As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it… (Luke 19:41)
I didn’t want to write about the 19 children and 2 teachers who had been killed in Uvalde.
I didn’t want to write about the grief of those parents because I knew that doing so would plunge me into the depths of my grief over losing a child this past year.
I didn’t want to write because so many words have already been said and written, and it doesn’t seem like all those words following these mass killings have made any real difference.
As much as I didn’t want to write, I have been compelled to do so because today’s scripture, “As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it,” has been haunting me.
There were many reasons why Jesus once wept as he scanned over Jerusalem. He wept because He would soon be offering up His life; He wept because He knew His disciples would abandon Him; He wept because many religious leaders didn’t see or wouldn’t accept that He was the long-awaited Messiah. And He wept because He saw all the past unfaithfulness, idolatry, cruelty, and injustice in what people called “God’s City.”
I believe that the image of Jesus weeping reveals to us what He is now doing as He scans our country. Just as there were many reasons why Jesus once wept over Jerusalem, so I believe there are many reasons why He is weeping for our land.
First and foremost, He is weeping for the children and teachers whose lives were taken from them. He sees all the difference those children and teachers could have made, all the love they could have shared, all the intelligence that was left untapped, and all the service to others and their community that was snatched away. All of that is gone. Forever lost. The world is a poorer place, our country has lost a great treasure, and that community will be wounded and grieving for years to come.
Jesus is also weeping for the parents of those children and all the family members of those teachers. Every person who died was loved and cherished, and we will never know how many hearts were broken on that day. Just imagine, for a moment, the anguish of those parents who dropped off a child full of life at the beginning of that day and then had to pick up a lifeless child at the end of it. Just imagine, for just a moment, the rage that many must feel as they contemplate how and why the officers didn’t act, didn’t heed the horrifying 911 calls, and who didn’t do what they were trained to do, storm the school, and save those children.
Jesus’ tears for what happened in Uvalde are mingled with all the copious tears He has shed for all the other children, teachers, administrators, and citizens who have had their lives taken from them. The tears He has shed can’t be counted.
Jesus weeps for our country because we are stuck, in gridlock, and in denial about how serious things are right now. We are in a moral, ethical, and spiritual quagmire, and we are not acting to save lives.
And I believe Jesus is dumbfounded—utterly and tragically so. It must dumbfound Him how anyone could think that the right of an 18-year-old to buy a machine gun trumps the right of a child to live. It must dumbfound Him how anyone can defend how having almost no gun controls in so many places has not contributed to so many deaths. It dumbfounds Him how anyone could suggest that we arm our teachers to protect the children makes any sense to the health and well-being of our classrooms. As I look at these last sentences, I don’t think that “dumbfounded” begins to even point to all that Jesus is feeling and thinking as He ponders any of these mass killings.
When any of these terrible mass shootings occur, it almost seems like we have the same drama being played out. First, there is utter horror. Second, there is a great lament. Third, there is a great desire to figure out what happened and look for those who are accountable. Fourth, the sides get drawn between those who say that guns are the problem and those who say that people are. Fifth, we hear political leaders—often those who have a history of being against gun control—say that it is too soon to talk about any changes to our laws, and then they will often go on to say that “our thoughts and prayers” will be with those who were killed and those who are in grief.
I believe that saying that our “thoughts and prayers” will be with those in distress is very important, and I also believe that our thinking and praying are not all we are called to do. There is a time for thinking and praying, and there is also a time for changing, deciding, protecting, safeguarding, and legislating. One must wonder what Jesus might say about our thinking while doing nothing and our praying as more children are killed.
I call these pieces “Notes on Encouragement and Hope,” and I must confess that at this moment, it is hard for me to discern, much less offer much encouragement. It seems patently clear that on our own, we will remain stuck and again lack the political will, courage, wisdom, and compassion to change things.
But—here is the hope that I do see—we aren’t ever alone. Jesus didn’t come to this earth, He didn’t go to the cross, and He wasn’t raised from the dead for us to ever be alone. Those who believe in Him, those who call themselves His disciples, must continue to believe that with Him, “all things are possible.”
Let me go back to the image of Jesus once crying as He looked over Jerusalem and the vision that He is right now crying for us. Maybe—pray God, hopefully—if enough people imagine Jesus crying, we will be moved to cry for ourselves. And maybe—pray God, hopefully—our tears will clarify enough minds, strengthen enough hearts, and galvanize enough wills so that the changes that need to be made around what we do with our guns will be made.
After weeping over Jerusalem, Jesus dried those tears, descended the heights, and walked with total conviction and courage straight to His death. Nothing distracted or deterred Him from His mission to forgive, save, redeem, and reconcile us to the Father.
I pray that we will cry with Jesus over our land and that we will then dry those tears and walk straight towards what we need to do for our children, our teachers, our communities, and our country. May nothing—no denial, no rhetoric, no blaming, no scheming, no maneuvering—distract or deter us from our mission to make our country safer for all. If the status quo continues, the killing fields on our playgrounds will continue. But if enough people with enough courage, sanity, purpose, and steadfastness come together, we will prevail.
As we stand at this critical time, we must all ask, plead, and pray for Jesus to reveal what He would have us do for all of God’s children.