“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” —Luke 19:41
We start our lives crying. Babies never come out of the womb staring blankly at the doctors ready for the umbilical cord to be clipped. At least, I don’t think there has ever been a baby like that. In fact, it is not until you hear the baby cry that you actually know it is okay and can breathe and react to its new surroundings. If the baby does not cry, then something is actually wrong with him.
Though tears are welcome and expected from our little ones, it doesn’t take long before we begin encouraging people not to cry, or to suck it up and get it together. Crying becomes a sign of weakness and an awkward vulnerability for teenagers and adults. We are conditioned to suppress our emotions and tears as much as possible.
The irony is that as we get older and experience the world more there is far more to cry about. As we grow up, we experience the brokenness of the world and that brokenness can be unrelenting. From the diagnosis of cancer to the death of a child, from the wreckage left in the wake of a storm to the wreckage left in the wake of a divorce—we cannot escape the pain of the human experience. And this is why I am grateful that Jesus Christ is a man acquainted with sorrow , grief, suffering, and tears of the human experience.
The Haunting Tears
On my Mount Rushmore of Bible verses there is one that I continually come back to and meditate on—Luke 19:41. Luke is the only Gospel writer who notes Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, but I am so thankful he did. The Greek word translated “wept” carries the meaning of bawling and weeping loudly. Jesus does not simply have a tear or two running down his face, but tears upon tears cascading down his cheeks as he sees the city of Jerusalem come into view. Jesus’ tears have always haunted me and encouraged me as I pastor and preach, to enter into the weeping of the world and be okay to stay there.
Jesus could have come into Jerusalem any way he wanted. He could have climbed onto a war horse and rushed into Jerusalem filled with anger and rage. He could have walked into the city emotionless and stoic, unmoved by the brokenness and sin he was passing by , but Jesus is not that kind of king. Instead he was a king who rode into Jerusalem weeping and wailing on a young colt. He was a king who was broken by the brokenness of the world.
If we are not a weeping people, then we are not the people of Jesus. Weeping and lamenting, however, are often dismissed in Christian (and most adult) circles. One must simply turn on any Christian radio station to note how little mention of lamenting or weeping is talked about. We are encouraged to be happy, to stay uplifted, to move quickly over the pain and onto what God can do in and through our pain for his glory.
I am not against being encouraged and uplifted. I do believe our pain and suffering have a purpose in the eternal plan of God, but let’s not be too quick to fast forward through the lamenting and weeping to the the fixing, reasoning, and theologizing.
Let’s enter into the weeping. Sit there. Stay there. Let the tears of the world have a place among us as the people of a weeping King. Lamenting, weeping, and wailing should have a revered place among the people of God.
Lamenting for the World
As we lament for our world, we do so with hope because our weeping King is also a reigning King. Jesus did not stop his mission in Luke 19:41, but pressed into the heart of darkness that week in Jerusalem—absorbing the tears of the world and laying the foundation for the day when all tears will be wiped from the eyes of God’s people in the New Jerusalem.
In The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien writes wondrously of the hope to come through the comfort that Aragorn offers Arwen before he passes away, “In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold, we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.” Right now all that we have is our memories, and many of them are wonderful, but they remain in the past and no matter how much we wish we could relive them—we cannot. Many of these memories are painful, and no matter how much we wish we could forget them—we cannot. Our memories are what define us, shape us, and often imprison us.
But the world that is coming transcends all memories and somehow someway, mysteriously and wondrously, it will usher us into a place beyond time and memory where sorrow is ended and joy finally overflows eternally. This is the world we must always point people towards.
So let’s be an Easter people, gladly celebrating the breaking in of God’s kingdom of life, love, and wholeness here and now and longing for the ultimate breaking in of life, love, and wholeness in the world to come. But let’s also be a Palm Sunday people, a Luke 19:41 people, a weeping with those weep and lamenting with those who lament people. That is, quite simply, what it means to be the body of Christ in the here and now, lamenting in hope, looking back to Palm Sunday and Easter, and longing for the great Day to come—when our returning King wipes our tears away with his nail pierced hands at last.
R.D. McClenagan is a teaching pastor at Door Creek Church in Madison, WI where he lives with his wife Emily and their increasingly adorable twin baby daughters Maisie and Camille. Follow him on Twitter: @rdmcclenagan.