What brings tears to your eyes?
I have always been a crier. As a little girl, every time I thought I might get in trouble, tears welled up in my eyes. As a teenager, I always cried at sentimental movies. And, as teenage girls are prone to do, I cried over every disappointment or change in life as if it were Earth-shattering. As an adult, I still shed tears. But now my tears often mean something different.
I cry tears of joy or tears of pain, tears of anger or disappointment and tears of hope.
What brings tears to your eyes?
As Jesus walked toward Jerusalem on the week of his death, he asked that important question. Many people followed behind him on that eventful day as he walked toward his cross. Some were curious and some angry, some grieving, some weeping tears of disappointment and sorrow. Even as weak as his body and spirit must have been, Jesus paid attention to the tears of the women who gathered around him. “Why do you weep, daughters of Jerusalem?” he asked.
What brought tears to their eyes was often what brings tears to our eyes during this season leading up to Easter. Often, we become emotional about Jesus’ walk to the cross out of our own sympathy, or perhaps even our feelings of guilt. Many of you, like I, have wept as we watched dramas of the Passion or read of its horrendous details. “Do not weep for me,” Jesus said. But mustn’t we cry for him? How do we not weep at something passing by that is so unfair?
Perhaps Jesus does not mean for us to hold back our tears altogether. After all, Jesus does not suggest that the daughters of Jerusalem stop weeping. He only tells them to change the object of their sorrow. “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves!” he says. Jesus reminds the women, and reminds us, that tears are not useless.
In his book “Whistling in the Dark,” Frederick Buechner writes about the importance of tears. “Whenever you find tears in your eyes,” Buechner says, “pay close attention.” Our tears tell us something about who we are. They are a word from God. Through our tears, God tells us where we have come from. Through our tears, God summons us to take the next steps.
Jesus does not ask for our sympathy or our pity. Jesus does not ask us to agonize over the way that he died. As he makes his way to the cross, he does not want tears to be shed for his sake. Jesus wants our tears to mean something. He wants tears that remind us of what is most important in life. He wants us to cry tears that call us into action.
There is a proper weeping, Jesus tells the women. Weep for a city that refuses to hear a message of hope. Weep for a world that functions more by power than by love. Weep over the oppression of those that have nothing. Weep for the injustice that kills the innocent.
As Baptist pastor Carlyle Marney said, “if you are going to cry, cry about the same things he cried about. Turn your eyes on the object of his weeping. Identify with the reason he was sacrificed.”
If you are going to cry, don’t waste your tears on Jesus. Cry not for him, but cry with him. He does not want our pity and our tears. He wants what he has always wanted: followers who are ready to go with him down that road. He wants people who share his vision of what it means to love God and neighbor. He wants those who will work for peace, his kind of peace, in the world. Find out what he is about. Weep over what he wept over. Find out what will bring tears to your eyes.
My prayer for you and for me is that we will pay attention to our tears, close attention. I pray that we will let our tears remind us of where we have come. I pray that we will let our tears be the voice of God, calling us where to go next.
The Rev. Julie Long is associate pastor and minister of children and families at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon.