I am an emotional man. Anyone who knows me knows this is true. I am especially affected by the pain of those around me. When I was a younger pastor, I had hoped that I would “grow out of this.” I saw it as a weakness because when I would try to preach a funeral knowing that the family was deeply hurting, there would be times when I could hardly speak. Or when I would try to pray at the bedside of a dying person, the tears would come. I always thought that my purpose at times like that was to offer hope and strength to those who were hurting, and my fear was that I simply added to their pain.
I’m not sure when my mindset changed, but it did. Now my fear is that one day I will become so calloused that I won’t feel the pain of others. I must say that hasn’t happened yet, and I pray that it never does. I’m not sure how everyone feels about a pastor who weeps during a prayer or who struggles for composure during a funeral message. Some probably consider it a sign of weakness. I know that many men refuse to shed a tear because it just isn’t manly. I don’t buy it. I can give you the obvious reasons why that isn’t true. I could tell you about the psychological benefit, the catharsis, that come with tears. I could talk about the absolute idiocy of holding back pent-up emotions and the physical and emotional problems all of that causes. I could tell you about the many times people have thanked me for my tears recognizing the reality of my compassion and empathy for what they were going through. Instead, I will just remind you that the strongest man to ever live, Jesus, wept at the tomb of His friend.
You remember the story. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha and the friend of Jesus, became ill. Mary and Martha sent for Jesus, believing that with a touch of His hand, Lazarus would be made well. But Jesus didn’t come. And Lazarus died. Four days later, Jesus and His disciples arrive at the home of His friend, and they are met with the weeping and the ritual mourning that accompanied a Jewish person’s death. He is accosted by the sisters: “if you had only come,” they said, “Lazarus would still be alive.” How foolish they were, knowing the power of the One with Whom they were talking. They had heard and seen His miracles. But death, to all of us, seems so permanent. So final. Not to God. Not to His Son. Not to the One who is THE RESURRECTION AND LIFE. As I have preached so many times, and as I will state once again today, death is but a doorway into our eternal reward. Death is not permanent – it is only an instant that is gone in less than a heartbeat, and just as this life is but a vapor, death passes so very quickly. For some, it is a doorway into heaven where we hear the words of our Judge, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” For others, it is a doorway into hell – yes, HELL, a real place of real torment — reserved for the devil and the demons of hell but made larger each time anyone dies outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
But back to my story. Jesus sees and hears it all. He takes in the grief of sisters who accuse Him of not caring. He listens to their excuses and the elevated cries of the mourners as they arrive at the gravesite. He hears the criticism of the crowd who echo the accusations of the sisters, “Couldn’t He who opened the eyes of the blind have kept His friend from dying?” And He wept just as He would do a few days later as He looked out over the city of Jerusalem and saw the pain the people were experiencing and would experience because, like Mary and Martha, they did not realize the gift that was being offered to them. Not just life. Not just liberty. Not just peace. All of these are just small pieces of the wondrous gift from God – a relationship with Him. Jesus wept because they didn’t believe, and I wonder how many tears He sheds today as He looks down from heaven filled with compassion for those who are hurting.
No, tears are not a sign of weakness. Instead, they are a sign of the strong bond, the love, that we have for those around us. So, yes, I will shed a tear or two today – not because a friend has died but because other friends are hurting, and maybe through our tears, somehow they will find strength.