This is the second in my series on what makes God sad, mad and glad. No, this is not some squishy, liberal sermon about God crying when we kill baby seals, rather, it looks at the things that made Jesus sad during his incarnation and extrapolates to say that the things that made Jesus sad are the same things that would make God sad. I’m careful to point out that we should not assign human emotions to the Almighty God; however, we can see the emotions of Jesus and know the heart of God.
In a nutshell, it is sin that makes God sad. Jesus wept to see the suffering of the fallen world acted out at the graveside of Lazarus. He mourned over Jerusalem which would soon suffer for rejecting God. He was amazed when he could not do miracles due to the lack of faith in those he encountered in his hometown.
I began a sermon series last week that looked at the things that cause God to be mad, sad, and glad by looking at the things that caused those emotions in Jesus when he walked this earth. We looked last week at the things that make God sad: basically God gets mad when we sin against him, hide our sin with hypocrisy, and refuse to take him seriously. People like the Pharisees and those who took advantage of the temple-worshippers made Jesus very angry when he was on earth and give us a good idea of what makes God made in heaven today. Jesus had a lot of compassion, patience, and tolerance for sinners who turned to God in repentance for forgiveness, but he could not stand those who hid their sin behind a flimsy veneer of religion and hypocrisy. So, if we love God and want to avoid making him sad, we would do well to come face to face to God with our sin in true repentance.
Today we move on to the next emotion: sadness. You know, this one might be the toughest for us to handle. If you make someone mad and they lash out at you it’s easy to just lash back. But making someone sad is something else entirely.
I was thinking back to my childhood and the things that I put my mother through: needless to say I cause her to have many different kinds of emotions. There were times when I made her smile and laugh with my cuteness and antics. There were times when I made her swell with pride as I received a promotion in the Boy Scouts or an award at school. And I can promise you that there were PLENTY of times when I made her mad: more times than I can count. I was not always the best little boy, to say the least, and my mom had plenty of opportunities to be mad at me. All those emotions are normal and are to be expected from a mother to her little boy and I could handle all of them well in my own way.
But I can still remember the awful feeling that I would get whenever I would see my mom sad. I could handle any other emotion that my mom had—even anger—but I could not stand to see her sad. I can still remember when her dad—my grandfather—died; it was awful to see her sad and crying. I can still remember the times when my dad would go out on military maneuvers and have to leave us for weeks at a time; it was awful to see her lonely and crying as he drove away. Worse than all that were the times that I myself made her sad. I was alright if she was yelling at me, I could just go off and pout or yell back. But if I made her sad or disappointed, that was more than I could bear. It would break my heart to know that I made my mom sad.
Think about it, that’s probably true with all of you, too. Have you ever made your spouse truly sad? That’s got to be the worst feeling, especially if you’ve ever done something that truly caused them to feel that way. Can you imagine doing something that caused one of your friends to be sad, or your children? You would feel so bad knowing that your actions caused the other person such pain; that because of you, another person was suffering. And it would be even worse if the person we made sad was someone who we respected and loved: instead of making them proud and happy like we wanted, we ended up disappointing them.
The same is true with God: if we truly loved God we would want to avoid making God sad with everything that is in us. Our highest purpose in life is to serve God and to glorify his name. We do that by doing the things that are in God’s perfect will: these are the things that make God happy. We make God sad when we disappoint him—when we fail to live up to the will that he has for us and for our lives.
I also want to point out that everything that makes Jesus sad in the Gospels is not related to our actions: there are things that mad Jesus sad that had little to do with the actions of people. I don’t want you to think that every thing that made Jesus sad was caused by a person. It’s like what I said about my mom: it broke my heart when I made her sad, but it also broke my heart when circumstances that I had nothing to do with made her sad, like her father dying or my father going away for weeks due to work.
The same is true with Jesus in the Gospels: there are different things that made Jesus sad. Some of the time Jesus was sad because of what people did, sometimes it was because of events outside of human control. But, in both cases we learn about the heart of Jesus, and therefore, about the heart of God.
Before we look at what made Jesus sad, though, let’s take just a minute to think about what sadness is. I’m not a big fan of dictionary definitions in a sermon, so let’s just think about this from our gut—what do we know that sadness is from our experience? I think the best definition that I can come up with just by flying from the seat of my pants is that sadness is when our reality fails to live up to our expectations. I’m not sure if that definition is as good as Webster’s, but I think it’s pretty good.
We expect a child to show us respect: when he lets us down, we are sad.
We expect our life to be pain free: when we suffer pain and sickness, we are sad.
We expect the world to be fair and just: when injustice has the upper hand, we are sad.
We expect a sunny day for our wedding; when it rains, we are sad. You get the point.
So, by that definition, God would be sad when reality fails to live up to God’s expectation. I know, I know, I’m treading into some theologically tricky territory: obviously, since God knows everything we know that nothing unexpected happens to God. But, even though everything is ultimately in God’s permissive will, we know that nothing everything is in God’s perfect will: that is, God allows things to happen that he would rather didn’t happen. That’s why we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We look forward to the day when his kingdom comes and his will is done perfectly. Therefore, the things that would make God sad are those things that are outside his will. For example: do you think it made God sad when Adam and Eve sinned against God that first time? Sure it did: it was God’s will that we would live in a perfect relationship with him but because we had free will that relationship was ruined by our sin. We can expect, then, that the things that made Jesus sad in the Gospels were those things that went against what God expected for us and for this world. In fact, that is the message of this sermon: the things that make God sad are those things that go against his expectation for the world: that is, his perfect will. When you see what makes Jesus sad, you see the things that are against God’s will for the world.
So: let’s examine a few incidents that made Jesus sad when he was on this earth:
The clearest example of Jesus being sad is found in the shortest verse of the bible. I know this verse well from Sunday School: we had to come in with a verse memorized, any verse, so I would always take the easy way and bring this one to the table: John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” That’s the shortest verse in the bible, but it speaks volumes. Jesus was weeping because he was sad. Something had happened where his expectation did not match up with reality.
First, let’s get some context to this chapter. This verse is found in John, chapter 11, which begins like this: John 11:1-3 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
A man named Lazarus was sick. Who was Lazarus? The brother of Mary and Martha: Mary who poured out her love on Jesus, and Martha who loved nothing better than to show her love by waiting on Jesus hand and foot. This was a family that Jesus loved very much, a family that he would stay with when traveling, and now his friend Lazarus was sick to the point that it looked like he might die. It was obviously Jesus’ expectation that his friend would not die and that Lazarus’ sisters would not be left without their brothers, who was not only loved by him, but who was probably the sole bread-winner for the family. Yet, Jesus waited a few days and then told the disciples: John 11:14-15 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
So, Jesus and his disciples head to Bethany and when they get there they find a scene that is sadly familiar to all of us: a family in mourning. Mary and Martha are consumed with grief, handling their pain in different ways. No doubt Mary is inconsolable with grief as she is the more emotional one. Martha probably dealt with her grief by staying busy, as a lot of people do. All throughout the house were friends and family who came to provide assistance. They were probably clucking their tongues at the predicament of these ladies, who would now be on their own from now on: it was a pretty sad scene.
Into all this sadness Jesus walked in. Now, I want you to remember this important point: Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead. He said from the very beginning that Lazarus’ illness would not end in death and that God would be glorified by this sickness. He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He knew that God would raise Lazarus from the dead that very day.
Yet, look what Jesus did. He saw Mary crying, he saw Martha crying, he saw all the friends and family consumed with grief. And what did he do? Jesus wept. He did not just stroll up to the grave, rolling up his sleeves to defeat death. Instead, he felt the pain of all those around him and he wept with them. It broke Jesus’ heart to see all this grief: it broke God’s heart to see the pain that death causes.
And why not? Remember, I defined sadness as that emotion that we feel when our expectations do not match up with reality. This incident reveals this in a nutshell: death was never in God’s expectations. God created us to live with him forever: there was no death in the Garden of Eden. It was not until Adam and Eve sinned that death entered the world, because it was not in God’s original plan to have death.
God is saddened at the current state of affairs in this world. Sin, rebellion, disease, decay, and finally death. This is not the way that God intended for the world to be. God never intended for us to live in a world which ultimately ended with the pain and grief that death causes. Why did Jesus weep? It wasn’t because Lazarus died: he knew that Lazarus would live again, as will everyone who believes in him. Instead, he was weeping at the pain that Lazarus’ death caused those who loved him. Look at what the crowd said when they saw Jesus weeping: John 11:36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
God is sad when his beloved creatures suffer in this fallen world: though he allows these things to happen as part of our free will, it is not a reality that meets his expectations of the world.
