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Tears during Jesus' Triumphal Entry
Are you a weepy kind of person? Do tears come easily to you? Maybe you're embarrassed when you find tears beginning to well-
For us living in the west tears have, for a long time, been considered a sign of weakness. They might be acceptable in women but they're certainly not for men. Those of us who have the benefit of being English find that we belong to a nation that has made a virtue out of having something called a "stiff upper lip", we simply don't like to show our emotions. We have even brought up our boys to believe that "Big boys don't cry".
But how culturally different this all is from other parts of the world! Maybe in recent years it's been becoming more acceptable for a man to cry – we certainly see it more often on our TV screens than we used to. But how different this all is from what we find in the Bible.
There are many examples recorded for us in the Bible which tell us of people weeping or shedding tears and they are not limited to weak failures of men either. We find that Joseph, the second-
Job that successful entrepreneur that I heard described this week as "the Bill Gates of his day" could weep in sympathy with those who were suffering.
King David, who was celebrated in the rather catchy words of the macho song "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." could also grieve deeply for those who were sick.
It is recorded of another King, Hezekiah, that he too wept when confronted by terminal illness.
When we turn to the prophets we find that one of them, Jeremiah, has come to be known as the weeping prophet so deeply was he affected by the message he had to bring to an unresponsive people.
The Book of Psalms too has many references to tears.
When we turn the pages of our Bibles and arrive in the New Testament we still find tears and plenty of them.
When Lazarus died we soon discover that Mary, one of his sisters, was distraught and wept at the graveside. The Jews who were with her did the same (though there is perhaps reason to ask whether their tears were genuine or just for show). When Jesus saw this he read the simple words that constitute the shortest verse of the Bible:
Jn.11:35 "Jesus wept".
Moving through the NT tears don't disappear. We read of Peter weeping bitterly; Paul explains the deep emotions he experienced which led him often to tears; we hear of Timothy's tears.
In the last book of the Bible we do read of a time when every tear shall be wiped away from the eyes of the believer though Jesus told us that the fate of the unbeliever was different: he would be cast out into a place where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth – a place of everlasting regret. Those tears will simply be shed too late to have any influence upon their lives in just the same way that the writer to the Hebrews tells us of Esau's fruitless tears that were unable to bring him to true repentance after he'd despised his birthright and he was thwarted in his attempts to secure a blessing from his father.
Tears then occupy a significant place in the Bible. The tears that we're told about were shed more often than not over matters of mental distress rather than physical pain. Tears were usually an expression of woe, woe that had been provoked by severe disappointment or by the care and anxiety felt for another person's predicament.
Jesus' tears fit readily within this pattern.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem
Lk.19:41 "And when (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,"
Stop for just a moment and consider the context in which this happens:
Jesus is surrounded by a crowd of happy excited followers. They are singing and rejoicing and shouting out. They are expressing their confidence that Jesus is the long-
Yes, I know there has been the negative note of some critical Pharisees in the crowd but Jesus' response to them seems to suggest that nothing could stop the onward march of the all-
Why then these tears as he nears Jerusalem. After all hadn't many in the crowd that day come out from that very city to welcome him?
Luke continues and gives us Jesus' own explanation because his tears were accompanied by an explanation:
Yes there was rejoicing in the crowd that day but it didn't reflect the heart attitude of the city as a whole and maybe many in the crowd didn't really understand what was really going on either but they had just got caught up in the excitement of the moment and were swept unthinkingly along.
As Jesus looked at Jerusalem he knew that it was dominated by ignorance and unbelief. He was coming to his own but he knew that they were not going to receive him. They were in possession of some of the facts but they didn't know how to interpret them properly and they would indeed twist the truth to their own destruction.
It was faith and trust in himself as the true Davidic king coming, not as a mighty warrior but as a suffering servant, that was their only hope – but they couldn't see this reality, it was hidden from them.
How we need the Spirit of God to open our eyes so that we can "see" the truth when it is presented to us. We need the Spirit to remove that veil that covers the heart and prevents us drawing the right conclusions.
