Posts Tagged ‘weeping’

Artwork by Gretchen Smith

Most of us know the short verse, “Jesus wept” [John 11:35]. We might even get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the picture of a sympathetic Christ, weeping for his friend. But how often does anyone quote this verse in Hebrews, where Jesus cries out loud and sheds tears before God?

Hebrews 5:7
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

After a quick look at some of the commentaries, it’s interesting to me that most writers place all this “weeping and wailing” right before his death in the Garden of Gethsemane, as though this is the one time Jesus encountered his destiny and travailed before the Father. But I propose that the prayers and supplications of Jesus were ongoing. Think about it: how many times did Jesus miraculously escape the authorities? How many times did he suspect danger in his life, anticipate a shortened ministry, protect himself and his work by discouraging loose talk or gossip among his followers?

Jesus knew his life was forfeit but I can imagine him praying regularly, “Not yet . . . not yet. Give me a little more time.”

Jesus needed help and protection from God continually, not just in the garden, but throughout his ministry life. And in the same way that he emptied his heart and soul before God at Gethsemane, I believe he did this regularly and undoubtedly during many of those solitary prayers he sought out on the mountainsides, away from the disciples.

Lastly, I am intrigued by the idea of a noisy Christ. I mean, I don’t know about you, but a mental picture of Jesus roaring or wailing before God is difficult to wrap my mind around. And yet, why not? Isn’t it culturally appropriate? Would Jesus be “above” such behavior, such expression of need, desire, or supplication? Not at all.

I have experienced deep crying out to God and weeping but only at those times of deepest despair, betrayal, or fear. When I cried out to God at such times, I confess, it wasn’t that I put all my trust in God, I was merely bereft of hope, overwhelmed, and felt as if there was nowhere else to turn, I was “poor in spirit.” It was my last chance.

I wonder, were there circumstances and situations that Jesus did not expect to happen? Was he ever surprised (or surprised all the time)? Did he expect/hope his follower-disciples would “get it” sooner than they did (or did they get it while he was still alive at all?); was he troubled by the masses of people who easily followed him day after day for “bread and fish” but could not grasp the food of the Spirit; was he frustrated by his own inability to break through thousand-year-old traditions and beliefs? Did he cry out to God the day he called himself the “bread of life” and taught them about eating his flesh and drinking his blood–so many deserted him that day. I can imagine him saying, “Father, how do I reach them?”

And yet, each day, he submitted again and again and again to the role he was given to endure (in the order of Melchizedek); he pressed on. He woke up, he prayed, he taught, he ate, he miracled. And finally, he reached that God-ordained last day, that last supper, and that last prayer. My spirit tells me now: his garden prayers were not the first time he bled in sweat nor flooded the ground with his tears. His life in the Father was full of prayers and supplications every day.

Holy tears for me. Thanks be to God.

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Why did Timothy weep? Perhaps from lack of confidence, perhaps from loneliness or overwhelming difficulties in his ministry. I wonder, outside of Paul, who knew? Who held the tears of this young leader? Who holds the hearts of our youthful leaders today?

II Timothy 1:3-4
I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.

When young men (and women) charge into the world, they carry the energy and enthusiasm for ten, particularly when they are fueled by a passion for God and faith in Christ’s real presence. But, not every day is a red letter day and not every day is hopeful. And when they stumble, they fall hard, suddenly overwhelmed by the sheer size of their dreams.

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams. [Acts 2:17]

And so, it is up to us older ones to remember and to encourage. It is up to us to maintain a stream of prayer and shafts of light. Sometimes, there is room for counsel, but I think that aspect is overblown. The young see the world with different eyes.

Our world is changing so quickly. What worked thirty years ago has no reason to succeed today. We must let go and give the young plenty of space for trials as well as errors. And through it all, we too can learn.

In this way, I think of our new young leader and our fledgling church. He carries power and ideas and knowledge. He is a visionary and a dreamer. He is kind and sensitive to the poor. He is one who saw the other side of life and turned around. But, I am sure, there are tears as well. There are disappointments and there are boulders in the path. And just as there will be more joy, there will be more pain.

And so, like Paul, I give him encouragement through my prayers, trusting in God to reveal the way.

Who is a Tmothy in your own world? Perhaps a son, a nephew, a daughter, a cousin, a neighbor. We have an obligation to them, to collect their tears.

“You number and record my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle–are they not in Your book?” [Psalm 56:8, Amplified]

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Matthew 26:74-75
Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

In Matthew’s version of this story, Peter is confronted with the truth of himself and weeps; a few lines later, Judas confronts himself and commits suicide. Both men felt remorse. Both were overwhelmed by their actions but only one survives. Peter is not mentioned again individually by Matthew, except as within the group of eleven disciples who return to Galilee to see Jesus ascend. But in Luke’s gospel, we see Peter among the gathered disciples and then he rushes to the empty tomb to see it for himself.

Here’s my point: Peter wept when he saw himself in stark reality. Both Luke and Matthew say he wept bitterly which implies how difficult it was for him to accept the truth. But Peter’s response, his next step, was to return to community instead of isolating himself.

When we see the truth of ourselves, our first tendency is to hide and go it alone. But that is not the best way. Isolation is just the beginning of a downward spiral into depression and hopelessness. Nothing we have done or said is beyond surrender to God. Forgiveness is made real by sharing that painful confession with other believers. It is the body of Christ that puts hands and feet on forgiveness and renewal.

I am working my way back into community, into koinonia. Will there be open arms?

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