There is an interesting picture of Jesus in the Bible that you don’t see very often. That picture is Jesus weeping. I know of two instances in Scripture where this happened. One is when he came to the tomb of his friend Lazarus in John 11, the Bible tells us Jesus wept. However, there is another instance in Scripture when it talks about Jesus weeping. This comes from Luke 19 when Jesus was entering Jerusalem.
“But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. ‘How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you’” (Luke 19:41-44, NLT).
We also see in Matthew’s gospel another perspective of what was breaking Jesus’ heart.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (Matthew 22:37, NLT).
When you look at these two portions of Scripture, you see what broke Jesus’ heart was the missed opportunity and the consequences that would result because of their actions. In essence they locked Jesus out and what he truly desired to do he could not.
3 Reasons Jesus Is Weeping over the Church Today
When I was thinking about this I began to wonder if Jesus is weeping over the church today. By today I am referring to church in the 21st century, the way we do church now. As I began thinking about this question, I believe there are three things that would cause Jesus to weep over the church if he was walking the earth right now.
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1. We Are Fighting with Each Other and Not for Each Other
Before Jesus went to the cross, he prayed in the garden that we the church would be one (John 17:21). Paul even reminds us in Ephesians 4 that there is one body. Since there is only one body why does the church feel more divided than ever?
Churches and Christians have divided politically, even losing or ending relationships over political allegiances. The Covid pandemic caused division because some people saw it as one thing and others saw it as something else. People got locked into their position and there was no room for understanding and caring about someone else’s viewpoint on this. I know personally of churches where wearing a mask became a source of contention. If that isn’t enough, let’s not forget the issues of social justice and systemic racism that permeate our society. Yet within the body of Christ some people struggle to believe or understand these things because their experiences have been different. Somehow these differing points of view, instead of becoming points of listening and learning, have become points of division and disunity.
Again I am talking about what is happening in the church. There is more I could say because honestly the list goes on and on. However, standing in the midst of all of this is the prayer of Jesus that we, the body of Christ, would be one. I had a conversation with someone about some of these issues and the first words that came out of their mouth was “but you don’t understand, how is it possible for someone to think…” and the justification for their opinion followed. This points to the heart of the matter. Everyone is trying to speak but no one is trying to listen. In this rush to be heard we tear each other apart in the process. Notice what James said.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:1-2).
This sounds a lot like the modern church. Fights and quarrels that drive us apart. Killing each other with harsh words that don’t have an ounce of love or compassion in them. Where do we see Jesus in this? Like he wept over Jerusalem I believe he weeps over his church, longing for us to become one. To be clear, I know that unity doesn’t mean the absence of differences. It does however mean the presence of grace that will allow us to learn from each other and love each other through those differences. For the record I am not referring to doctrinal differences that twist Scripture or go against what God has said in his word; we should address those. But even then, let’s do it the way God has commanded us.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
When we can come to the place of listening and caring about the feelings of others. When we seek to hear and understand before we speak then we are moving in the direction that brings unity. The place where we stop fighting with each other and start fighting for each other.
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2. We Are Seeking to Entertain Instead of Exhort
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13, ESV).
Strangely missing from the messages of many pulpits today is the mention of sin, the blood, the cross, or even the need for repentance. We don’t even call it church or a service anymore it is a worship experience. My question is - have we created a worship experience that tickles the emotions but falls short of transforming the heart?
Remember one of the reasons Jesus wept over Jerusalem is because they missed opportunities. Are we missing opportunities because we are not challenging and encouraging people to truly go deeper in their walk? Have we watered down the message to the point where people leave entertained but not exhorted? Are we becoming ok with people leaving church in the same or worse condition than when they came in?
I believe Jesus weeps over this. Whatever method we use to get people in the building, let it be that we really give them transformational truth when they get there. If we don’t then we have simply become another form of entertainment.
3. We Are Elevating People More Than We Are Elevating Jesus
I was reading an article recently and they used a term called “celebrity pastor.” This is not much different than when they use the term “gospel superstar” to describe a musical artist. Has God called us to be celebrities and superstars? Don’t get me wrong, when a person has a gift or talent and they can inspire you with words or move your heart with music, the tendency is to elevate that person and put them on a pedestal. When that happens it is the responsibility of the person who is “gifted” and has been put on a pedestal to take themselves off.
When John was on the isle of Patmos and as he was writing the book of Revelation, an angel took him and showed him a glimpse of heaven. I want you to pay attention to this interaction between John and the angel.
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God’” (Revelation 22:8-9).
John’s response was very much like ours when someone we encounter blesses us in a tremendous way, we elevate them. However, notice that the moment John went to put the angel on a pedestal, the angel immediately stepped off. He recognized that he was no better than John but was a fellow servant. His words to John were don’t worship me, worship God.
This simple truth needs to return to the modern church. If there is a celebrity or superstar of the Christian faith it is Jesus. Without his death and resurrection, we are all still lost in our sins. He was then and still is now the only hope of salvation for all mankind. He is the one we need to elevate and no one else. When he is not elevated than the real hope of salvation is non-existent because there is no other name by which men can be saved.
I want you to understand one simple point of truth that I have learned in my own life and have seen by being around other believers. God uses people in spite of who they are, not because of who they are. No one is really that special, only Jesus is. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. No one is deserving of the way God uses them. If God chooses to use them in a mighty or anointed way, he does it only because of his grace. It is his power, his anointing, and his gifting that allows them to do what they do anyway.
However, I am not naïve and I get the temptation to put people on pedestals. What we need is more leaders that would have the wisdom and courage to take themselves off.
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I know these types of topics are not the most popular to talk about, but we still need to do it. The desire of my heart is very simple – that we who carry the name of Christ would carry it well. That we would represent Jesus in the earth, creating a stir in the hearts of people that would want to know who this Jesus is that we serve.
When the church becomes one and we help people become the people God wants them to be, when we exalt the name of Jesus above every other name and always point people to him, then we create the space to allow people to connect with Jesus. This is what he is after all along. May we always take advantage of every moment and never have a missed opportunity in helping people come to know this wonderful Jesus.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.