Let me give you one example that would occur in the week to follow this approach to Jerusalem where some come so close to the truth and yet remain so far from it. As the account of Jesus' arrest in the Garden is described and followed up by his being brought before the High Priest for questioning we read:
Jn.18:14 "It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people."
These words had been spoken sometime earlier as a plan was formulated to try to destroy Jesus:
Jn.11:50 "it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish."
How close to the truth this was – but neither Caiaphas nor his hearers understood those words in the sense of substitutionary sacrifice dealing with their problem of sin. All they had in mind was avoiding further problems of domestic politics!
Jesus was aware that the acclamation and the enthusiastic support that he was receiving on the way to the city was going dissipate rapidly when it became clear that he really did mean to come in peace as that suffering servant and that he wouldn't be railroaded into some other type of messiahship to pander to the wants of the mob.
Longing for the Messiah was no solution if the Messiah longed for was different from the One who was the true Messiah!
Let me pause and ask a question:
Are you satisfied with the Jesus who is or are you still longing for him to be something else? It is so easy to come to Jesus with a wrong set of expectations, to expect him to do something that he has not promised to do in this world. Do you look to him for perfect health, perfect relationships, perfect employment, perfect personal peace and happiness? If you do then that may be part of the reason why you are left somehow dissatisfied with Jesus – he could do so much more for you or so you think.
As Jesus looked at Jerusalem he understood that ignorance of who he really was and of what he had come to do would lead to him being rejected. When our hopes have been dashed it is easy to turn against the one who we think has let us down. And that was what was about to happen in Jerusalem and it would be a rejection with atrocious consequences.
Jesus looked ahead beyond his own rejection to see the destruction that was going to come to the city. It came in AD70 as the city was destroyed and Israel as a nation ceased to exist.
And this was no cool, dispassionate analysis on Jesus' part – the destruction of the city and the people it represented grieved him severely and moved him to tears.
Matthew gives us some further insight into this compassionate weeping of Jesus Christ when he recorded more of Jesus' words:
The situation of Jerusalem was tragic. It is the situation of the lost in our own day. The lostness of Jerusalem provoked tears of compassion and grief in our Lord. Do we feel anything for the lost of our day?
Look again at those last words of Jesus that we have just read from Matthew's gospel:
v.39 "For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’"
Does anything strike you about those words? If you were here this morning then they should! These were the very words that had been on the lips of the welcoming crowds just a short while previously. As they welcomed Jesus the crowds had cried out with their shouts of acclamation:
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
It is an indication that it is possible to say the right things, to go through the motions, without in any significant way getting to the real heart of the matter.
This is of course a particular danger for a nation with a Christian heritage – we have at least a smattering of Christian language even if we have very little idea of what that language really means.
The dangers are greater for those brought up within the church. It can be easy to follow a crowd and perhaps even to continue when the crowd has largely disappeared and yet to fail to grasp the true meaning of it all.
Jesus by his reaction showed that it is indeed possible to be oh so very close to the truth and yet to miss it completely. He showed too by his reaction that this is no matter for cold indifference because it moved him to grief and to tears.
As we seek to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our distribution of publicity, with our special Sunday services as well as our regular services, with our children's meetings etc. Let us take care that we never descend into a presentation of these matters of life and death with a take-
Finally, let us continue to fully satisfied with the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful Saviour he is! Even when surrounded by a temporary enthusiasm that was soon to be replaced by a hostile antagonism he nevertheless pressed on undaunted to accomplish the work that the Father had given him to do.
He pressed on into Jerusalem knowing that the week would come to an end with the awful pain of multiple sufferings:
Betrayed by one of his own disciples
Falsely condemned by his own people
Handed over to self-
Disowned buy one of his closest followers
Abandoned by the rest of his followers
Abandoned by his Heavenly Father
And he did that for you and for me that we might have our sins forgiven, that we might peace with God and that we might have a hope of heaven.
Lord, help us to exult in the salvation of your grace and help us share such good news compassionately with others!