who have shared your sorrow, the first to meet you there will be Him who from the cross, and in the agonies of death, bent His last tender look, and breathed His latest words of love upon- His mother!
Meditate often upon the sensibility of Jesus- it will quicken, sanctify, and soothe your own. If you are an artist- study it. If you are a poet chant it. If you are an orator- extol it. If you are a pastor- preach it. If you are a disciple- imitate it. If you are a mourner- bring to it your keenest, loneliest, deepest grief. "Jesus wept!" ''Was there ever a more interesting portrait than what the evangelist has here drawn of the Son of God? If the imagination were to be employed forever in forming an interesting scene of the miseries of human nature, what could furnish so complete a picture as these words give of Christ at the sight of them- 'Jesus wept!' Here we have at once the evidence how much the miseries of our nature affected the heart of Jesus, and here we have the most convincing testimony, that He partook of all the sinless infirmities of our mature, and was truly and in all points man, as well as God. We are told by one of the ancient writers (Chrysostom), that some weak and injudicious Christians, in his days, were so rash as to strike this verse out of their Bibles, from an idea that it was unsuitable and unbecoming in the Son of God to weep. But we have cause to bless the overruling providence of God, that though they struck it out of their Bibles, they did not from ours. And why those groans at the grave of Lazarus, if tears were improper? Precious Lord! how refreshing to my soul is the consideration that forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, You likewise did take part of the same; that in all things it behooved You to be made like Your brethren. Hence, when my poor heart is afflicted, when Satan storms, or the world frowns, or Your waves and Your billows go over me, oh, what relief is it to know that Jesus looks on and sympathizes! Then do I say, 'Will not Jesus, who wept at the grave of Lazarus, feel for me? Shall I look up to Him, and look in vain? Did Jesus, when upon earth, know what these exercises were, and was His precious soul made sensible of distress even to tears, and will He be regardless of what I feel, and the sorrows under which I groan? Oh no! The sigh that bursts in secret from my heart is not secret to Him; the tear that is my food day and night, and drops unperceived and unknown, is known and remembered by Him. Though now exalted at the right hand of power, where He has wiped away all tears from off all faces, yet He himself still retains the feelings and the character of the 'Man of sorrows, and of one well acquainted with grief.' Help me, Lord, thus to look up to You, and thus to remember You." (Hawker) Precious and holy is the divine precept, illustrated and enforced by so divine an example- "Weep with those who weep." Oh, it is the richest luxury on earth to share the sorrow, by the sympathy of another; to soothe the grief, by the gentleness of another; to wipe away the tears, by the kindness of another. This Christ did, and we are to prove our discipleship to Him by imitating His example. "Remember those who are in bonds, as bound with, them"- sharing their chain; "and those who suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body"- exposed to like weaknesses and assaults, calamities and griefs. Oh, aspire, beloved! to be a drier of human tears; to have a hand always ready to wipe them away! Who can estimate its worth? To have soothed one human sorrow, to have met one pressing need, to have unbound one crushing load, to have dried one tear of grief, to have shed one beam of light upon a dreary path, to have reclaimed one wanderer, to have made the widow's heart to sing for joy, to have befriended and soothed an orphan, oh! it is a work to be measured in its importance and its blessedness only by a life. Again, we repeat, let your life be an outflowing sympathy with the distressed and the needy, the widow and the fatherless. Be Christ-like, who "went about doing good;" -raise the fallen, strengthen the weak, comfort the feeble-minded; and if tears of compassion and sympathy will soothe and mitigate the tears of penitence and adversity, then be it your mission and your privilege to "weep with those who weep!"
In heaven there will be no more tears! It is tearless, because it is sorrowless; it is sorrowless, because it is sinless; it is sinless, because it is the dwelling-place of the holy Lord God and of the "spirits of just men made perfect." How magnificent the description! "And God shall wipe away all tears from, their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." Such is the condition of the New Jerusalem- the new earth and the new heaven in which the risen and glorified saints will dwell and reign forever with Jesus at His coming. "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces." Then there will be no more tears of penitence, for there shall be no more sin. There will be no more tears of parting, for they shall go no more out. There will be no more tears of bereavement, for there will be no more death. "The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Tears of love! behold them flowing
From the Elder Brother's eye!
See Him as a mourner going
To the grave at Bethany!
He, who through its shadowy portal
Summoned back the freed immortal,
He, whose all-commanding word
Sheathed the gloomy victor's sword-
There, where buried friendship sleeps,
He, our own Emmanuel, weeps.

Tears of pity! see them gushing
From their pure and sacred fount!
Angels! your hosannas hushing,
Bend you from the holy mount.
Stoop to read the wondrous story,
How the "Father's brightest glory"
At a sinner's grave can stand,
Mourner 'mid a mourning band,
With the heart, the voice, the eye
Of a perfect sympathy!

Tears of Jesus! while I ponder,
Blessed comfort let me reap;
"That same Jesus" lives up yonder
Who on earth was wont to weep.
Though His brow the rainbow wears
Yet my thorny crown He shares;
Yet that loving heart Divine
Throbs responsively to mine
Not a struggling sigh can rise,
But it is echoed in the skies.

Blessed Jesus! in Your sorrow,
Friends and kindred passed You by;
You alone could never borrow
The support of sympathy.
When Your human heart was bursting,
When your parched lips were thirsting,
When encompassed with the foe,
Mocking at Your bitter woe,
You, who had a heart for all,
Drank alone Your cup of gall.

Now in glory, where You dwell,
All unknown is sorrow's look,
Yet Your people's tears You tell,
"Are they not within Your book?"
While my "night of weeping" lasts,
Before the morn its brightness casts,
My blest portion may it be,
That You weepest, Lord, with me!
And one day, with heart and voice
In Your joy may I rejoice! (Ellen Willis)