I have to confess I didn't even open the news article when the truck slammed into a crowd in New York City last week. My heart couldn't handle it. We now live in an era where mass killing for every reason and no reason, has become far too familiar an occurrence. I have begun to grow numb to the violence. Numbness from overexposure to tragedy is a natural psychological reaction, but I don't like it. I know it is a way our minds deal with the pain, but as a believer, I don't want to be this way, I want to feel the pain. I want to enter into it, so I am woken to the reality that this world is not able to provide safety and security to my loved ones and me so that I long for only God as my Safety. I closed my eyes and ears to the tragedy in New York, but only days later the next act of evil came much closer to me. Instead of a bike path, it entered a church. A church, a church like I attend every Sunday, a church which resembled so closely the house of worship my inlaws participate in the hills of Tennesee, a little southern congregation so much like ones I have sat in through the years and worshiped and listened to the word preached. Sutherland First Baptist was a congregation of only about a hundred people, including the children and babies, a small group of believers, a family with a heart for their community, a heart for sharing the love of Christ with those they encountered. Last Sunday I did not look away from the evil, my eyes and heart were glued to the news of the storeis emerging from the little Texas church, stories of a gunman entering the house of God, walking row by row taking the lives of those who moments before had been worshiping the Living God. I did not look away; I had to feel it; I had to let the horribleness of the tragedy sink into my heart, mind, and body. And so I grieved, I made myself open the articles and see the 26 precious loved faces. I let myself enter in and I wept.
Then I thought about what I would say to my older children. I didn't feel like I had much to offer, I felt tired, tired of the evil. I had no wisdom to give, until God led me to the scriptures, to the story of Jesus and Lazarus, a story about grief, a story about death, a story where Jesus wept. Jesus wept, the shortest but probably the most profound sentence in scripture, because God wept. The God who knows everything, the God who is everywhere, the God who see's all things, the God of infinite power, this God wept. He wept as he heard his friends doubt his love for Lazarus, as they whispered: "If he loved him then why didn't he come and heal him?" But Jesus did love him, and his tears demonstrate this deep, deep love. Jesus knew he was about to raise his friend from the dead, but he still wept, why?
I believe he wept because looking into the tear-stained faces of Martha and Mary he looked into all of our faces. The faces of his people, a people weeping over the death of those we love. He saw the effects of death in the lives of those he loved, and he grieved. He wept because of the seriousness of the sin.
I believe he wept because on that day he could see the cross, maybe more apparent than other times in his earthly ministry. He knew raising Lazarus from the dead would only be temporary. Something more significant would have to happen for his resurrection to be permanent. He wept because he could see the severity of the sacrifice he was going to make, a sacrifice so death would be no more, he could see the weight of sin which would be poured out on himself, he could see his Father turning away from him. He wept because of the severity of the sacrifice.
And I believe he wept because he could see the empty tomb, not Lazerus's but his own. He wept because he knew his resurrection was coming and with it, he would be ushering in a new Kingdom, a Kingdom with no more weeping and no more death. He wept because of the reality of the resurrection.
I know many people are asking where was God last Sunday morning in Sutherland Texas? They are wondering as the Jews did about Lazarus, "If he loved them why didn't he save them?" And these questions are so very valid but so is the answer, Jesus was right there with them. He loved them deeply; he never left their side, he was there in the pews weeping just as he wept over Lazarus and as they cried out to him and closed their eyes in death he was there wiping away their tears, holding them in his everlasting arms.
Dear ones, may we be people who do not allow ourselves to become numb but who instead fight to feel the seriousness of the sin, the severity of the sacrifice and the reality of the resurection for when we do we will be a people who can face evil head on, not with weapons but with our very tears and message of deep, deep love from a God who weeps with his people.