Haven’t we told our children “Be brave, don’t cry”? Haven’t we been called a sissy when we displayed our emotions among friends and classmates? Public displays of emotion tend to be looked down on, and any emotional catharsis in a situation, such as the work place, may be far outweighed by disapproval, embarrassment and guilt. So is crying a mark of weakness? Should we display our emotions or should we suppress or hide them?
Scripture tells us that Jesus was unafraid to show his emotions in public. He wept when his friend Lazarus died (Cf. John 11:35). Jesus cried for Jerusalem at least three times. Luke 13 tells us about a day when He wept over the city before arriving there (Luke 13:34–35). Luke 19 tells us about Jesus weeping over the city as He entered into it (Luke 19:42–44). Matthew 23 records a sermon Jesus preached in Jerusalem just a few days before He was crucified, and at the conclusion (vv. 37–39) we read words almost identical to those of His lament in Luke 13.
In all the above occasions, Jesus wept because he had great compassion for man. The Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” We know that, according to the Bible, God is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15). Like all of God’s attributes, His compassion is infinite and eternal. His compassions never fail; they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, exemplified all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. When Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35). Jesus wept over the tragedy of a lost opportunity for his people to be saved from both earthly and eternal destruction. They were visited by their Saviour, but they did not know it. Instead of receiving Him, they killed Him. Yet Jesus called upon his Father to forgive them as he was nailed to the cross among criminals (Luke 23:33-34).
Moved with compassion for the suffering of others, Jesus healed the large crowds who came to Him (Matthew 14:14), as well as individuals who sought His healing (Mark 1:40-41). When He saw the large crowds as sheep without a shepherd, His compassion led Him to teach them the things the false shepherds of Israel had abandoned. The priests and scribes were proud and corrupt; they despised the common people and neglected them, but Jesus had compassion on them, and He taught and loved them. The Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matt 20:1-16) tells us that God’s compassions never fail, even those workers who stood around doing nothing till the eleventh hour were hired and paid the same amount as those who started work early in the morning. God is always compassionate and merciful as long as we are willing to work for Him. So let us be joyful and compassionate workers, rejoicing and praising God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength. But He added that the second commandment “is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” (Matthew 22:34-40). The Pharisee had asked Him which single command of God is the greatest, but Jesus provided two, stating not only what we are to do, but also how to do it. To love our neighbour as ourselves is the natural result of our loving devotion toward God.
First John 3:17 asks, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” Originally made in His image, man is to exemplify God’s traits, including compassion. From this it follows that “If anyone says, ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). The Bible is clear that compassion is an attribute of God and of God’s people as well. It is important to note that compassion is always accompanied with action. We do not just feel sorry for someone, but we also try to help them when necessary.
I would like to end with a quotation of a famous author: “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving
Let us ask God to help us feel the deep compassion He has for us with the song “Soften My Heart”: