Christian Friend vol. 14, 1887, p. 20.
There are apparently three occasions on which the Lord Jesus wept - when, on His notable entry into Jerusalem, "He beheld the city, and wept over it" (Luke 19:41); in the garden of Gethsemane; and when accompanying Mary to the tomb of Lazarus. (John 11:35.) That He wept on the second occasion referred to may be inferred from a comparison of the evangelists' accounts of the scene in Gethsemane with the detailed record of His sorrows given in Hebrews 5. Here it is said, "He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard for His piety; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." In Gethsemane He said, "Not my will, but thine be done." Though connecting the scriptures thus suggests the scene of the Lord's sorrow as described in Hebrews 5, we have little doubt that some of the terms used here may be extended in a general way to the whole scope of the Lord's earthly history. The reader may have noticed that the circumstances which drew forth the Lord's tears as given above, and in the order there presented, are strikingly connected with three elements of His character prophetically set forth in Isaiah 53: "Despised and rejected of men," primarily by Jerusalem "the city;" "A man of sorrows," emphatically this in Gethsemane; "And acquainted with grief," as He proved to Mary's deep consolation in the scene described in John 11.
Rationalism, knowing not the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, may affect indignation at the thought of Godhead stooping to such a level; just as unbelieving Israel spurned His title to David's throne, because His coming as the lowly Nazarene furnished nothing of the pomp which the carnal heart sought in one claiming recognition as Messiah. Nevertheless "God was manifest in the flesh;" David's Son was David's Lord; Jehovah's "fellow," now seated at His right hand, drank "of the brook in the way;" the Only-begotten "in the bosom of the Father" trod the path which led even to this: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" The Heir of all things was cut off and had nothing! Here are contrasts indeed - paradoxes which faith alone can accept; but which, accepting them, it can delight in and feast upon with more than profit.
But - and is it not a solemn fact? - how many are there in Christendom, crediting all this, who are still utter strangers to the blessings purchased at the cost of all the Lord's humiliation and suffering! They pass among their fellows as respectable Christian people, but have never heard the voice of God in the recesses of their souls, revealing to them their absolute need of His interference in brace, through the mediation of His beloved Son, because of their guilty, lost condition. How well when His voice is thus heard, and that one is brought through a realization of need to the knowledge of Him as a Saviour-God!
It is almost needless to remark how feebly the human heart can enter into the Lord's sorrows in those scenes where they were so touchingly expressed. Even disciples, when asked to watch with Him, could sleep, while He agonized in Gethsemane. And for "the world" we have prophetically His own record of its callousness in the words of Psalm 69:10: "I wept, my soul was in fasting,* and that was to my reproach." Zeal for God had set Him in this path of shame and sorrow, and actuated Him at every turn of the path - love to man too. Yet we read: "My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?" And again, "Mine enemies reproach me all the day. . . . For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping."
"Love that made Thee a mourner,
In this sad world of woe;
Made man the wretched scorner
Of the grace which brought Thee low."
But the blessed God had His own estimate of the patient and enduring determination of His beloved One. All went up as a sweet savour to Him. And it is a joy to every true heart that Jesus was conscious of that estimate, as it also seems to bring Him, nearer to us, to see Him reckon upon it and sustained by it. Thus we read: "Put thou my tears in thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" (Psalm 56:8; see also Isaiah 49:4, 5; Matthew 11:20-26.)
*See New Translation. Omit italics of Authorised Version.
At three stages of our spiritual experience we are confronted by a special presentation of this gracious Saviour. When first awakened from indifference to our highest interest, we have seen Him, so to speak, shedding over us tears of pity. When conscience-stricken and bowed in a sense of our lost condition, we learned the perfections of Him who undertook to put our guilt away, and what this entailed upon Him from His pleadings in Gethsemane and the dire sequel at Calvary. Lastly, when learning what pilgrimage involves in this scene of sorrow, He shows us what a Friend we have in Him - One who can sympathize with us in our groans and tears.
To these circumstances the scriptures above referred to severally apply themselves. The scene in Luke 19 furnishes us with an impressive picture of how Christendom is situated morally in these closing hours of the day of grace. The Lord Jesus contemplates Jerusalem at the close of its "time of visitation." Every needed display of mercy, love, and power had been wrought by Him. Exhortation, entreaty, and warning had been used to awaken men to a sense of their state, but all in vain. Opportunity had been afforded them of learning the things that belonged to their peace, but these were "now hid from their eyes." The Lord, therefore, while still yearning over benighted Jerusalem anticipates His judicial character and pronounces its doom. And note, ignorance is the ground of its condemnation, which is a solemn warning to those who remain willingly ignorant now. Many such there are who will even plead ignorance as the ground of forgiveness, forgetful that to do so, when God is at pains to enlighten, is but evidence of the most glaring obduracy.
It is a wonderful moment for the soul when the thought really dawns upon it for the first time: "I am accountable to God as Judge for all I am, for all I have done, and am therefore ruined;" but with this also, the thought that God is indeed gracious - just the One a guilty sinner needs. Till then Christianity is an aimless system, a confused theory, perhaps a favourable battle-field for theologians; and one regards with indifference even the most solemn truths. What a rebuke the scene in Gethsemane offers to such indifference! There the Lord is bowed in agony. First shrinking from the cup of judgment, then accepting it from God His Father's hand, because His doing so was an absolute necessity for the glory of God and the salvation of men. One sees the perfections of the blessed Lord in all - in shrinking from meeting God in judgment, Himself sinless, and therefore altogether undeserving of death, as afterwards in accepting the cup of wrath in obedience to the Father's will. But we see also the deep reality of the foundation truth of Christianity - His taking our place in death and judgment at Calvary, when the cup was actually drunk. Risen in virtue of what God has found in the atonement He made - yea, and glorified - we find our place with Him in acceptance, through the grace which bruised Him in our stead. "As He is, so are we in this world."
In Him we have peace, but while here we may anticipate tribulation, according to His word in John 16. This is also what is found in Romans 5, "Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" - "standing in grace" - "rejoicing in hope of the glory of God." But then tribulation with its blessed effects. Hebrews 4 gives us the provisions of grace in our behalf while enduring the sorrows and afflictions which form so considerable a part of the saints' earthly history; viz., mercy ministered to a dependent people through a "great" yet sympathizing High Priest, who "ever liveth to make intercession for us." It is refreshing to consider the circumstances in which our blessed Lord was qualified, so to speak, for His High-priestly functions; and in no scene are they more touchingly presented than in John 11, when He weeps with them that weep. Mary had learned "that good part" which she had chosen, and which would not be taken from her. Though absent she could still count upon and enjoy the same gracious sympathy, for He is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever;" and it is thus we learn that sympathy. He ministered it in the days of His humiliation - of His own sorrow. How blessed is its fulness now, when He is no longer subject to so much that once harassed and distressed Him, no longer "straitened!" Oh for hearts to reckon snore fully, more constantly, on such tender outgoings of His loving heart towards "His own!" J. K.