Posted by: duncandrews | August 22, 2012

My eyes a fountain of tears: a theology of weeping (iv)

Tears in the example and teaching of Jesus

Tears for the brokenness of the world; tears of sorrow for sin; tears of petition; and tears for the judgment of God. In both Jesus’ example and his teaching, we see these ‘types’ of weeping in the OT presented and, given Jesus’ perfected humanity, vindicated. We are told three times of Jesus’ tears, twice in the gospels and once in Hebrews.

As he faced the reality of his friend’s death, Jesus wept (Jn. 11:35). He wept for the brokenness of the world, and the consequent death that had enslaved it. As he approached Jerusalem, knowing its coming judgment, Jesus wept (Lk. 19:41-44). In Hebrews 5:7, likely referring to Gethsemene,[1] we read that Jesus ‘offered prayers and appeals, with loud cries and tears, to the One who was able to save Him from death’. Jesus wept in petition to his Father when faced with the cross.

Jesus does not cry tears of repentance; but they are a major theme in his teaching. Tears of repentance rightly belong in this age: weep now, and you will rejoice later; rejoice now, and you will weep later.[2] In Matthew the future judgment is consistently a place of ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’.[3] In Luke those who weep now will laugh, but Jesus says ‘woe to you who are now laughing, for you will mourn and weep’ (6:25). In the face of his coming and the future judgment of God, Jesus calls for tears not only for the future judgment but for the present sin that is the reason for that judgment.

The OT, and Jesus’ own example and teaching, highlight the biblical contours of weeping. Right tears that makes sense in the Bible’s story are not tears of frustration against God or of religious showmanship. They are genuine tears for the fallenness of the world, for the reality of future judgment, as a petition to God to come and act, and in repentance for sin.


[1] So Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 198.

[2] For instance, Mt. 5:4, Lk. 6:21, 25.

[3] For instance, 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30.

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  1. not enuf weepin’ going on.

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