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Luke 19:41; John 11:35
"There are a lot of beautiful and awe-inspiring mountains in the world. From the Himalayas to the Alps to the Rockies, mountains have their own unique ways of pointing us to God. However, there is no more important mountain related to both past and future events in human history than is the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It was there on the eastern slope that our Lord made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem over palm branches a few days before His own crucifixion. It was on this mountain that Scripture records for all posterity the weeping Christ. On the eastern slope of the mountain in the village of Bethany He wept over our sorrows (John 11:35). On the western slope of the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem, He wept over our sins (Luke 19:41).
Many believe Palm Sunday is about the pomp and circumstance and the celebration of the hour. After all, people were shouting their hosannas and waving their palm branches. But it is not. Palm Sunday is about tears. It is about weeping. It is about crying. We have raised a couple of generations in the Western world who seem to have lost their tears. Our culture has taught us that it is inappropriate to cry. In the Broadway musical Evita we hear the former first lady of Argentina singing, “don’t cry for me Argentina.” When I was a teenager, a popular singing group called Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had a number one hit entitled, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”We tell our young sons “be a man and don’t cry.” One of the major problems facing our culture today is that we’ve lost our tears.
A brilliant ophthalmologist in one of my former pastorates shared with me the medical truth that crying is a part of an important release valve in many people. Crying may even be a chemical release for emotional stress. My physician friend said that tears actually release a chemical that helps relieve stress. This is why we often feel better after we cry. Tears have a medicinal effect. Sweat pours out of the body on a hot day to keep the body cool. Tears flow to release the stress of the soul like the sweat of the body.
As the Lord Jesus stood at Lazarus’s tomb He was saying, “It is okay to cry.” In fact, God gives us tears. When we think about it there are no other animal species who cry with emotional tears. Dogs don’t cry. Turtles don’t cry. Cats don’t cry. But we do. Tears are the gift of God. Jesus is telling us on this Palm Sunday that it is okay to cry. He did Himself. This is why King David said that, “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).
On Palm Sunday I hope to etch into your memory the picture of the weeping Christ. Jesus wept! Think about that. Some are too proud to cry. Others haven’t cried in years. Still others have lost their tears. But not our Lord. Jesus wept. There are two times in Scripture that record His weeping. Both of them are found on the Mount of Olives. Once, on the eastern slope when he wept over our sorrow, He is touched by our broken hearts. The other, on the western slope when he wept over our sin, He is troubled by our blinded eyes. It is Palm Sunday. Is Jesus still weeping? His tears speak volumes to us today. Let’s listen to them on Palm Sunday.
It is Palm Sunday and Jesus is weeping over our sorrow…He is touched by our broken hearts
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept (John 11:33-35).
The event was the funeral in Bethany of his dear friend Lazarus. Note when the Lord Jesus wept. He wept when He saw Mary crying. Tears touched the heart of God. Mary’s heart was broken. Her brother was dead and Jesus was too late. She held no hope. She was hurting. When our Lord arrived on the scene He saw her “weeping.” John uses an interesting word in the language of the New Testament (Koine Greek) to describe Mary’s weeping. The word is klaio¯ meaning “deep sobs, wails.” Mary was pouring out her soul. Our Lord had come from a place where there was no sin, so sorrow, no tears, no tombs, no hurts, and no heartaches. Now He walks upon the scene and sees her crying with deep and loud sobs.
When our Lord saw Mary crying in such a fashion two things happened. The Bible says He “groaned” in His spirit and was “troubled.” As our Lord stood at the tomb of His friend, He was indignant at what sin had done resulting in death and sorrow and in His restraint He groans and was troubled. The text tells us that what really got to Him was Mary’s tears and the cause behind her heartbreak, that is, sin and death brought such great pain and to this day still brings such pain.
Now, with poignant brevity John simply writes, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). This is the shortest verse in all the Bible and perhaps one of the deepest. Mary was upset. Our Lord knew that better than anyone. What would He do? Give her a lecture? Rebuke her? Try to encourage her? No. She wept and He wept. It’s Palm Sunday and Jesus is still weeping over our sorrows because He is touched by our broken hearts. The tense of the verb tell us that He could not hold it in. This was a spontaneous expression of love. Yes, He is the “man of sorrows acquainted with our grief.” The Lord Jesus is not a spectator to our heartaches. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
Some men may think that it is not good to be seen crying. However, great men are not afraid to shed tears. The Apostle Paul himself reminded those at Ephesus that he had been “serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears” (Act 20:19). And to the Corinthians he said, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears” (II Cor. 2:4). In the early days of the Salvation Army when it was a great missionary force in England, a young man assigned to a particular city wrote back to headquarters with a telegram which simply said, “Have tried everything, ready to quit.” General William Booth wired him back with two words, “Try tears.” Tears moved the heart of God.
It’s Palm Sunday and Jesus is still weeping over our sorrows. He is touched by our broken hearts. Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there is “a time for tears.” If you need God’s attention, try tears. The Psalmist said that God “keeps our tears in a bottle” (Ps.56:8). Not one of your tears falls unnoticed nor unforgotten.
