Although crying is a natural reaction to sadness and stress, there are probably many who still expect men to maintain a calm and composed demeanour in public. Even today, men are less likely to cry in public than woman because it is commonly believed that any show of emotions, particularly crying is considered a sign of weakness. Indeed, as with lots of behaviour, there is a gender gap so much so that some view this as harmful to society and to men themselves and label certain behaviour and cultural expectations as toxic masculinity.
Without going into further details of how this concept of toxic masculinity came about and what may constitute as toxic masculinity, it would be worthwhile to also explore what toxic femininity may look like. After all, if we can agree that both males and females have our own blind spots and are equally capable of sinning against God and each other, it should be relatively easy to come to a reasonable conclusion that the root cause of our social ills and relational brokenness has little to do with whether one possesses XY or XX chromosomes.
Interestingly enough, as much as the historical characters mentioned in the Bible lived in a patriarchal society, we find various accounts of men publicly expressing their emotions. Whether it was Joseph (Gen 45:14-15, 46:29), David (1 Sam 30:4) or the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:36-38), there is little hint of any of them trying to put up a stoic front. Upon a closer look into each context, there are good reasons to believe that these records of intimate details are meant to portray poignant moments, offering us some insight into the biblical character’s humanity and depth of relationship with others.
Even though their display of emotions is not meant to be prescriptive, I think it does provide Christians with a glimpse of what godly masculinity may look like. After all, it is one thing for a child to shed tears but the reasons behind why grown men would do so, especially in public, would be quite different. If seeing a child in tears can elicit feelings of sympathy, I imagine that one would be even more affected when the person who weeps is someone whom we esteem or consider as calm and not prone to emotional outbursts.
The Bible also records for us that Jesus Christ himself, as God incarnate wept on several occasions (John 11:33-36, Luke 19:41-44). Although the same English word “weep” is found in both Gospels, the two words in Greek are actually different in terms of emotional intensity. In John’s Gospel, the Greek word is ‘dakruo’ which means to shed tears. But it has more to do with “silent weeping” where one’s tears well up in our eyes and rolls down our cheeks.
In the context of Luke’s Gospel where Jesus approaches the city of Jerusalem, the Greek word is ‘klaio’, a “powerful” verb which can be translated as wailing, audible weeping. As one commentator describes it, it is a weeping which so suddenly seizes you that you lose control and you cry out aloud. In other words, it is not a modest sniffle, but a gut-wrenching, public expression of grief.
For the purposes of this perspective, we will just focus on what can we learn from this touching scene of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Why did Jesus as a grown man weep in such a dramatic way? When we continue to read Luke 19, we will find Jesus explaining why he was so gripped with emotions as he gazed upon Jerusalem. Even though the city had a chance to embrace the peace that Jesus came to offer through his death and resurrection, they rejected it even as they rejected him. Thus the salvation of God is now hidden from them and in time to come, Jerusalem would be razed to the ground because they failed to recognize their “visitation from God” (19:44).
Just as the prophet Jeremiah once wept over Judah and Jerusalem due to their covenantal unfaithfulness (Jer. 9:1-11), Jesus felt tremendous grief over the fate of those who instead of living out their sacred calling to glorify God have chosen to harden their hearts towards God’s promised Messiah. As one who is fully God and fully man, Jesus was not detached and the foreknowledge that he had about what is to happen moved him to tears. As much as Jesus did not want any to perish but desired them to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), he is also mindful that there will be many who will come under God’s righteous judgment of sin.
Secondly, these tears remind us that our Lord Jesus loves sinners. Even though Jesus knew what the religious leaders and crowds would do to him, the malice, the scouring and jeering, he did not weep in self-pity. Instead, Jesus wept over their sins of unbelief and wept for those who will never get to experience the peace that they have so longed for and desperately need.
Indeed, there is no doubt that Jesus’ tears were tears of gracious love for his covenantal people. After all, shortly after his Triumphal entry, Jesus had uttered another lamentation over Jerusalem. There Jesus expressed his compassion towards his people, saying how “often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing” (Matt 23:37-39). Such was the depth of God’s love that even in the face of impending death at the Cross, Jesus did not cease to seek earnestly after the welfare and salvation of his people!
For us who have come to Jesus in humble repentance, I trust that we will continue to learn to take sin seriously and grieve over our own sins. But instead of feeling condemned, we should continue drawing near to Jesus with a broken spirit and contrite heart (Ps 51:7), trusting that we will “receive mercy and find grace in our time of need” (Heb 4:16).
Apart from “weeping” over our own sins, we should also persevere in interceding for our cities, praying that people’s eyes will be opened to the truth about Jesus. As we weep over the ways people have fallen short of God’s glory, I trust that the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts such that increasingly we will align ourselves with God’s kingdom purposes and be intentional in seeking the good of our neighbours and reaching them with the Gospel.
After all, Jesus himself didn’t stop at weeping. After weeping, Jesus obeyed his Father and gave of himself sacrificially so as to defeat sin and usher in an eternity where one day there will be no more weeping for all who trust in his redemptive work. Until then, despite how men and women may differ in the amount of tears in their lifetime, may each of our tears that is over the things of God be used by God himself to bring life unto many, to the glory of his name.
Rev Edwin Wong
March 21, 2021