Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Cry?

We read in John chapter 20,“Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying.  As she wept she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  They asked her, Woman, why are you crying?” Later, Jesus will ask the same question again. Let’s look more closely at this.  When go back to the original language of this passage, we see that, really, the angels and Jesus are asking something much less solemn sounding than, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  Actually, they say, “Woman, why weep?”  Repeat this question with a Brooklyn or Yiddish accent and you get an even stronger hint that something happy is going on here!
    There is a story in Nehemiah 8 that helps us to understand this joy.  A remnant of the people of Israel have come back to Jerusalem and are rebuilding the city and the temple.   One day they assemble as a congregation at the entrance to the city.  The Bible is read and explained to them; when they hear it they begin to weep.  Why are they weeping? They are thinking of all the trouble they had caused for God; they had been so disobedient and awful. God had had to slave in their sins like a janitor cleaning up muck in a church basement. So the people were weeping but Nehemiah and the priests say, “Don’t weep.” In fact, they say, “go and get some good stuff to eat and drink and if there is a neighbor that doesn’t have good food on hand, send some of yours to their house!”  Nehemiah explains further, he says, “the joy of the Lord will be your strength.” The people had been telling themselves, “We’ve been such a burden to God” but God replies, “No, trouble at all!”  “My pleasure!”   That’s the secret here and at the tomb. Mary is weeping, but Jesus and the angels say, “Why cry?”  In effect, God says to Mary and to us, “It was no trouble at all; it was my pleasure!”  It was his joy to give his only begotten son, the son whom he loved, even to die on a cross and be put in a tomb and be raised on the third day--that we might be freed from our sins and live and have a living savior who will never fail or forsake us.  As the Bible tells us, “the people shall live in Zion and you shall cry no more.” (Isaiah 30) God will wipe away every tear from the eye. So, “Why cry?”  Remember instead, the joy of the Lord over what he has done in Jesus.  This will be your strength.