Why keep Jesus weeping?

Number 563 • September 13, 2020


Scripture records three occasions on which Jesus wept. Each teaches a different lesson and raises a different question about our relationship with Jesus. We will look briefly at each of the three and then ask a few direct and pertinent questions.

Jesus wept at the grave of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:1-45). It may be difficult for us to sort out the humanity and divinity of Jesus here but both are apparent. Divinity is seen in that he knew Lazarus was gravely ill – he seemed to know that Lazarus would die from his illness – and yet he delayed going to be with him. Although we know Jesus was able to heal remotely, as in the case of the Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-10) he did nothing to help Lazarus – in effect he allowed his friend to die. When he and his apostles arrived in Bethany Lazarus had been dead four days. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus believed that Jesus could have prevented their brother’s death – their complaint may have been simple regret but might also be seen as a reproach: “Lord, If you had come, had you been here, you could have saved him.” Jesus asked to be taken to the grave site and have it opened. He knew what he was going to do – he had known all along what he would do: He would call Lazarus back to life, raise him to life again after certified death. Why then was Jesus weeping? He was not weeping for himself, mourning over his loss of a friend. He was not weeping for Lazarus since he knew he was going to bring him back to life. He wept for the sisters, Mary and Martha, in compassion for the pain and anguish the death had caused them.

This implies his compassion, for us too. We are told that he is not unfeeling or cannot be touched by what we suffer, but that he feels what we feel – our troubles and trials, even our temptations – and that we can approach him seeking mercy and grace to help us in our times of need (Hebrews 4:15-17). God in Christ offers relief from our cares and anxieties when we allow Him to share the burden with us (1 Peter 5:6-7). We may ask, wondering, if Jesus cares when we are burdened with unbearable sorrows. But faith answers immediately: “Oh yes, he cares; I know he cares. His heart is touched with my grief.” Jesus weeps when I am hurt, when I stumble and weep over nameless dread and fear, and uncertainties caused by lack of knowledge and understanding.

Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:29-48). Matthew, Mark, and John also record “the triumphal entry” but only Luke records the lament over the city. These tears are for the people he wanted to save but could not, those who should have become his people but refused to do so. Although the focus here seems to be on the city of Jerusalem his concern is not limited to that place or the people in it, or even to the temple of God that was there. As the capital city of the nation of Judah and all the extant remnants of the chosen people of God, as the center of both civil and religious leadership and authority Jerusalem represented all the covenant people of God throughout the world. These are the people from whom and to whom God’s Christ had come. In a way of speaking Jerusalem was also the epicenter of God’s intended kingdom, representing the whole world of humanity included in the mission of the anointed Redeemer and Savior – starting in Jerusalem, spreading to Judea, Samaria, and the whole world until the end of time on earth (John 3:16, Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Acts 1:8 and 2:39). Jesus wept not for himself as being rejected, but over those who would not be saved because they rejected him and God who had sent him. He was not weeping over people arbitrarily predestined by Sovereign God to reprobation and destruction – that whole concept is a monumental fraud, a Satanic ruse perpetuated by misguided humans posing as friends-of-God theologians but actually being wolves thinly disguised by some few trappings of a counterfeit Christianity. There are more counterfeits than genuine oracles of God in the world, and their confident insistent bravado is often more convincing than the faint and noiseless ‘examples’ of the faithful – those who think the world can be won without words, without actually preaching and proclaiming the truth of the gospel but merely be “living the faith” in their presence. The world wins, the tares win, the devil wins. And Jesus weeps.

Does Jesus still weep over those who could be saved from destruction but choose not to be, the atheists, agnostics, doubters, and deniers who do not want to be convinced and refuse to be convinced? No doubt. His offer is genuine and constant. He holds out his hands to all, invites all, encourages all to come to him (Matthew 11:28-30), to come to God through him (John 14:6). The refusal of so many – of the overwhelming majority – does not diminish Jesus himself. It does not negate his victory on the cross nor does it diminish his glory as Redeemer nor does it invalidate his success as Savior. What he accomplished is sufficient to redeem and save all who know it and receive it by accepting the conditions imposed for receiving it. What about those who are not evangelized but are avoided and ignored and not given the opportunity to know and obey Christ for salvation? Do you suppose the Lord weeps over their loss too?

Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane (Hebrews 5:7-9). He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him who was able to save him from death. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell of the scene here, but none mentions tears or weeping. Only the writer of Hebrews mentions it (5:8), but does not specify where it takes place. This cannot refer to Christ on the cross – he did not ask God to save him then. It only fits the occasion in the garden where he prayed repeatedly, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Here the tears are in some sense for himself, not others. His blood-sweating agony is in prospect of what he would endure on the cross, not only the fact of death and degradation but surely also of the act of dying – he had surely seen crucifixions before and knew what he would suffer physically. But there is more implied in what was to happen to him on that cross. The “cup” he was to drink was more than death. He would for some time before death, certainly from the moment of death until his resurrection, when God would leave him – he would be forsaken, abandoned, and without God (Matthew 27:46). How then did he want to be saved? Not necessarily from death and degradation or the act of dying – how would the planned will or purpose of God be carried out if he did not die (Matthew 26:53-54)? Perhaps he was asking to be saved by receiving strength to endure the cross without denying God and without giving up on his mission to be the sacrifice, the Lamb who would take away sins from the world. We have some indication that God answered that prayer; an angel was there to strengthen him (Luke 22:41-46). The assurance that his sacrifice would actually save others led him to rejoice – to feel joy in spite of the pain and suffering, the shame and degradation of the cross (Hebrews 12:2-3), to know he was fulfilling the will of God and the mission assigned to him, to know he could say to God, “It is finished.” I have completed the work You sent me to do,” and could claim eternal glory in the heaven of God (John 17:4-5, 19:30).

Does Jesus weep today? Of course there are no physical tears for him any more, but spiritually his heart is still grieved by the losses he endures of those he still wants to see saved and safe with him and with God. He certainly does not weep for himself now. But does he weep for a world lost in sin and refusing to come to God through him? Does he weep because of what is being done to his people, to his church in the world? The fact that he knows the final and eternal results for the oppressors and the oppressed does not change the fact that Jesus is grieved by the hardness of heart that causes many to sin against others, grieved by any avoidable loss of those he wanted and wants to save. Like God the Father Jesus does not want any to perish, wants all to know the truth, to repent and to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).

Do you cause Jesus to weep – does he weep over you and the loss of your soul? Does he weep because of what you are doing – to yourself, to others, and to the world? Does he weep because of what you are doing to him and his church, to his cause and the cause of God in the world? Does Jesus weep because of your sins? Do not attempt to alleviate or diminish the damage done by your sins. It is easy and it is a common ploy to say your sins are not that bad – you are not a murderer, not an adulterer, not an idolater, not an atheist or God-denier, not a declared enemy or opponent of the Lord and His ways and will. Yes, some sins might be classified as bigger or worse due to their impact upon others but the fact remains all sin is sin and the wages or results of any unforgiven sin is the same: spiritual death and separation from God (Romans 6:23). Yes, it is true that no person alive is completely without sin, all have sinned and come short of the glory available in and required by God (Romans 3:10, 23), but that does not mean any one is exempt from the consequences of one’s own sin. Perhaps Jesus weeps because of what you are not doing – not heeding or accepting his call, his invitation, his urging to accept salvation in him. Perhaps because you are not telling others of possible salvation in him, not sharing his words, not living according to his calling. One who is not consciously and actively for him is considered to be against him (Matthew 12:30). Perhaps he weeps because you are a stumbling block to others, a hindrance to those who would come to him, not a builder together with him and with God (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Do you weep with Jesus? Do you weep over the things that cause him to weep? If you say Yes, what are you doing to remedy the situation, to correct and offset the things that make him weep? If you aren’t part of the solution to his weeping, you may be part of the condition and cause of his weeping. <><>

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