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The Sorrow of the Lord Jesus

Category Articles
Date February 13, 2004

When our Lord Jesus came to the tomb where Lazarus lay dead, he wept. Our Lord knew better than anyone that God is sovereign. He knew that Lazarus’ death was not an unfortunate happenstance, but part of God’s sovereign plan. He knew that everything God does is good and right. But when he came to Lazarus’ place of burial, "Jesus wept.” The Holy Spirit could not have inspired a more blessedly reassuring text for Christians to reflect on and take immense hope and encouragement from. Two things in particular call for comment.


First, the life of faith is not coldly stoical. If our Lord Jesus, the man of faith par excellence, wept over the death of a friend (and over the impending divine judgement that was soon to fall upon unbelieving sinners, Luke 19:41), then we see that the life of faith at its best and highest is marked by tenderness and deeply felt heart sympathy. Having a high conviction concerning God’s absolute sovereignty does not in any sense make the Christian believer an unmoved observer of the human condition. Faith and tears are not mutually exclusive; indeed, they are blood relations. Faith brings us into union with the One who wept. Of all people, Christians should be the most tender-hearted. The last thing anyone should be able to accuse us of is coldness or disinterestedness. We are to "weep with those who weep." We are to be "imitators of God as dearly loved children," and our God is a God who is afflicted in all our afflictions (Isa. 63:9). God is not a detached heavenly stoic.

He is not the great Unmoved Mover of the deists. He is the God who "so loved the world…" Too often some Christians have felt that tears and distress were marks of unbelief. The truth is, they marked the life of the proto-typical man of faith, our sinless, glorious Saviour, Jesus Christ. The true life of faith is marked by tenderness of heart. It can hardly be otherwise if we are united to the Man of faith, Jesus Christ. If we can remain coldly distant and unmoved in the face of human need, there is something deeply and profoundly amiss with us. "Jesus wept" and we can weep too.


Secondly, the life of faith can count on the tender compassion of Christ in all its times of need. Christians are not excused the sufferings of this present time. We know the pain of unexpected loss, of shattered hopes, of broken promises, of bitter failure. We feel the pain of our helplessness as our children go through trials and struggles that all but overwhelm them. Is it not the greatest comfort to know in the midst of our pains, yes that God is sovereign, but that his sovereignty is merciful and tender towards his people? "In all their distresses he too was distressed." Since the incarnation, we have a Saviour who knows our frame not merely by perfect omniscience, but also by personal experience. Our great High Priest is able to sympathise with our weaknesses because he has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin (Hebs. 4:15-16).

This side of glory we are left to wrestle, at times, with quite bewildering providences. God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes his ways leave us perplexed, pained. Some well meaning saint may say, "Snap out of it; don’t you know God is
sovereign?" Thankfully, “Jesus wept", and wept with those who wept. What makes God’s unfathomable sovereignty bearable and even comfortable for the believer, is the knowledge that it is the sovereignty of One who weeps, who is afflicted in all our afflictions. Sometimes, all we have are tears, but tears belong to the essence of the life of faith. They marked the perfect faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ian Hamilton

Minister of Cambridge Presbyterian Church.

Yours as ever in Christ, Ian Hamilton

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