Tears speak louder than words. Tears have a language all their own and need no interpreter. Any of us who have raised children know this to be true. Any of us who held our husbands or wives in a time of tears know this to be true.
Nothing moves the heart of God like tears. In the Old Testament King Hezekiah was about to die and was told to get his house in order. He prayed and wept and God replied, “I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears” (II Kin. 20:5). Yes, tears touched the heart of God. Try tears.
Yes, it’s Palm Sunday and Jesus is still weeping over our sorrows. He is touched by our broken hearts. To the government you may only be a number, a Social Security number, but you’re a somebody to God. The same Lord Jesus who saw Mary’s tears and wept with her stands by your side today. He is saying to us across the centuries that it is okay to cry. He is touched by our broken hearts.
It is Palm Sunday and Jesus is weeping over our sins…He is troubled by our blinded eyes
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it (Luke 19:41).
Do you get the picture? A few days after the experience in Bethany on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, Jesus finds himself on the back of a donkey making a triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem. The scene is filled with all the excitement of the cheering crowd who are waving their palm branches. Most Palm Sunday messages in most churches are about the parade, the pep rally. But all of that was a sham. And our Lord knew it. Within five days they would all be gone and their cheers would turn to jeers. Can you picture Him on this Palm Sunday morning? He is the center of attention. One would say He must have had a smile on His face. He was riding on the back of a donkey like riding in a convertible in a parade. Everyone was partying. Everyone was waving. Everyone was shouting their hosannas. But the Lord Jesus? Look at Him, “now as He drew near,He saw the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Do you see Him? He is the object of their adoration. But He is weeping. Hear Him through His tears as He says, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).
Those Jerusalem crowds wanted a “Stormin’ Norman” Schwartzkopf. They wanted a George Washington who would ride into town and put down the Roman opposition. Thus, when they did not get what they wanted, their cheers turned into jeers. Less than a week later they crowned Him a king all right but with thorns. They stripped Him naked. They beat Him until His back was a bloody pulp. And then they asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” What a joke, they thought! And they laughed and they laughed and they laughed.
He was a king all right but His kingdom was not of this world. His was a kingdom of our hearts and so our Lord Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives and “wept.” Now, these were different tears than the ones we read about in Bethany a few days earlier. In Bethany the Greek word to describe Jesus weeping was dakruo¯. This is the only time we find this verb used in the New Testament. It means to shed tears in such a fashion that we weep silently. It is closely akin to getting a lump in our throat and having a tear or two spill out of our eyes. This is what happened to Jesus at the grave of Lazarus. However, on Palm Sunday when we are told that He wept, the Greek word we find here is klaio¯. These are the same deep sobs that we find Mary using in John 11:33. This is also the word used to describe Simon Peter when he wept bitterly after the rooster crowed and reminded him of his denials. Look at the Palm Sunday road. Look at our Lord. The people are cheering. They’re waving their palm branches. But He broke down and cried with deep sobs that could be heard a block away. Yes, it is Palm Sunday and Jesus is still weeping over our sin. He is troubled by our blinded eyes. He is still saying, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34).
The church in the Western world today does not seem to be weeping over the sins of the people. We do not seem to be troubled by blinded eyes. We are watching the decay of a civilization before us. A few years ago when I was a child we used to read about shoot-outs in Dodge City and today we read about them in the school buildings of our land. A few years ago when I was in school problem students were those involved in talking out of turn, chewing gum in class, running in the halls, cutting in the cafeteria line, littering on the school grounds. Today the problems are drugs and teenage pregnancies and suicides and guns as well as extortions and robberies. This is America of the 21st century and Jesus is still weeping. But we are not! If we viewed our cities as our Lord sees them we would see them through our tears. The problem with the church today is that she has lost her tears. We may still cry in emotional movies or when our dog dies but the de-Christianizing of a culture does not seem to affect us!
As we wave our own palm branches on this day does this story tell us anything about ourselves? Is there anything in our lives that might cause our Lord to weep? Is He saying to any of us, “How often I wanted to gather you, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing?” Are we like some of them? Shouting and supporting and waving our palm branches as long as we get what we want? Even in the midst of our own Palm Sunday, our Lord may still be weeping over our sin. He may still be troubled by our blinded eyes.
It is Palm Sunday and our Lord is still weeping over our sorrows. He is touched by our broken hearts. Just as He wept with Mary, He’s touched by our own tears. It is Palm Sunday and Jesus is still weeping over our sins. He is troubled by our blinded eyes. Just as He said to those on Palm Sunday road, He says to us today, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!” (Luke 19:42). Does our Lord weep with you today or over you? There is a big difference. He weeps with us in our sorrows and over us in our sin.
The last time tears were mentioned in the Bible was in Revelation 21:4. What a scene in heaven. God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” That is the hope of Palm Sunday! Yes, in days of dusk and darkness remember that God preserves all your tears in a bottle. Why? That He may one day at dawn wipe them all away. Perhaps David said it best when he said, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).