… and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
As He [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it …
(Luke 2:7; 19:41, NIV)
The beloved Christmas carol, “Away in a Manager” have some believing that Jesus did not cry. When “the little Lord Jesus” is awakened by the lowing of the cattle, “no crying He makes.” This verse, however, is way out of line with Scripture. If Jesus was truly the incarnation of the Word of God, if He was fully human in addition to being fully divine, then He surely participated in normal human behavior, like crying when He was a baby.
In fact, the Gospels actually depict the crying of Jesus, not as an infant, but as a grown man. Perhaps the most familiar example is in John 11, where Jesus weeps along with those who are grieving over the death of Lazarus. Another example is Luke 19, where Jesus approaches the city of Jerusalem. “As He came near and saw the city,” Luke tells us, “He wept over it” (v. 41). In fact, the original word in Greek is a powerful verb that could even be translated as “wailed.” We’re not talking about a modest sniffle, but a strong, gut-wrenching, public expression of grief.
Why did Jesus weep in this dramatic way? Jesus explains His sadness over Jerusalem. The city had had a chance to embrace the peace that Jesus offered, but they rejected it even as they rejected Him. The salvation of God was now hidden from Jerusalem, which, in time, they would be crushed to the ground because they failed to recognize “God’s coming” to them (v. 44). Jesus felt tremendous grief as He gazed upon the broken city. He wept, much as the prophet Jeremiah once wept over Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 9:1-11).
The example of Jesus gives us permission to grieve over the brokenness and pain of our cities today. It invites us to feel and express our sadness and anger over suffering and injustice. In this time of history in our nation, perhaps more than ever, we need this permission and invitation to weep. Over 108,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19, devastating families and communities. Over 40 million people have lost their jobs and now face extreme economic hardships.
As if that was not enough, adding to this horror, we learn of the senseless killings of African-Americans, culminating in the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer. The pain and rage of millions of people of color and their allies is expressed in fervent prayer meetings and peaceful protests, which some people exploit as an occasion for acts of violence. Yet, these acts must not take our attention away from the injustice of racism that continues to plague our society, systems, and even our own hearts. We rightly grieve over the mistreatment of people created in God’s image. We rightly repent over our own participation in unjust structures. We, who seek to follow Jesus, have every reason to weep over our own cities much as Jesus once did over Jerusalem.
Of course, Jesus didn’t stop there and neither should we. After weeping, He also acted decisively and sacrificially to bring a more far reaching peace than anyone could have imagined. Grief over injustice and suffering is just the beginning, and we should not stop there. As we take our grief to the Lord, we also ask what He would have us do. We offer ourselves as instruments of His peace, as seekers of His justice in every part of life, and as people who love in deed and not only in word. Weeping opens us up to feel God’s heart, receive God’s direction, and join in His kingdom mission. What this means for each one of us will be distinctive, given our situation in life and our particular callings. But we can all do something to advance the cause of justice in our part of the world and to stand in solidarity with the African American community in the midst of our current crisis.
How do you feel about what’s happening not only in our nation right now, but throughout the world? I encourage you to honestly and openly express your feelings and thoughts to the Lord, for He knows what it is like to weep over a city.
Ask God to give you His heart for what’s happening in our cities and
in our world today.