There are only three distinct occasions of divine tears recorded in the New Testament.
At the incarnation Jesus took on human nature and embraced all the emotions humans experience in life. This is clearly shown throughout the Gospels as Jesus displays emotions of joy, anger and sadness.
In particular, the Gospels highlight three occasions when Jesus shed tears. These weren’t the only times Jesus cried during his life, but they do give us an insight into particular events that touched the heart of Jesus.
1. JESUS CRIED AFTER SEEING THE ANGUISH OF THOSE HE LOVES.
Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:32-26)
In this episode, Jesus weeps after seeing those he loves cry and after witnessing the tomb of Lazarus, a close friend. It should remind us of the love that God has for us, his adopted sons and daughters, and how it pains him to see us suffer. Jesus shows true compassion and suffers with his friends, weeping at the sight of such a difficult scene. Yet, there is light in the darkness, and Jesus turns the tears of sorrow into tears of joy as he raises Lazarus from the dead.
2. JESUS WEPT WHEN HE SAW THE SINS OF HUMANITY.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34)And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)
Jesus sees the city of Jerusalem and the sight brings him to tears. This is because he sees the sins of the past and future and it breaks his heart. As a loving father, God hates to see us turn away from him and greatly desires to press us close to him. However, we refuse that embrace and follow our own ways. Our sins make Jesus weep, but the good news is that Jesus is always there to welcome us back and he does so with open arms.
3. JESUS SHED TEARS WHEN PRAYING IN THE GARDEN BEFORE HIS CRUCIFIXION.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. (Hebrews 5:7)
Recorded in the letter to the Hebrews, in this case tears are tied up to authentic prayer that is heard by God. While it is not always necessary to cry during prayer, it highlights the reality that God desires a “contrite heart.” He wants our prayers to be an expression of who we are and not simply something on the surface. In other words, prayer should encompass our entire being, even praying with our emotions, allowing God into every aspect of our lives.