There are two instances the Gospels tell us that “Jesus wept.” One is John 11:35 as He stands in the midst of a wake for His friend Lazarus. The other takes place as He approaches the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Luke 19:41). In both instances, Jesus seems to be moved to tears because of the self-infliction of unnecessary pain by those for whom He cares greatly.
Mary, Martha, and those who loved them were crushed by the untimely passing of Lazarus. The sisters had sent for Jesus because they believed He could save their brother from death. But He had arrived too late. Martha, in her grief, could not help but blame Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). And she was right for when He had received news that Lazarus was deathly sick “he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (11:6). We all know why He waited until Lazarus had been dead four days, but they did not. These were people who knew Him; believed in Him. They could see Him stopping death but not conquering it. He knew what He was about to do. He knew there would be joy unspeakable in just minutes when He commanded His friend to come out of the realm of death and the tomb. Yet He wept before He uttered that command. Why? How it must have hurt Him to know that the anguish of His friends was unnecessary. He had told the sisters that whoever believed in Him “though he die, yet shall he live” (11:25). I’m paraphrasing but their answer was something like “Yeah…someday.” Such unnecessary needless self-inflicted pain. And He wept.
On Palm Sunday, the other occasion of tears from Christ seemed to be quite the opposite. It was a joyful and happy occasion. Jesus sits on a donkey descending from the Mount of Olives and people spontaneously spread their cloaks on the road in front of Him while shouting “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). Smiles and happiness abound (with some exceptions, see 19:39-40). As He reaches the bottom of the Mount Luke says, “And when He drew near and saw the city, he wept over it…” (19:41). There is an explanation as Jesus is heard to say that Jerusalem doesn’t “know the things that make for peace…” because “…they are hidden from your eyes.” It is then that He mentions the coming destruction of the city and Temple. Again, it is the unnecessary self-inflicted pain stemming from willful ignorance that moves Jesus to tears.
The power that God has bestowed upon mankind is truly staggering. We are all too familiar with those who point out the many instances that humanity has frustrated and angered God. But how many times have we considered that we have the frightening capacity to so wound the Godhead that divine tears flow? Is it the blasphemies of atheists that hurt God? No. Is it all the blame that God gets for personal and corporate catastrophes around the world that wreaks havoc in the Holy Heart? No. Rather, it is the self-inflicted suffering and pain the family of God cause themselves by refusing to see what He has revealed and suffering the consequences for it.
Needless pain caused by our insistence that God get in line with our will rather than our yielding to Him. Jerusalem wanted a conquering Messiah. God offered them a Suffering Son. They refused. Their way of life would be changed for centuries to come. Today, the Dome of the Rock broods over the Temple Mount where there is no temple. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to head off death. Their weeping that He didn’t surely included bitter disappointment in what they perceived to be Jesus’ failure. They were hurting from both loss and disappointment. And there was no need for either.
Those who most often complain of the lack of Divine intervention almost never realize how cruel they are being to the One who sent His Son to die on a cross for their sins. He stands in front of us in our times of agony and anguish and we either blame Him for our pain in the first place because He didn’t hop to it the second we prayed or we cast Him aside the moment it becomes apparent that what we had in mind for rescue is vastly different than what God has in mind for our deliverance.
And He weeps. How cruel it is for the creature to say to the Creator “How could you care so little?” while under the shadow of His Son’s bloody Cross.
Ray Rooney, Jr.