35 Jesus wept.
Dear Friends in Christ,
May I ask you a personal question? What makes you cry? What causes you shed tears? No doubt the loss of a loved one. Perhaps the loss of a pet. Maybe a sad scene in a movie. How about pain, bad news, good news, pride in your child’s accomplishments? All of these things and many others can cause those tiny water faucets in our eyes to open up and overflow down our cheeks. And it’s my contention that what makes us cry, what brings tears to our eyes, reveals an awful lot about the things that matter most to us in life.
And nowhere do we see a better example of this than in the life of Jesus. For the tears that he shed definitely revealed a lot about the temperature of his soul and what really mattered to him. And so today, as we examine 3 occasions in Jesus’ life when he wept, we might want to ask ourselves: Does what made Jesus cry make us cry? Because if it does, then we can be sure that what mattered to Jesus matters to us as well. And that would definitely be a good thing!
The 1st occasion from Jesus’ life that I want to look at today can be found in Luke 19:41-42 where it says: As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
This day should have been one of the highlight moments of Jesus’ life. Throngs of people lined the streets of the city. Palm branches were waved in the air. Cloaks were removed and laid in the road for Jesus to ride on, somewhat similar to our modern day practice of rolling out the red carpet for a famous dignitary. And as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a lowly donkey, shouts of praise began to erupt from the excited crowd: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” It was a parade, and Jesus was the center of attention, the focal point, the guest of honor. But as he neared the city, as he perhaps cast a glance at Pilate’s hall or stole a glimpse of Herod’s palace or saw out of the corner of his eye that skull-shaped hill where crucifixions took place, the all-knowing Christ, fully aware of what would happen to him later that week, was moved to tears.
But please understand that those tears were not really prompted by what he knew was going to transpire in his life later that week, but rather by what he knew was going to transpire in the lives of so many of the people who were hailing him as their king that day. For just 5 days later, some of those very same people would turn on him and demand his crucifixion. And in the process they would miss the Messiah that the Jews had waited for so many centuries, and as a result they would have missed God and his offer of salvation.
So what makes Jesus cry? He cries when people have no awareness of him, when they settle for 2nd best…or worse. To help you better understand that, I want you parents here today to imagine for a moment that you decide you want to do something really special for your child to let them know how much you love them. So you prepare a feast of their favorite foods. You decorate the house. You make everything just right. But when they come home, they look at all that food you so lovingly prepared for them, and they say, “You know, this is really nice, but do you know what I’d really like to eat tonite. I’d like a nice big bowl of mud because I love mud. I love how it feels in my mouth. I love to squish it between my teeth. I love to feel it slide down my throat, especially if there’s a worm or two in it.”
Now what would you do if your child did that to you? You would no doubt think there was something terribly wrong with your child, wouldn’t you? You would wonder what kind of child you had raised who could see a magnificent meal and settle for mud. No doubt your heart would be broken that this child of yours would prefer something so inferior to what you had prepared.
Well, is it any wonder then that Jesus’ heart breaks when people settle for something so inferior to what he has to offer them, when they choose to settle for the same old cold, stale religion and miss the coming of God into their midst, just like happened on that 1st Palm Sunday?
May I get personal for a moment? I’m confident that each one of us has within our circle of acquaintances people who are living their lives apart from God, with little or no awareness of God. Though they may not realize it or admit it, their lives are empty. They’re settling for mud when they could have a feast. Now let me ask you: Does it break your heart when you find yourself surrounded by those people? Does it bring tears to your eyes knowing that if these people don’t meet Jesus and get to know him as their Savior and Lord, then they will spend eternity separated from him and also from you? I pray that it does affect you that way because that’s exactly how it affects Jesus.
