by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
The shortest verse in the New Testament is Chapter 11, verse 35 in the Gospel of John. It is a sentence containing only two words: “Jesus wept.” The occasion was the death of His friend, Lazarus. Before He raised him from the dead, Jesus wept in front of Lazarus’ tomb. He did this to show that He was fully human, capable of feeling sorrow over the human condition, fully able to empathize with the mourners’ sense of grief and loss. But He wept also because, despite all He had told them, they still did not see Him as their Savior Who would give them all immortal life.
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus wept on other occasions as well. Luke 19: 41 – 47 tells us about Jesus’ return to Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday: “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it”. From where He stood on the Mount of Olives, He could look down over what was then one of the greatest cities in the ancient world. The Holy City must have been an impressive sight— gleaming in the spring sunshine, with the great Temple built of white marble and ornamented with polished brass, set like a gem in its center!
Jesus knew that hardly forty years would pass before legions of Roman soldiers would attack and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple along with it. And so He wept for what this city could have been but never would be— a true haven of peace where goodness and justice prevailed and God ruled the hearts and minds of His chosen people. But Jesus saw what really was there and so He wept over the selfishness and meanness and apathy of the people, over their refusal to do God’s will and their indifference toward realizing their potential and becoming all that God calls all of us to become.
Today God must spend quite a lot of time weeping over us.
We too have built great cities but they are not cities of peace where God is honored and life is celebrated as a holy gift. Instead, we oppress one another and we rush to war when mere oppression isn’t enough to preserve our power and control.
We are too busy to tend our own families and too irresponsible ourselves to be adequate role models for our youth. And so without guidance, our children are left to fend for themselves. Too many fall along the way and we abandon them to wallow in drugs and despair and to drown in the cultural sewage we’ve allowed to engulf our lives.
We ignore our poor and elderly, the dispossessed, the mentally ill, the stranger in our midst. We are too busy pursuing our own 15 minutes of fame! We have no time to spare to help others, to visit the sick, to comfort the despairing, to guide the lost, to resettle the dispossessed, to show hospitality to the stranger. Abraham entertained angels but we do not even know who our neighbors are! We do not even see the homeless. The pains and trials of those “not of our class” or “not of our race” are “not our problem”!
All around the world, Christianity is out of fashion. Christians are persecuted and their beliefs are under attack from followers of other faiths and from followers of no faith. Science is perversely misinterpreted to “prove” there is no God; evil is gleefully held up as evidence that “God is dead” or, at the very least, He has gone away, forsaking the world at last. Churches are desecrated. Interpretation of Scripture is stretched beyond the limits even of common sense to confuse those who sincerely seek to do God’s will. Atheism and secularism are written into law and public policy; those who persist in publicly witnessing to their faith are subjected to ridicule, censorship and even prosecution.
Life itself is progressively cheapened. People who cannot defend themselves —the unborn, the severely disabled— are treated as things to be managed (or disposed of) by others. In our greed for personal wealth and power, we trash the environment, God’s glorious creation and the web of life that He designed to sustain us all, as if it were merely our property over which we have a right to do as we please.
If Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb because he understood and shared one family’s sorrow, how much more must God weep in empathy with entire nations’ despair over the oppression or destruction of entire races and peoples?
If Jesus wept contemplating the future destruction of Jerusalem, how much more must God weep over the nuclear holocaust with which we continue to threaten our neighbors? Over the damage to the planet which our greed continues to worsen? Over our indifference to the suffering of people “not of our class” and “not of our race” who live in Darfur or New Orleans?
Lord Jesus, Thou hast embraced our own humanity, sharing our grief, experiencing our pain and despair, and the weaknesses of our flesh. By taking on our nature, Thou didst show us how to merge humanity with the divine. Let us never cause Thee to weep over us; but keep us focused on Thee that we may transform the earth into the New Jerusalem.
Peace to your soul!
Humbly in our Risen Lord,
+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you and with you!
Friday, August 13, 2010
God Must Be Weeping
by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes