Faith, Not Tears

Luke 23:27-28 “A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me…”

These women, and a large crowd of others followed Jesus as he stumbled and crawled through Jerusalem’s streets. They followed, but not like Peter, Andrew, James, and John did when Jesus invited them to follow him, and they left their boats and their fishing business to do so. This is not the following of faith. This is the following of curiosity and of public spectacle.

The women’s weeping was more or less the same. It was an emotional reaction tied more to themselves than to Jesus. They saw his pain, anticipated his death, and it moved them. But they didn’t see past his pain. Their reaction was not so different than the tears you find welling up in your eyes from a sad scene in a movie or a book. Have you seen the 2009 Disney movie Up? The first five or 10 minutes follow the love story between two childhood sweethearts from their first meeting to her illness and death with such nostalgia and poignancy that you probably won’t have dry eyes after that part of the tale has been told. It’s sweet and sad and good entertainment. But I don’t know that you will be a deeply changed person after you have taken it in.

Which isn’t to say that such tears are necessarily bad. So, were the tears of these women such a bad thing that Jesus had to tell them to stop? Is it wrong for us if Jesus’ sufferings are so vividly portrayed in a Lenten sermon or a Good Friday service that we are moved to tears? Only if it keeps us from seeing past his pain. Only if it keeps us from looking further, and seeing who this suffering man is, and what his suffering is all about.

And that happens easier than we might think. Too often people take some true characteristic about Jesus, blow it out of proportion, and create a false Jesus who distracts us from his real person work. Jesus was genuinely a model of love and good morals. But when we create the moral-model Jesus, the great example for all of us to follow, and see him as nothing more, we have created a false Jesus who cannot save us.

Jesus’ lips dripped words of wisdom and good sense. People of many different faiths find his instruction appealing. But when we stop at the wise sage Jesus, we have something far less than a Savior.

Here, the daughters of Jerusalem are moved by the “heart-wrenching tragedy Jesus.” Maybe we are, too. He is good for a cry, but that is not the same as faith. It may even stop us short of it. After we have given him our sympathy and our feelings, we don’t see the greater claim he wants to make on our hearts, our minds, and our lives. Even more, his suffering may turn some away from faith in him. His pain brings a tear, but who wants to follow him if this is where following him leads?

It’s not your tears Jesus wants. It’s your trust. It’s not your feelings he wants. It’s your faith. Don’t weep for Jesus if you can’t see past his pain to your salvation. This is God loving you all the way to his death. This is the sacrifice that pays for all of our sins. This is why forgiveness isn’t a wish or a possibility. It is a promise and certainty. Those truths are worthy of our tears. But even more, those truths are worthy of our faith.

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