March 19, 2013

Jesus: Weeping

St. Patrick once said this about Ireland,
“I grieve for you, how I mourn for you, who are so very dear to me, but again I can rejoice within my heart, not for nothing have I labored, neither has my exile been in vain.”

Long before he was associated with Green Beer, which no self-respecting Irishman would ever drink, or wild celebratory partying, Patrick was a missionary who baptized thousands, ordained many priests, and recruited men and women as monks and nuns. Although he wasn’t martyred, Patrick endured hostility and imprisonment, but sticking it out, his love for Ireland made him synonymous with that country. He loved Ireland so much he endured a great deal to reach them with the love of Christ.

His statement reminds me of today’s passage.

Luke 19:41-44 says,
“As [Jesus] 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. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
We are in a message series looking at Jesus’ reaction to those who are broken, and sinful, and in need of forgiveness. As people who profess to follow the way of Jesus, our lives and our responses to human sin and the need for forgiveness are to reflect those we see in Jesus. And today we see Jesus so moved with compassion for his people that  he wept!

Jesus Wept

There are only two times in Scripture where we see Jesus crying. One in John, where Jesus weeps at the death of his friend Lazarus. The second is here in Luke as Jesus looks at the capital city of His people, and weeps over them.

The Gospel of Matthew uses the word compassion to show Jesus’ emotional response to those who are hurting. But here the emotion is much deeper. Jesus weeps almost uncontrollably.

The word used for weeping here is 'klaio' which means audible weeping. This is more than the typical manly excuse of there is “something in my eye” or “my eyeballs are just sweating!” It is also different from the word John uses when Jesus wept over Lazarus. This is violent weeping that seized him. He lost control and cried out in anguish. It burst through with visible, audible emotion. He was gripped with a pained passion for His people.

This is the opposite reaction most people felt as they looked at Jerusalem.

Last summer Lori, Bri, and I went to the Grand Tetons for vacation. As we came through the mountain pass out of Dubois, Wyoming we saw the Grand Tetons for the first time. I felt such awe and overwhelming joy at their grandeur and beauty. They were gorgeous! I tried to capture it with a picture, but it just didn’t do it justice. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it can’t contain the joy, and awe, and emotion of seeing something like that for the first time!

As the Jewish traveler came over the ridge and Jerusalem came into view, their emotions would have been overwhelming! Emotions similar to what I felt as I saw the Tetons for the first time. Jerusalem was the City of God. It was Abraham’s Mount Moriah, David’s Mount Zion, it was the home of the High Priest Melchizedek and the future home of Israel’s Messiah. At the center of the city, rising above the other buildings, they could see the earthly residence of God, the Temple, and they were here to worship! Their hearts leapt with joy over this place.

If there were tears, it was excitement and joy that caused them...but that is not why Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

Jesus shed tears of anguish; tears of a broken heart. Jesus wept because he could see the deeper reality of things.

Jesus wept because they were blind.

This story follows the Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into the City. He is welcomed with great fanfare. People shout and cheer. They throw palm branches and their cloaks on the ground. But in the midst of all this excitement they are blind.

In our passage Jesus says, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

John 1:11 says, “[Jesus] came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

What the Jews had longed for and searched for so long to find was right in front of them...and they just couldn’t see it! They longed for the coming of their Messiah. They longed for the Shalom or peace of God. The very name of their capital city, Jerusalem, had the word Shalom or Peace in it symbolizing that God’s presence was the way to this true shalom. Jesus, the bearer of all they desired, was right there in front of them...and they were blind to it!

How many times does that happen today? The answer is ready and available, and people reject it.

People in need of love and community...reject the church.

People who need help and compassion...reject even speaking with a Christian.

People who need healing and hope in their lives...turn away from God rather than toward him.

The Church has not always done a great job at presenting Jesus well, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Jesus really is the way to true peace and forgiveness and hope in our world. Jesus is what Jerusalem needed, and Jesus is what our world needs today!

Our neighbors who struggle to keep their marriage together can and should be able to find hope in our marriages and in the Lord we serve.

