What drives Jesus to tears? What is he heart-broken over?
There are only two places in the Gospels where we are told Jesus cried.
The first instance was at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. It is the shortest verse in all Scripture – ‘Jesus wept.’ (John 11:35). He cried on seeing the hopeless grief and mournful tears of Mary, Martha and the crowd with them. He was moved by their pain and loss, even though he knew he would shortly wake Lazarus from his death-sleep.
The second recorded time Jesus wept is in Luke 19:41, when, on the approach to Jerusalem and seeing the holy city where he would shortly die, Jesus is overcome with grief.
What so troubled him at the sight of Jerusalem? As he exclaims in the verses that follow, he was deeply distressed by the imminent rejection of the people of the city and all that it represented.
Their Messiah had come and it was the time of their visitation, but they were in no mood to accept him. At their hands, he knew he was about to face a kangaroo court of lies and false accusation, then experience unimaginable pain and shame leading to a slow and tortuous death. They were in effect about to spit, curse and disfigure the faultless face of God.
Jesus wept at these two things – the rejection of God’s people and the grief and finality of the grave.
Sin and death. We know them all too well. Jesus weeps – with us – over them.
Did not Isaiah the prophet foretell that Messiah would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3)? Here is no detached deity. He enters fully as Emmanuel into our pain, and his tears are real. He felt the rejection of the people of Israel and he feels ours. “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh,” wrote John Calvin.
And so he wept.
What about us? What will you weep over in 2018?
How about our frequent failure to obey Jesus’ clear command?
Raineer Chu is a church-planter among the urban poor of the Manila districts in the Philippines. He tells a story that happened in a slum along Manila bay, when a visiting Canadian summer team came to help in the construction of a church building. At dinner, the hard-working Canadian team and their Filipino hosts from the slum churches shared food and stories together.
The Filipino team described one night how, described their lack of resources, they always sought to plant churches in the slums they worked in. They spoke many times of having little or no food but that in the course of their work, several churches had been planted. On hearing their stories, the Canadians wept that they were so poor.
The following night, the Canadian team shared about the wealthy church they were from, and how the church was filled with several hundred members each Sunday. Sadly, they shared, after 17 years, they had yet to plant a single church. On hearing this, the Filipinos wept.
This new year, will you weep over the rejection and lostness of a world without Christ, and our indifference to it?
And will you commit to bringing a smile to Jesus’ face by seeking to obey his unequivocal command to make disciples of the nations and to help start new communities of faith wherever He sends you?
Please pray for us and support us as we seek to do the same.