The boisterous crowds with their gritty palm branches stumbled alongside Him, shoving and shouting. But His gaze was riveted ahead. There in the distance, stones blinding white under merciless sun, lay the city—the city He loved with a fury, the city that had broken His heart.
It was both symbol and sample of all He had lived for, all He would soon suffer and die for. Within its ancient walls lived the Pharisee with his phylactery; the widow with her mite; the jeweled harlot; the cutthroat Zealot; the little girl newly back from the dead, gathering lilies for her still-dumbfounded papa. A market full of beggars, a temple full of thieves, a city full of all things human, crying out for all things divine.
And Jesus wept.
Do you want to see the heart of God? Then look, here, upon the face of God: tear-streaked, pain-creased, terrifying in its holy jealousy.
Do you want to see the heart of God? Then look, there, upon the faces of God’s children: tear-streaked, pain-creased, terrifying in their holy need. Behold how He loves them: fragile little creatures, weak and poor, sick and dying, hungry and thirsty, naked and alone. He suffers with them; He cries through them.
In Miami or Moscow, New York or Nairobi, in the 1st century or the 21st, whatever may change, some things remain the same: spiritual need, material need; empty hearts, empty hands.Could God’s heart be any clearer? Could His call be any louder? Think of it: Our Lord weeps for our community, for those who surround us every day. The waitress we snub, the boss we complain about, the driver we cut off in traffic, the child next door whom we scold for playing in our pansies
He weeps as well for those who surround us at a distance, invisible to us but all too visible to Him. The crack addict, the patient and the prisoner, the child awaiting a foster home, the forgotten great-grandmother alone in her room.
Can we afford to turn away from His tears?
“But, God …”
I can’t possibly be the one God is sending to the lost and needy of my community. Surely He’s sending someone else.“ As the Father has sent me,” Jesus says, “I am sending you” (John 20:21). If He was sent to the lost and needy of your community, then so are you.
But I have so few resources to share. “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple,” Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). Do you have a cup of cold water? Find someone who needs it.
But what can one person do? I feel as small as a grain of sand on the seashore. Not a grain of sand, the Lord says, but a grain of salt: “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Just a dash of savor can make all the difference.
But I find their way of life offensive. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly … God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6,8). Was God pleased with your way of life before you gave yourself to Him?
But my family comes first. God calls your whole family to reach out to your community. Let them join you in serving. What better way to teach them how to follow Jesus?
But aren’t we just pilgrims in the world—a world that God will soon judge and destroy?
Yes, we’re exiles in this world, and we look for another. Sometimes the world itself seems a stranger, a Babylon. Why should we care about this city of our exile?
Hear God’s message of long ago to His chosen people, carried off in chains to ancient Babylon. Jeremiah prophesied, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).
The welfare of the community is our welfare. The good of the homeless family, the immigrant, the pimp, and the prostitute is our good. If we would be healed ourselves, we must seek the healing of our community.
But how can I know where to start? The answer echoes throughout the Old Testament law, the Gospel calls of Jesus, the apostolic commands: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Luke 10:27, James 2:8). “Neighbor” means literally “near-dweller.” You must love those far away as well as you can, of course; but you must love at the very least, love without fail, those who are nearby. If they are close enough to see, to hear, to touch, they are your neighbors. Start with them.
A Divine Command
Are we called, then, to serve only those nearby? Might anyone else be our “neighbor”? This question was posed to Jesus long ago, and the answer came swiftly in a story (see Luke 10:29-37).
The familiar “Good Samaritan” was a foreigner from a faraway home, with strange clothes and an odd accent. He was not like the others—not like the man whose life he saved, not like the priest and Levite who passed by merely near at hand and not near at heart. But like the Savior, the Samaritan brought himself near, made himself a neighbor, opening the door to bring inside the stranger in need.
The moral of the story thunders:
“Go and do likewise!” (Luke 10:37). Every day that we delay, more hungry souls slip off to eternity, more hungry bodies crumble to dust—the empty souls and empty bodies of our neighbors.
And Jesus weeps.
Bring it Home
Who are you serving, praying for, and weeping with in your circle of influence?
Dr. Paul Thigpen is an internationally known speaker, best-selling author, and award-winning journalist.
D! Excerpted from Discipleship Journal, Issue 113, September 1999. Used by permission of NavPress.