This is post 4 of 4 in the series “THE ... OF JESUS”
- The Tenderness Of Jesus: What Matters To You Matters To God
- The Target Of Jesus: What You Fear Most, Christ Handles Best
- The Tactic Of Jesus: What You Count Lowly, Christ Counts Holy
- The Tears Of Jesus: What You Cry About Is What You Care About
The Tears Of Jesus: What You Cry About Is What You Care About
Let me share with you what I believe to be the most beautiful sentence in the English language. It surpasses in its beauty all of the lines ever written by all of the poets throughout all of the history of humankind. The sentence is just two words long: “Jesus wept.” I submit to you that that is the most beautiful sentence ever written.
Long before Jesus was born into our human experience, the prophet Isaiah predicted that He would be “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” And so He was. He knew what it was to weep. That’s an important thing for us to remember, because tears are like an index, a table of contents, a thermometer and a barometer of the human heart. If you see what makes a person cry, you gain a priceless insight into that person’s heart. Therefore, I think we can ask today: What makes Jesus cry? What breaks His heart? What causes His chin to quiver? What leads Him to bite His lip against the pain? What floods His soul with deep emotion? Tears reveal the truth about people; what you cry about is what you care about. So let’s look at what brought tears to the eyes of Jesus. It happened twice, so far as we are told. And I believe that as we look at the tears on His cheeks, we can see a reflection which tells us something about the heart of God.
First of all, Jesus cried when people had no awareness of God.
In Luke 19, we are told that Jesus was standing on the brow of a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem. He was about to enter the city for the last time. Within days, He would be crucified by the people of Jerusalem. Here is the way Luke describes what happened: “When Jesus drew near and saw the city, He wept over it saying, ’Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace…You did not recognize the time when God came to save you’.” Jesus cries when people have no awareness of God—when God has come and they haven’t seen Him.
A little boy saved up his money to go to the circus. The circus had never before come to his town and he was about to pop with excitement to go for the first time. When the circus arrived, he went over to where the big tent was pitched and he saw a parade of circus characters as they came marching out of the tent headed toward the town square. So he put his money into his pocket, sat on the curb and watched the parade go by. Afterward, he ran home to tell his parents that he had seen the circus. But had he really? No. He had seen but a shallow imitation. He had not stepped into the big tent. He hadn’t felt the excitement. He hadn’t eaten the popcorn. He hadn’t heard the music. He hadn’t experienced the chills and the thrills and the spills. Because he didn’t know any better, he thought he had seen the circus, when in fact, he hadn’t seen it at all.
Jesus stood on the hill overlooking Jerusalem and wept because the people there thought that they were experiencing life. But Jesus said: “You missed the big event. You haven’t stepped into the tent. You have settled for something second rate.” When Jesus looks at people today and He sees people who would trade their souls for a weekend tryst with somebody, who would trade the promise of eternity for a promotion at work, who would barter away their integrity for an instant of recognition, it makes Jesus weep.
One of our young fathers was telling me about his recent family vacation. It turned out to be a disaster. They were going to be touring around the mountains of North Carolina. One morning on the trip, they loaded up in the car; the husband was driving, the mother was in the passenger seat, the three small children were in the back seat. The husband gave his wife the map and said: “You navigate and I’ll drive.” Off they went. On the twisting mountain roads, they became disoriented. She insisted that she knew the way because of the map; he insisted that he knew the way by instinct. Well you can guess what happened. They got lost. They kept twisting and turning, wandering and wandering. She kept requesting that they stop to ask directions; he kept refusing, saying, “I can handle this.” Round and round the mountains they drove, children fussing, and their emotional temperatures rising with every passing hour. Finally, they looked up and they saw the first thing they had seen all day that looked familiar. It was the town where they had spent the night before! Wouldn’t that be horrible? Well, he said, to celebrate it they stayed in the same motel again! Hours of confusion and disorientation and tension and aggravation—and they wound up in the place where they began.
A lot of people are like that. A lot of people in your world, on your street, in your office complex—a lot of people on these pews—are like that. They don’t know where they are going. They’ll follow anything that sounds like it might be good or feels like it might be good. Those people—people who are lost in life, people who live like there is no God—those are the people who bring tears to the eyes of Jesus. He cries because He cares. And He says to those people today: “Would that even now you might come to know the things that can bring peace to your life. Would that even now you might come to know the Lord who has come to save you.”
And next, Jesus cried when people had no answer for the grave.
In John 11 we are told that Jesus stood at the tomb of His friend, Lazarus. He saw that Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, were crying. When He saw their tears, it brought tears to His own eyes. I don’t think Jesus was crying here because Lazarus was dead. Jesus knew that Lazarus would be better off in heaven. I think He was crying because it hurt Him to see other people hurting.
