“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36)
Ruth Faith Santana-Grace Spirit Soundings, March 28, 2014Click here for a PDF version: SantanaGraceSpiritSoundings28MARCH2014
“Jesus began to weep” – or as is more commonly known “Jesus wept”- portrays a visible image and understanding of the messiah that is among the most powerful of the gospel narratives. In these few words, we are given a glimpse into the heart and depth of Jesus’ humanity. As such, we are given a profound glimpse into the heart of God. At the moment of the loss of one of his friends, Jesus openly expresses his grief and sadness. The pain of his dear friends Martha and Mary, “disturbed and moved” him. As he joins the family and those gathered to support them, Jesus publicly allows himself to express the depth of his pain through his tears.
I find this image particularly compelling in a culture that often still confuses tears with weakness. A cultural myth exists telling us that weeping and tears are signs of a lack of resolve or courage. That would be a dangerous misperception. Jesus’ weeping was not to be mistaken for weakness or indecision. Jesus’ weeping does not stop him from walking through his grief into the possibilities beyond that moment. Jesus’ weeping does not stop him from continuing his journey to the cross. On the contrary, Jesus’ tears model for us how to live with the pain we often experience in our lives. It is in the midst of tears that we understand just how much love Jesus has for his friend Lazarus. His tears ultimately gave way to a call for new life that could not have happened if Lazarus had not first died. Imagine the disbelief and celebration of those gathered as the new life walked out of the darkness of the tomb into the light.
As we continue on our Lenten journey toward the city gates of Jerusalem, this has me prayerfully thinking about the tears that we as the Church of Jesus Christ are perhaps called to visibly shed in an effort to release ourselves from those things that first need to die – so that we can embrace a new way of life. These things can be as simple as our assumptions, our anger, our fears – as manifested in conversations about worship styles, emptying buildings, church islands in the midst of changing demographics, and more. I believe that both our individual and corporate faith lives are often called to a place where we are forced to come face to face with the sadness of what has died or what is dying before us. These losses will inevitably cause us to weep.
Weeping is not the issue. Weeping is a sign of deep emotions. The question becomes – What can we do with our tears? Is there anything good that can come from our visible grief at the loss of life, the church as we once knew it, an era we loved? Perhaps we can let the power of our tears provide us with the courage we need to rebuild – our hearts, our lives, our churches, our mission. Perhaps we can let our tears serve to help us bring forth new life where there is hopelessness, desolation and death. Perhaps we can let our tears motivate us into action. There have been many times when I have found myself struggling in public – with a tear flowing down the side of my face. This has not meant that I have been incapable of making decisions at those pivotal moments. It has meant instead that the conversation of the moment was one that moved me deeply. It has meant instead that the decision made has been one of profundity; one of letting go “what has been” in order to move forward with “what will or can be.”
As the skyline of the holy city of Jerusalem gets closer; as we soon prepare to sing Hosanna with the children, ask yourself – what makes you weep? What touches the depth of your heart? What causes you to weep as an individual disciple of Jesus Christ? What causes you to weep as a member of the body of Christ? Friends, may we be like Jesus – and not let death be the final answer for us. May we call forth new life from all that is around us. But first, may we, like Jesus – care enough – to dare to weep – so that the world might see just how much we love.