Feeding on Tears
My tears have been my meat day and night,” cries the Psalmist, his soul thirsting for God as the hart pants after the water brooks. It is his own personal experience of which the writer is speaking in Psalm 42, and also, as commentators would suggest, of the longings of Israel exiled from their own land because of enstrangement from God. But prophetically, in part at least, the Psalm voices the sorrows of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only He could know to the full the weight of grief expressed by verse 7: “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts: all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me.”
His tears were indeed His meat day and night, for He who brought relief and healing and joy and gladness to men in a sin-blighted world was Himself the Man of Sorrows. The sorrows were not of His own making, occasioned by any ills of His own, but He bore “our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” He was, as we esteemed Him, “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-5).
Although insofar as Psalm 42 might be applied to His being forsaken of God, it must be limited to His time of suffering on Golgotha’s tree while God was dealing with Him about our sins, yet He could say as to all the time of His public testimony, “My tears have been My meat day and night.” For although it was only on the cross He bore the punishment due our sin, when He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, yet He ever felt the burden of man’s misery and grief. In fact, even before He came into the world as Man, He was affected by His people’s sorrows: “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isa. 63:9). But it was when He came down to earth as Man, tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin, that He so felt in His own person the weight of man’s grief that He could say, “My tears have been My meat day and night.”
How often He wept in this world, we cannot know, but we are told of three occasions on which He shed tears. Let us look briefly at these, but first let us note that His crucifixion at Golgotha is not one of the occasions; indeed, when a great company of women followed Him to Calvary, bewailing and lamenting Him, He turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.”
Tears of Sympathy
The three occasions in point of time are quite close together, and in distance perhaps three or four miles apart. The first was just outside Bethany where Jesus went to raise Lazarus out of the sleep of death. Martha, sister of Lazarus, met Him outside the town, and after He had there talked with her, sent word to the other sister, Mary, “The Master is come and calleth for thee.” Mary arose quickly and came to Him.
Falling at His feet she said, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” When He saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” “Jesus wept.” The first recorded tears in Scripture are Hagar’s, shed when she lays down her son Ishmael to die, as she supposes, of thirst. They were tears of love and loss; sympathy and bereavement. So are these of our Lord Jesus Christ: love for the mourners, and a bereavement for the loss of His friend Lazarus. Yet immediately He was to turn their tears into smiles by bringing Lazarus back to them.
Tears of Sorrow
The second occasion was when He approached Jerusalem on His final visit six days before the last passover. It is usually described as a triumphal entry, when it seemed, as the Pharisees said, all the world was gone after Him. The multitude cast their garments in the way, cut down branches from trees and strewed them before Him, crowded around, some going before and others following, rejoicing, praising God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen Him perform, and crying, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the Name of the Lord: peace in Heaven, and glory in the highest!” The only sour note was that of the Pharisees who said, “Master, rebuke Thy disciples.” He silenced them, saying that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. Surely this would seem to be an unlikely time and place for tears of grief.
Yet, as He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, for He knew that within a week some of that very crowd who now cried, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the Name of the Lord,” would cry, “We have no king but Caesar … Away with
Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” “If thou hadst known,” He said as He wept over the beloved but rebellious city, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now, they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side. And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” Such tears surely He still sheds over unrepentant sinners who wilfully go on to doom despite the great salvation He offers. “Weep for yourselves,” He might well say to them, as He said to the daughters of Jerusalem.
Tears of Suffering
The third occasion on which He shed tears is mentioned in Hebrews, chapter 5. And here we learn something of the value of those tears. We need to read the last two verses of chapter four to get the thought: verses 15 and 16: “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Chapter 5:1-10: “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, or, out of death —and was heard in that He feared;” — or, for His piety — that is, it was not that He feared death, but that He reverenced God — “though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him; called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.”
Those tears were essential to His perfecting as High Priest. Himself without sin, He had to feel the weight of misery and sorrow caused by sin; He had to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities that He might as High Priest sympathize with us in all our infirmities. In chapter two we are told that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that by the grace of God He should taste death for every man, that as the Captain of our salvation He might be made perfect through suffering.
Inherently, He, Himself the eternal God, was perfect, without flaw or lack. But for the offices He bears as the Captain of our salvation, as High Priest, He must be fitted through suffering. He must feed on tears.
In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” an envious contemporary of the emperer asks: “What meat is this on which our Caesar feeds, that he has grown so great?” The meat on which our Saviour fed to fit Him to be an efficacious High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, full of compassion for the ignorant, the wayward, the sorrowing, the bereaved, the scorned, the destitute was tears. The meat on which Caesar fed elevated him far above his companions, made him aloof from the common run of men and even from his former friends. And so it is in general with the great men of this world. But the meat on which our Saviour fed was the sorrow of mankind. Quite the contrary to making Himself aloof from the common trials of men, He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, and was for our sakes stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
Tears were the meat on which He grew
To Priesthood that can succour me and you.
Down to the dregs He drank the cup of woe,
That our rich cup of joy might overflow.
Yet bound we are to share His bitter cup,
If at His table joyful we would sup.
For if we would His great commandment keep
To love, like Him we’ll weep with those who weep.
Communion then with Him will be more sweet
When for His sake tears, too, have been our meat.
The satisfaction of the heart in the personal nearness of the Lord, the being in His company for the simple joy of it, is true communion; thus it is we have common mind with Him, which is the meaning of communion. When this is the case, we know the mind of our Lord and Master, and this it is which qualifies us for every service as Christ’s confidential servants: it is well to bear in mind that the amount of our service or the laboriousness of our work does not of itself constitute us confidential servants.