On the fourth day at the tomb of a dear friend Jesus wept (John 11:35). On the first day of the week, as the crowds hailed him as king, Jesus wept (Luke 19:41). On the night he was betrayed, Jesus wept (Luke 22:39-45, Heb. 5:7).
In the face of death, at the place of death, in response to the fact of death, in the midst of friends experiencing the pain and grief of death, Jesus enters in. Jesus wept, knowing full well what he would do next. Weeping not because death was final, but because death was real even if not final. Weeping not because death has no answer but because the answer could not come short of entering into the death that was to be undone. Weeping not because no one understood, but because everyone both understood and misunderstood, because even in seeing the impossible they would slip back into the same old death-ways. Not because they wanted to but because they could do no other, without help. In the face of death, Jesus wept the tears of those who die and the tears of those who watch loved ones die and the tears of those who fear that dying is where living leads.
As the crowds swell in numbers and in enthusiasm over their long awaited king, and as their imaginations fire with the dream-come-true they hoped he would bring, Jesus weeps in heart-brokenness over the blindness that does not know the difference between a dream and a night mare. Jesus weeps over those who “see” a scorpion when he offers them an egg, and a snake when he offers them fish. He weeps over a people who insist on their vision of what life and freedom and kingdom mean, who would settle for the best they know instead of what no eye has seen or ear heard, instead of the new thing that they would not believe even if one told them of it, instead of the love that reaches for all, can heal all, and is thwarted only when one says, “No!” Jesus weeps because he knows that all of us will say no before we say yes, if we do. And the no is a killer–of the untold many and of the One and Only.
On the final night, Jesus weeps because he does not want to die. He who is life finds death abhorrent, a horrible choice that beloved children always make thinking they are choosing life. He who is good and delights in the goodness of all once made, shrinks from the undoing of what Love’s hands have fashioned. He who is light must contemplate a macabre “miracle” of un-nature and un-grace to fall into the arms of darkness. He who planned to break the death grip of death knew that doing so would mean submitting to that very grip and finding it well-named. He whose bodily life was no phantom but substantial in every human sense, trembled in the knowledge that the healing he brings could come only through the ripping and crushing of his own body and flesh. And he whose sweet and joyful communion with LIFE had never been broken now felt, as well as knew, a torment worse than death. On that final night, Jesus wept.
In the first weeping, Jesus reveals the grief of God over death’s imposition over a good creation.
In the second weeping, Jesus shows how deeply the ways of death pervade all things human, so that even the hopes and dreams of the ages become corrupt and must themselves be redeemed to be received.
In the third weeping, Jesus takes the cup and drinks to the dregs all the tears that will ever be shed, embraces the death shadows through which we pass, and lays himself down in deepest darkness.
In this trinity of tears Jesus cries with us and for us and over us, against the day when weeping ends and only tears of joy remain.