The people who work with us should be able to see a different kind of employee, a different kind of attitude, a different kind of person in us...because we know Jesus is the hope our world needs.

People should be drawn to the hope found in Jesus simply because they come into contact with us, and by watching our lives, their eyes are opened to what Jesus can do for them!

So Jesus wept because of their blindness, but

Jesus wept over the coming destruction.
Our passage says, “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Jerusalem had always been the center of political turmoil. Because it was located on the busiest trade routes in the ancient world, every major world power wanted to control it. The Babylonians had conquered and destroyed the city near the end of the Old Testament. Eventually the Romans had conquered it, but even they couldn’t control the turmoil in the city.

What Jesus saw as the coming destruction would take place about 30 or so years later in AD 70. Jewish factions started to revolt. Titus, who would become Rome’s next Emperor, surrounded the city, destroyed every living tree surrounding Jerusalem to build a siege wall, and allowed no food or water to enter the city for 9 months.

The elderly, the weak, the poor, and the young were some of the first to die from thirst and starvation. Moral declined as the bodies of their neighbors piled up in the streets. Eventually Titus broke through the walls of the city and destroyed almost everyone inside.

The Jewish historian Josephus writes,
“The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination."
In his anger, Titus destroyed the Temple, not leaving one stone on top of another, and sacrificed a pig on the altar, the abomination of desolation spoken of in Matthew.

This is the consequence of Jerusalem’s rejection of their Messiah, and at the heart of Jesus’ weeping that day. Jesus isn’t weeping because of the people have simply committed sin...he is weeping because of the devastation sin causes in the lives of those whom he loves! For Jerusalem, their sin and their rejection of the Messiah was leading to a day of actual destruction.

For many people around us...their sin has consequences that either has brought them into some destructive consequences or it will one day.

Jesus wept because he saw the destruction sin causes.

These are the same tears a parent cries when the son or daughter they love reaps the consequences of their drug use.

These are the same tears shed every time an innocent child is molested or abused and suffers at the hands of someone else’s sin.

These are the tears shed when a marriage is destroyed and innocent children suffer the consequence two adults have thrust upon them.

These are the tears of the spouse who has been betrayed and cheated on.

Sin has devastating consequences.

Jerusalem's rejection of their Messiah means they forfeited peace...the Shalom they so desperately needed and wanted. They just didn’t see it. He still weeps.He looks at the pain and agony, the consequences people suffer due to rebellious sinfulness and weeps.

Some people have this idea that Jesus gets really excited about being people’s judge. He is holy and gets to give them what they deserve, but if this picture of Jesus is correct, Jesus weeps when humans reject the peace and the hope he has to offer.

In Ezekiel 33:11 God says to the Prophet Ezekiel,
“Say to [Israel], ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”

2 Peter 3:9,
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Jesus wept for this city, and in within the week they executed him. His love compelled Him to attempt over and over and over again to win them...even to the point of sacrificing His own life.

The challenge for us is to be moved with this same passion. As followers of Jesus, as His ambassadors in our world, do we weep for the those who are hurting and struggling with sin? Do we see our family, our friends, our neighbors, our city, as something worth weeping over because of their distance from God?

Often what we have to overcome is something more like indifference.

In 1994 there was a massacre in Rwanda. Hutus massacred somewhere between 500,000-1,000,000 of their Tutsis neighbors in about a month and a half.

Hotel Rwanda is based on a true story about a hotel manager who rescued as many Tutsis refugees as he could. After watching a reporter's video of the atrocities, the manager believes this will cause the world to get involved. The reporter says, “They will say, “Oh my god! That’s horrible!” and then go on eating their dinner.” And that is exactly what the world did in that case...absolutely nothing.

If we are not careful, the church can sit by watching people as they are carried off in the horrific consequences of sin.

For us that means taking seriously out call to be a witness. To live out the Jesus life in front of the people around us. To take each God-given moment to share about the hope we have within us. To speak up. To act and care on behalf of those who are hurting. To feel this same sense of purpose and drive to reach the lost. To weep for those around us who need desperately need the shalom Jesus offers.

Who are you weeping over?

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