The God Who Grieves

Each of the last three years, the members and friends of Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota have produced a Lenten devotional book. On Monday I shared the meditation I contributed to the 2012 devotional. On this Good Friday, it seems appropriate also to post what I wrote for the 2011 edition, which had the theme “Longing for a Change of Heart.”

“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn into joy.” (John 16:20, NRSV)

Read: John 16:16-33

And Jesus Wept
"And Jesus Wept," a statue at the Oklahoma City National memorial - Creative Commons (Crimsonedge34)

Reading about Jesus’ last weeks, it seems clear that the passion of The Passion is grief. “Jesus wept” at the death of Lazarus (Jn 11:35), then wept again as he approached Jerusalem for the last time (Lk 19:41). “Deeply grieved, even to death” (Mk 14:34), at Gethsemane he prayed in “anguish” (Lk 22:44). From the cross, Jesus’ grief reached its most profound depth when he asked why his Father had forsaken him (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).

In the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, this emotional Christ embarrassed certain “Gnostic” Christians. Taught by Greek philosophy to expect a perfect, eternal deity to be unchanging, they found feelings too creaturely for the Creator.

How far this takes us from understanding the true heart of the Triune God! Just as the wickedness of humanity “grieved” the Father (“to his heart,” Gen 6:6) and his Holy Spirit (Isa 63:10, Eph 4:30), so the Son of God was left sobbing by his knowledge of our sinfulness, and what it would cost him to atone for it.

Very truly, one cannot follow such a savior without expecting to weep and mourn. Our grief cannot be quite like Jesus’: he knew sin without sinning, while we sin without knowing. (At least, not perfectly; we see through a glass darkly, our darkness most of all.) But if we truly long for our hearts to change, first they must break. Only then can we follow Christ and share in his joy.

Lord God,
Break our hearts for what breaks yours.
Wound them with the knowledge that our sins grieve you and cause others to suffer.
While the world rejoices, be with us in our mourning, and in your good time, turn our grief to joy.
With the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we grieve,
and in their names we pray. Amen.

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