April 2017 – What makes Jesus weep? (What makes him smile?)

Jesus weeps with his close friends Mary and Martha of Bethany, as they weep over the death of their brother Lazarus. And here in one of the bible’s shortest verses – Jesus wept (John 11:35) we have one of the bible’s larger mysteries.

The death and resurrection of Lazarus looks a lot like a rehearsal for Jesus’ own death and resurrection.  And Jesus knows he will raise Lazarus from the dead. Just as he knows he himself will rise from the dead. Why then, is he weeping?

Most likely for much the same mix of reasons for which he weeps also in Luke’s account of his entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42), where Jesus weeps because of our age-old human habit of not recognizing what makes for peace.

And the real mystery, perhaps, is not so much in why Jesus weeps, but in why we don’t weep more with him. As Pope Francis has said, “Jesus is weeping today, too, because we have preferred the path of war, the path of hatred, the path of enmity…”

Francis gets the importance of Jesus’ weeping. As Catholic News Service reports:

Pope Francis encourages people to pray for “the grace of tears” when pleading to God to help others, when recognizing their own sinfulness, when contemplating the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and when experiencing God’s mercy. Sometimes, he has said, tears are the only true response to the question of why the innocent suffer.

In January 2015, the pope listened to a 14-year-old boy in Manila describe life on the streets as a struggle to find food, to fight the temptation of sniffing glue and to avoid adults looking for the young to exploit and abuse. A 12-year-old girl, rescued from the streets by the same foundation that helped the boy, covered her face with her hand as she wept in front of the pope. But she managed to ask him, “Why did God let this happen to us?”

Pope Francis said a real answer was impossible, but the question itself was important and the tears that accompanied the question were even more eloquent than the words. “Certain realities of life,” he said, “are seen only with eyes that are cleansed by tears.” For people who are safe, comfortable and loved, he said, learning how to weep for others is part of following Jesus, who wept at the death of Lazarus and was moved with compassion at the suffering of countless others….

Still today many Mary’s and Martha’s are weeping for many, many lost brothers and sisters. Still today most of the world lacks knowledge of what makes for peace. And weeping is still one of our most basic and most often overlooked spiritual practices…

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Yet just as surely as Jesus weeps, so surely I believe he also smiles. I picture Jesus smiling whenever his people get it right. Many times, I’m pretty sure, I catch glimpses of Jesus smiling as he watches his people in worship, in prayer, in loving service…

I picture Jesus smiling every Sunday in our worship, Sunday School, and after-worship-coffee-hour times, as we share joys and sorrows, hopes and needs… I’m sure Jesus is smiling even in some of even our most difficult and tedious moments, whenever we pause to consider “what would Jesus do?” – and try to do likewise.

In just the past several weeks I’ve felt Jesus smiling… in our memorial services for Grace Brooks and Martha Parady, smiling for faith, hope and love, remembered….smiling for warm hospitality provided by our church family (especially our United Methodist Women and our custodial team of Brian and Karen Jackman). I’ve felt Jesus smiling on our first Men’s Breakfast in many years, hosted by Mike Eden; in our Free Clothing for Children First Saturdays; in our Backpacks for School Children and Food Pantry outreach; and in our Haitian Children, UMCOR, and other ministries…

I’ve felt Jesus smiling on us in every sorrow, every joy, every blessing shared in prayer, hope, and fellowship. Every promise of the resurrection life that he leads us into.

May we follow him together always by his grace. May the joy of Christ’s resurrection life be with us all the way. Happy and Blessed Easter!

Pastor Tim