Monday, September 15, 2008

The Sighs of the Lord Jesus Christ

The tears of Christ over Jerusalem are astonishing - but equally astonishing are his sighs as recorded in the gospel. The sighs of Jesus (Mk. 7:34; 8:12; John 11:33) point us to the completeness of our Lord’s humanity - they are sinless expressions out of the fullness of the emotions shared as part of our humanity. Sometimes the sighs are in response to the unbelief of his hearers, before performing a miracle or in response to the evil of death.

When He unstopped the ears of the deaf man, he sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha, be opened’. Why was this? It was not a sighing at the greatness of the miracle required to heal the deaf. It was a response to the destructive effects of the Fall and of sin. When we sigh and cry for abominations we have something of that spirit (Ezekiel 9:4). There was a holy anger against sin in Christ but a tenderness and pity towards the man himself. He was the great High Priest who had compassion upon those that were ignorant and out of the way. How expressive it is when we read that He also looked up to heaven when he sighed. Can we fathom the depths of that sigh, any more than we can fathom the depths of the heart of the One greater than Solomon, who had ‘largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore’ (1 Kings 4:29)? As Samuel Rutherford has commented, when His holy heart was stirred it was like the stirring of perfume only the sweet savour of holy emotions arose, whereas when our heart is stirred it is often like the stirring of the bottom of a pond which brings foul smelling things from the bottom to the surface.

There was a prayer in this sigh. A sigh of intercession. When we read frequently of sighing in the psalms we ought to think of the sighs of Christ of whom the psalms speak. He came to enter into, in the fullest possible, yet sinless way, this world of sighing and tears. He could say Psalm 31:10, ‘For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing’. He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. He could say in His extremity, ‘I am poor and sorrowful’ (Psalm 69:29). Intercession means intervention too, however. ‘For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise’ Psalm 12:5. Exodus 2:23, ‘the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage’. As the Lord visited His people then, so He came in a more glorious way as Immanuel, God with us. He came in order that the redeemed of the Lord would come again to the heavenly Zion, when ‘sorrow and sighing shall flee away’ (Isaiah 35:10).