Think about that. The crown of thorns, the lash of the whips, the nails through hands and feet—none of that could make Him weep. Yet here in deep, profound loving sympathy for His friends, the tears began to stream down His face. Why have we become victimized into believing that tears are a sign of weakness? That’s especially true for those of us who are male in 20th Century America—Why, O why, O why have we been fooled into believing that weeping is a sign of weakness? Jesus was the strongest man who ever lived—and it says, “Jesus wept”. I’m talking here about One who possessed the rippling muscles and taut sinews of a carpenter. I’m talking here about One whose mental and emotional strength has never ever been equaled. I’m talking here about One who could do battle with the devil in the desert and win. I’m talking here about One who could walk into the midst of a hostile crowd never blinking an eye nor mincing a word. I’m talking here about One who could stand in the bow of a pitching boat in the middle of a storm and command the winds and the waves to be still. I’m talking here about One who could walk into the Temple and armed with nothing more than a cracking whip and a blazing tongue could send the moneychangers scattering out of that place like a covey of flushed quail. I’m talking here about One who was the strongest man who ever lived—and the Bible says “Jesus wept”. Jesus, so strong, yet was so caring that He could cry.
When will we ever learn the ministering power of our tears? Sometimes there is enough in a smile, a warm glance, a handshake, a touch on the shoulder—sometimes there is enough in these things to keep us going, to keep our hearts from breaking and our hopes from dying. But other times, there is not enough in that. Sometimes the most profound and loving expression of our sympathy and our caring is the gift of tears. When, O when, O when will we ever learn the ministering power of our tears?
I remember visiting with “Miss Ruth” Ross. She was a member of my first congregation. She was as great a Christian lady as I have ever known, I loved her dearly. Just a few years ago she was stricken with cancer. She was a patient in the great M.D. Anderson Cancer Institute in Houston. I was on my way back from a speaking engagement out west and I arranged for a layover in Houston so that I might go and visit her. She was suffering terribly. The cancer had spread to various parts of her body but especially affected were her eyes, her lips, her tongue and her throat. She was suffering as few of us will ever suffer and her suffering would only grow more intense until her death just a matter of weeks later. We had a great visit that day both of us knowing full well that we would never see one another again this side of glory. But there’s something I want you to see in that hospital room in Houston. I can’t show you a photograph of it—all I can do is try to paint the picture with words. I want you to see that in that hospital room in Houston, there was warmth and there was love and there was laughter. That’s right, laughter. Great rolling, roaring, rollicking laughter! That’s always the way it was wherever “Miss Ruth” Ross was. Joy and laughter were the ladies-in-waiting at her court. When you walked into her room, you had to leave your depression at the door. We talked a long while—about our friendship and her illness, about her life and our Lord—and we laughed a lot. It came time for me to leave. I got up, walked over to the bed, leaned down over her, kissed her forehead and said: “Miss Ruth, I love you. I just wish I could make it easier for you.” She answered me with a smile—it must have been in agony!—and said: “Preacher, I know you love me, but I want you to know that I have seen joy in my life and I have seen pain, and I’ve never yet seen the pain that could kill that joy!” And I cried. I wept. It was my most profound expression of sympathy and caring for my friend and it was my way of remembering that my Lord holds the answer to every problem in life, including the problem of death.
When, O when, O when will we ever learn the ministering power of our tears? How does the poet put it?
O ye tears, O ye tears
I am thankful that ye run
Though ye trickle in the darkness
Ye shall glisten in the sun.
You cannot have a rainbow
If the rain refused to fall
And the eyes that cannot cry
Are the saddest eyes of all.
It’s worth remembering in the kind of world in which we live that Jesus wept. What He cried about is what He cared about.
Let me introduce you to a man named Jim Haggins. To meet him you have to go back to the year 1850, to England, to the oldest city in England, Colchester. There on January 6, 1850—a cold snowy Sunday morning, this poor farmer, Jim Haggins debated with himself about trudging through three feet of snow to attend church. But he had recently been appointed a deacon in his Methodist church. He thought to himself: “If the deacons don’t go who will?” So he bundled up and headed out to church. There he discovered that only 13 other brave souls had made it—twelve of them were members, the other was a visitor—a boy of only fourteen years. One of the members said: “Well, we’ve gotten word that the minister can’t make it today. He’s snowed in. No need to have church.” Deacon Haggins said: “We always have church. If no one else will do it, I guess I’ll have to preach.” He had never preached a sermon in his life, but he got up in the pulpit and did the best he could. It wasn’t much. He got to the end of the rope pretty fast and the sermon was over. As the people were leaving, for some reason this teenage boy caught Jim Haggins’ attention. He didn’t know the boy—didn’t even know his name—but he walked over, put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and said to him: “Son, look to Jesus today and you will never regret it.” Well, that teenage boy did what Deacon Haggins told him to do. Later on, he would write these words: “When the deacon spoke to me it was like a cloud moved off my heart and the sunlight came in. I looked up and I could see Jesus, and for all of my life since, I have never stopped looking to Jesus.” The other people in church that January Sunday would never ever remember what was said but that fourteen-year-old boy never forgot. His name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He went on to become the greatest preacher England ever produced. By the time he was 21, he was speaking in an auditorium known as the London Tabernacle to 6,000 people every Sunday—and there he preached for the next forty years.
I can do no more today than to repeat to you the words of Deacon Haggins: “Look to Jesus my friend, look to Jesus today and you will never regret it.” Look to Jesus in your life. That’s the best way to wipe the tears from His eyes…