3/21/99, L5A

“A Time to Cry”
John 11: 17-45

e was a tough old bird. I broke my ankle during scrimmage, and Coach growled; “Drag him off!” I can’t imagine him ever shedding a tear; however, he did produce some great championship football teams. Asheboro named our new stadium in his honor. Later, Coach Stone entered the North Carolina Football Hall of Fame. He became so popular that he quit coaching and teaching and finished his career in the State Legislature. They say he never cried there either; at least not publicly. For years I have wondered why.

Fortunately I had a Father who was able to cry. One of the greatest things I ever saw him do was cry during a hard Saturday morning rain at the funeral of his older sister who had helped him rear four younger brothers after his mother’s death. He gave a magnificent eulogy; yet I don’t recall any of his words, just the act of standing tall and leading a funeral through tears. And I remember being somehow surprised by the joy of Jesus’ presence. The next day my Dad stood tall again and preached his Sunday morning sermon with grace and the power of His presence. He modeled for his son, and his entire congregation, his faith in the resurrection that had shaped his entire life; and later his death.

Shedding tears as an expression of emotion is one of the things that makes us human. God has instilled in us feelings that often lead to, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecc. 3:4). It is a byproduct of being real.

One of the most precious emotional events that Jesus modeled for us was that of joining Mary and Martha and their friends in weeping at Lazarus’ tomb. It was a natural human emotion and Jesus was not afraid to weep. After all, one of his dear friends had died and he was aware that he would soon be crucified. This was a highly charged moment and it would have taken a distant and cold heart to not have broken.

Jesus still weeps with us. We can call on him “24/7,” Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and He is present. The greatest miracle is not his coming to take our problems away, but to join us in the time to weep.

Jesus also joins us through tears of joy. Although I have presided at hundreds of weddings I still can not predict how grooms and brides will react. I have had one totally cool, suave and debonair groom totally pass out. He fainted dead away; and when he finally woke up he was married. His Father and a big strong groomsman held him up, and another groomsman put his arm on the back of his neck and held his head up. From the back the guests couldn't see his closed eyes. I hope it was legal. Fortunately it was captured on videotape. I keep expecting to see it on “America’s Funniest Home Videos. By the way, they are still married.

Many brides have broken into uncontrollable laughter, and then into tears, and sometimes both at the same time. And it’s OK! Its what folks still remember about the wedding.

I teared up just a little bit during the first wedding at which I officiated. When the bride started down the isle on her dad’s arm, it was such an awesome moment, I felt a tear roll down my cheek. The thought that came to me was that this retired Marine Corps. Colonel was going to skin me alive. But when he arrived in his place facing me, I noticed a tear in his eye too. Years later, at his funeral, I shared how our tender hearts had meshed in that magic moment.

Another time we sometimes weep is during religious fervor. Our Methodist revivals and campmeetings were thought to be a failure if folks did not get happy and shout and cry. I recall cold dead souls, who had passed themselves off as introverts, having tears well up in times of genuine blessing. Still today, we occasionally see a tear or two, and many times there is laughter--- genuine human responses to our Lord’s presence. It is not something that we can manipulate or control, the Spirit moves in to take control.

One interesting synonym for crying is the word “repent.” Often remorsefulness leads to tears. Mary and Martha had both scolded Jesus saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11: 21 & 32). Any psychologist will tell you that tears are a cathartic way of dealing with heavily charged emotional situations, and that they often clear our minds to find a way of dealing with the reality of the problem. So, we have the shortest verse in the entire Bible, “Jesus Wept!” I read into Jesus’ tears a deep sense of regret that he was not there to save his dear friend.

However, as it turned out, through the natural occurrence of events, Jesus was able to alter the event to fulfill an Old Testament vision of his Messiahship, in raising the dead. Jesus broke into the crisis of Lazarus’ death by crying with a loud voice, “Lazarus come out!” and he came forth from the tomb in burial clothes. Many of the people who gathered around that day believed, but more importantly, this story has led millions more to believe in eternal life, which in turn throws a rainbow around the cloud of death.

And this is exactly how Jesus has entered into my life. My experience has been that as events have transpired, according to the natural principles and laws of nature, events for good and for bad, He has stepped into them and remolded them according to His long-range purpose. God brings good out of bad situations. Now, that does not make the bad situation good; but still there is good amid the bad. Or, we might say, we are able to submit and understand His will at work. God has never failed to do that for me, my family, and for the many whom I have been privileged to join as Pastor in their hard times and joyous times.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

3/21/99, L5A