I had a pretty rough day today. Well, it was a good day. But it was also a hard day. In one of my business classes we had to rank different things that we valued from 1 to 10, and we were given a list of ten choices. Out of the few people our professor called on to share their highest and lowest values, each one of them (professor included) said that “Salvation; finding eternal life” was their lowest concern (other values included were: Wealth/prosperity, happiness; satisfaction in life, pride in accomplishment, recognition from peers, etc.). What could I say? What could I do? All I could share was that I thought salvation and eternal things is my highest value, and that it should naturally carry with it the most importance for all of us.
“But of course—he’s just a Christian! He wants to be a pastor! Of course he would say that! He’s just one of those people! I’m so glad he found something that works for him—his truth—but that isn’t for me. Religion isn’t for me. Too exclusive. Too judgmental.” Perhaps I’m putting words in their mouths, but isn’t that the kind of thing we’ve all heard before? And this isn’t a judgment on them by any means! I totally understand exactly where they are all at and why they are there. I’ve stood in their shoes, walked their walk. It isn’t that they don’t get it. It isn’t that they don’t understand. It isn’t even that they are somehow particularly sinful or evil. It’s the identity that each of us are born into: spiritually dead. We aren’t neutral and needing to make a choice, we are spiritually dead until we are made alive by the One Who created us.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…
I’m not alive because I chose to resuscitate myself. I didn’t opt out of death into life. I did not make myself alive, though I was dead. No; as a dead man without a hope, God in His mercy chose to make me alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. And now I’m free. That’s the power of the Gospel. It has nothing to do with our ability and everything to do with God’s almighty power.
It was just startling to recognize in such stark terms that everyone who were given the opportunity declared that they are utterly unconcerned with the eternal things. “We are dead; We are perishing; We aren’t in need of a Savior,” they said. And no, they didn’t quite say it like that, but that’s what I heard. And through the Spirit I looked around in disbelief and fear.
And I’m reminded of Jesus’ words as He prophesied over the holy city: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt 23:37-39).
He looked out to the city where His people dwelled, knowing what they had done in the past to the prophets and knowing what they would do to Him, and He cries for them as a mother weeps for her dying children. The yearning and anguish in His heart over their sin and disobedience, their unwillingness… And the terrifying reality: “See, your house is left to you desolate.” His time to minister was over. He was going to the Cross. He was going to death—death at their hands. And in the face of death He would cry out for mercy over them—”They know not what they do.”
He wept over the dead. He wept over Jerusalem.
And over Lazarus, He wept. He wept over the power of sin and death, the power of the prince of this present darkness. But then, in triumphant power, “He cried out: Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43). And the dead was instantly raised. The lifeless brought to life. The helpless empowered and given strength—a strength that was not his own… a strength that was given at the word of God.
I’m in a weepy mood. Really weepy. I am angry. I hate sin so much. I hate death so much. I hate sickness so much. I hate blindness. I hate my own weakness. I hate that I am not always filled with the craziest urgency to tell people about Jesus… when so many people don’t know the good news that I have! That we have! How can we go about every single day with the single greatest bit of news imaginable and hold it in?
I’m just sick of it all. And my heart hurts so badly right now. I hate feeling this way, but I know that I need to feel this way. I need to hurt. I need to weep over my “Jerusalem” while trusting in the God Who weeps over the dead and also raises them to life. I trust God to save His sheep. He promises to do so. He won’t leave one of His sheep lost in the end. He will save everyone He intends, just like Lazarus. He speaks and they rise. I trust that. But, man, I can’t handle seeing how many people don’t know Him. And I hope I don’t lose this brokenness.