“Jesus wept” (John 11:35). It’s the shortest verse in Bible, but those two words say a lot. In their context, they answer a very important question: How does God feel about my personal grief? Is He cold and disinterested toward my pain, or is He genuinely concerned? We don’t have to wonder.
Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had died of an illness. When Jesus arrived four days later, Lazarus’ body was in the tomb, and his family was still in mourning. And even though He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus mourned with them. The death of His beloved friend moved the Lord to tears; the villagers who saw it said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:36). He also wept out of sympathy for the pain of Mary and Martha, who had now lost their brother. Jesus felt the heartache of death as deeply as anyone else.
The writer of Hebrews says that in Jesus, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The Son of God has walked in our shoes. Because He has partaken fully of the human condition, with all its emotions and weaknesses, He has a particular ability to relate to us. Our Savior is not some distant, unfeeling entity; He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
The gospels say that Jesus was “moved with compassion” toward human need (cf. Matthew 9:36). “Moved” suggests not just feeling something, but doing something. His compassion caused Him to heal the sick (Matthew 14:14), feed the hungry (Mark 8:1-10), raise the dead (Luke 7:11-15), and teach those searching for spiritual guidance (Mark 6:34). When Divine sympathy saw human need, it took action.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion…” (Colossians 3:12). Being like Jesus means sharing His sympathy for those who are suffering. While these particular verses emphasize sympathy between fellow Christians, God teaches us to have compassion toward all (Galatians 6:10), including those who might not do the same for us (consider the parable of the “good Samaritan” in Luke 10).
If we want to be like Jesus, our compassion and sympathy must take us beyond mere feelings and words; they must move us to meet the needs we see. James wrote, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15-16). Some have suggested that “Go in peace” here expresses a blessing or prayer, somewhat like saying, “I’ll pray for you” or “God bless you.” While those are good things to say, don’t stop at warm sentiments if there is more you can do! John wrote, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:17-18).
Right now, you probably know someone who is suffering. Someone who has lost a loved one to death. Someone battling a serious illness. Someone whose family is in crisis. Someone struggling with sin. In short, you know someone with a reason to cry. Cry with them. Pray for them. And express your compassion by finding a way to help. You may not be able to remove their load completely, but you can help them carry it. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).