Why Would Jesus Ever Cry? (Luke 19:41–44)
Rev. Peter Heckert
+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.
The text for our meditation tonight comes from our Gospel text, especially where Luke records, “And when [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes ….’ ” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …
What do you imagine when you think of a “manly” man? Do you imagine a Frank Sinatra-type gentleman, well-dressed in a fine suit and fidora, funny, a bit of a smart-aleck and no-nonsense? Do you think of someone like Major Dick Winters, the commanding officer of Easy Company as they parachuted into Nazi-occupied France hours before the start of Operation: Overlord? Do you visualize literary characters like King Theoden, Faramir, Eomer, and Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, who stand in the breach against the forces of evil and fight back, even at the risk of their own lives? How about Martin Luther, challenging arguably the most influential world power at the time, unwilling to compromise the truth, and laughing in the face of the hostile popes and emperors, even under threat of violence, death, and damnation?
What is a “manly” man? And would we consider Jesus a “manly” man? We sometimes see Jesus portrayed as a gentle, sweet man who loved to hold children in His lap. That’s true, and such qualities do not at all minimize one’s masculinity. But Jesus was also filled with courage; He didn’t hesitate to confront evil; and, as for religious pretense, more than once He called certain Pharisees, the head-honchos of the religious establishment, hypocrites and a “brood of vipers” to their faces.
I think we can all agree that’s pretty hard-core … but do hard-core, tough, manly men cry? You’ve undoubtedly heard the adages, “Big boys don’t cry” or “Keep a stiff upper lip” or “Hang tough.” Whether you agree with them or not, the thing is, we know that Jesus cried—quite famously, in fact—and probably far more often than the two references in Scripture point to. Amid the Palm Sunday procession and before He went into the temple to do His spiritual housecleaning, as He approached Jerusalem, He wept. He wept over the people who had failed, time and again, to heed the call to repentance and had instead continued in their woefully sinful ways.
Why were those tears shed? Because Jesus’s heart was filled with unimaginable sadness—like seeing someone whom you deeply love go astray and fall away from the faith. I wonder if He still cries when He sees His people, who call him Lord, behave or think in ways that fly in the face of discipleship.
Jesus also wept when His good friend Lazarus died. Not when He first heard the news, for He knew He had the power to raise him, even after four days. No, it was when He saw His dear friend Mary of Bethany weeping in sorrow over the loss of her brother. Oh, how His heart was filled with compassion and care! And oh, how rich it is to know and believe that Jesus is with us during our most sorrowful times!
Oh, yes, I’d argue that these are manly tears being shed, and the contexts in which they are shed make Jesus a manly man—indeed, not just a “manly” man, but the man’s man. Nowhere in Scripture is His strength and courage more dramatic than when He was nailed to the cross. Beaten and battered and physically and verbally abused, He never once relinquished His single-minded resolve to fulfill His mission of redemption for the world as full and final payment for all of our sins.
In addition to the two references to Jesus’s weeping, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tear came to His eye when He looked down from that cross and beheld His mother. Simeon had been right; a sword would pierce Mary’s heart, and it was happening right then, in that moment. Despite His own pain and imminent death, Jesus had to ensure that she, most likely a widow at that point, would be cared for through His best friend, John.
I’d argue that there’s nothing that is more definitive of a man’s man than this: someone who shows unbridled concern and compassion, someone who identifies with those who grieve, someone who is not afraid to call evil by its right name, someone who is totally selfless and willing to sacrifice his own life for another, someone who isn’t afraid to cry. This Advent has been about “When Heaven Met Earth.” Actually, every Advent is about that, for this time and season tells the miraculous story of God becoming flesh and blood through a baby named Jesus, about that Child’s obedience to the will of His heavenly Father, about the Son of God who is our Savior and Lord. Whatever else is going on in and around our lives, this story is paramount, for all else will pale when there appears that Lord in the final Advent.
+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.