Let’s move on. Not only does Jesus weep when people have no awareness of him or interest in him; he also weeps when people have no answer for the grave. Most of you know well the story from which our text for today is taken. Lazarus, the beloved brother of Mary and Martha, had died, and Jesus, their very best friend, shows up 4 days later. As Jesus deals with the 2 sisters and sees their grief in action, his heart overflows with compassion for them and he himself is moved to tears. “Jesus wept,” our text says.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus simply could not sit still at funerals? He always felt compelled to interrupt them. Why? Because he couldn’t stand to see people bullied and buffaloed by our great enemy, death. He knew that death was simply a steppingstone for the faithful child of God. It was the gateway to life, a life far greater, far grander, far more glorious than anything this old world could offer. And he knew that he alone held the key to that life. So he used every opportunity to help people see that and understand that.
One man who understood it well was our nation’s 6th President, John Quincy Adams. When he was 80 years old a friend approached him one day and asked him: “How is John Quincy Adams today?” To which he replied: “John Quincy Adams is himself quite well. But the house in which he lives is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering on the foundations. Time and seasons have nearly destroyed it. Its roof is pretty well worn out. Its walls are pretty much shattered. And it trembles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming uninhabitable. And I think John Adams will have to soon move out. But he himself is quite well. Thank you.”
My friends, Jesus is pleased when we understand what John Adams understood, namely, that this body we inhabit is not our true self. But he is saddened when we think that this aging old broken down shell in which we currently reside is our true self and we fear the day when we will have to move out of it. And the reason he’s saddened is because he has something so much better in store for us.
So again, let me get personal with you. Do you know of anyone who is afraid of death? Are you aware of someone in your circle of friends who has no answer for the grave and no idea of what will happen to them after they draw their final breath? And if you do, do you feel the same sorrow for them that Jesus feels? Do you feel the same desire to give them an answer for the grave that Jesus gave to so many?
Then lastly, one more thing that makes Jesus cry is when people have no shepherd for their souls. In Mark 6:34 we read: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” I love the Greek word for “compassion” that is used here. It’s pronounced splanchnizomai and it means to feel hurt in your gut, hurt in your deepest organs. It means to cry or groan inwardly.
Now why would it break Jesus’ heart to see people as sheep without a shepherd? Why would that bother him so much? I think the answer is obvious. Because Jesus knows how prone sheep are to wander. And what happens when sheep wander? They get into trouble. They become lost. They can’t find food to eat. They become more vulnerable to predators like wolves and coyotes. Their wooly coats act like Velcro, picking up dirt, rocks, and cockle burrs. They may fall into deep crevices or wade into moving streams where their wool soaks up the water like a sponge, weighting them down and maybe even causing them to drown.
And so it is with us. There are times when we stray from our loving Shepherd and we too get into trouble. We find ourselves easy prey for Satan whom Peter says prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. We find ourselves picking up all the dirt and filth that surrounds us, making us ugly and unclean in the eyes of our Good Shepherd. We find ourselves weighted down by guilt because we know that the life we are living is not pleasing to him and we are walking a path that leads to nowhere.
And it’s times like that that our gentle Shepherd groans inwardly and weeps outwardly because he so desperately wants to rescue us from ourselves. He so desperately wants to provide for us a haven, a shelter, a refuge from the enemies who would seek to destroy us. In fact, he even offers himself as that haven of refuge. As he put it so well in John 10, he said: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Imagine that – a Shepherd who dies for his sheep! That’s what we have in Jesus!
So one more time I want to get personal with you, my friends. Do you know any shepherdless sheep these days – maybe in your workplace, your neighborhood, your school, perhaps even in your home? Are you weeping over them as Jesus does? Are you shedding tears for them because of the poor choices they’ve made and the dead end paths they’ve been taking? If so, there is something you can do about it. And it’s very simple. Invite them to church where they can be exposed to the life-giving, soul-saving, best-news-they’ll-ever-hear Gospel message. And if they don’t say yes, invite them again. Don’t give up easily. Understand that their eternity is at stake. And as you invite them, pray for them, consistently, persistently, and insistently. And with God’s help, may this church become a place, a haven, where the tears of sadness that Jesus and we have shed for the lost will be turned into tears of joy as they come home to the Father’s waiting and forgiving arms. Amen.