Weeping, or crying, is the human response to overwhelming emotions, both good and bad. Some people cry more easily than others, but most of us have cried at times of intense sadness, profuse joy, or overwhelming relief. Since human beings are created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27) and the Bible describes God as having emotions similar to ours, we can rightly ask, does God cry?
The quick answer is “yes.” When God took on the form of man and came as Jesus to live on this earth among us (Philippians 2:6–11), He felt the full spectrum of human emotions that we feel (Hebrews 4:15). The Gospels record a wide range of emotion expressed by Jesus, including a couple of occasions when He wept on behalf of other people (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). Jesus also wept in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His arrest, crying out with dread as He begged the Father for some other way to save us (Matthew 26:38–39). Hebrews 5:7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Since Jesus is God in the flesh, we can say that, when Jesus cried, God cried.
We should note that God as Man (Jesus) experienced human life, whereas God as Spirit (the Father) has not. When God became man, He entered into the human experience and identified with us in every particular except sin. As the Ruler of the Universe, God as Spirit does not need to shed actual tears, because no emotion overwhelms Him. Although He has emotions, He is always in control of them and does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3; 135:6; Job 23:13; Daniel 4:35). Even though the Lord needs nothing from us, He has chosen to make Himself emotionally responsive to our choices:
• He has sorrow when we rebel against Him (Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40).
• He can be provoked to anger by our defiance and rejection of Him (Isaiah 65:1–3; Jeremiah 8:19).
• He feels jealousy because of our idolatry and worldliness (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Joshua 24:19).
• He rejoices with love over His children (Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5).
• He hates wickedness (Psalm 5:5; 11:5; Proverbs 6:16).
• He has great compassion for His creation (Psalm 103:8; Joel 2:13).
God can be saddened, but nowhere in Scripture do we see an indication that the Lord God of heaven’s armies (Zechariah 8:14; Isaiah 22:14) cries tears. Jesus shed tears, showing us God’s sorrow in a very human way. One of the reasons that Jesus came to earth was to help us understand God. He told His disciples, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). His experiences and expressions allow us to bring our human understanding to that which is incomprehensible. It is difficult to explain color to a person blind from birth. They have nothing in their experience with which to compare it. So it is with spiritual realities. Jesus showed us the Father in a way we could understand. The Bible is filled with imagery and physical comparisons because that is the only way we can come close to grasping nonphysical truths.
So, when the Bible records that Jesus wept, God wanted us to know that He understands our feelings. He created us with the ability to weep. He allowed Himself to weep in the flesh while He lived among us. One major reason that the Father in heaven does not need to weep is the fact that He sees the beginning and the end. We often cry because we feel trapped in the emotion of the moment, unable to see past it. God never has that feeling. He is never trapped in an emotion, unable to see past it. He already knows that His plan will prevail, so He is not anxious, stressed, fearful, or overwhelmed (Isaiah 46:9–11). During His life on earth, Jesus brought to us the understanding that God weeps with us, even though it may not be in the same way or for the same reasons that we do.