But, not all of our suffering is simply due to our fallen world: a lot of our suffering is brought on by our own actions, and this makes Jesus sad as well. When we sin and bring trouble to ourselves God would have every right to gloat at the misfortune that we have brought upon ourselves. He would be well within his rights if he just let us face the consequences that we have brought upon ourselves. However, this is not how God feels, instead, it makes him sad to see his children bringing their own ruin upon them. Think about it in terms of a parent. A father, out of love, might allow his child to make his own choices, good or bad. He might even know that some of the choices his child was making would end up bad for the child, yet he would give the child the free rein to either fail or succeed on his own. The son calls the father and says that he is going to drop out of college to design skateboards. A loving father might try to talk sense into his son, but in the end he will let him go and make a mess of his life, even though it would make him very sad to see his son fail in the end.
Consider the words of Jesus at the end of Matthew 23. If you recall, this was the chapter that I read to you last week as an example of the anger of God. Jesus unleashes a series of “woes” against those Pharisees who angered him with their hypocrisy and pride. He is angry with them because they are not only defying God with their hidden sin but they are causing other people to stumble. But, if you recall, I pointed out last week that Jesus is not angry with the sinner, but with the sin. At the end of Matthew 23 we see that he is also sad for the sinner. Listen to his words:
Matt 23:37-38 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate.
It’s not too hard to hear the sadness in Jesus’ words. He calls out to Jerusalem, the holy city, the place where God’s temple resides, the city of God’s chosen people. He calls out to those who have been given the clearest glimpse of God’s holiness yet still kill God’s prophets and stone those sent to them. The people of Jerusalem have sinned against God and as a result they will face God’s punishment: soon their house will be left desolate: the temple will be destroyed, the city will be besieged, the people inside the city will die a horrible death, and God’s nation will be scattered. Sadly, this is not just a chance encounter like a plague or an earthquake: this is a judgment from God that will be a direct result of their sin.
Let’s be clear: the people made a choice to rebel against God. God, as a loving father, allowed them to make their own choice to sin and allowed them to suffer the consequences. Yet, look at the reaction of Jesus. He shows an incredible level of sadness and compassion when he says, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”
With great sadness Jesus is showing his sadness for the sinful behavior of those in Jerusalem and the coming consequences that will come from those sins. It is his desire to gather together the people and protect them from the coming destruction, much like a mother hen would gather together her chicks. Remember our working definition: sadness is the emotion we feel when our expectations don’t match reality. Jesus wanted Jerusalem to be spared: that was his expectation, yet the reality is that they would have to pay for their sins.
The same could be said for all of us. It is not God’s perfect will for anyone to face hell: God is patient and just and desires that everyone would come to repentance and thus receive salvation. But, as a loving father he allows us to make our own choices, even it those choices lead to our destruction. You might say that God is sad because of our sins: it is his desire that everyone get saved, and he wants to gather us together into his protection of eternal life like a mother hen gathering his chicks. But he must allow the unrepentant sinner to face his eternal end because he is a just God. I would imagine that anytime we see Jesus encountering a person who was lost in their sins that his emotions were those of sadness: that we would willingly allow sin and its consequences to have rule in our lives.
And that leads us to our final example. This is a time when Jesus could not do many miracles. That seems hard to believe: after all, Jesus was a powerful miracle-worker, why wouldn’t he be able to perform a miracle? Mark 6:1-6 1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Jesus had come back to his hometown, the place where everyone knew him. They remembered him as a little boy, they knew his mom and dad, they saw him as one of them. It is hard for the hometown boy to come home as a hero. I remember when I was ordained my elder proclaimed in his charge to me that I could never be the minister there. It sounded pretty harsh but he only meant that I would never be able to minister effectively because they knew me too well: to them I could never be a minister, I was little Robby to them. The same was true for Jesus in his hometown: they could not see him as a wise rabbi, a healer, or a miracle-worker… much less the Messiah. To them he was little Jesus, Mary’s son, the brother of James. They took offense at him and his attempts to heal them or do any other miracles.
As a result, Jesus was not able to do many miracles there. Why? It wasn’t because of any lack of power on Jesus’ part but as a direct result of the lack of faith shown by his townspeople. Only the very sick, those who had nothing but faith, could be healed: those who have nowhere else to turn tend to have the most faith. Jesus could not do many miracles because the people in his hometown refused to turn to him for healing.
Now, look at Jesus’ reaction: Verse 6, “And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” This is not an amazed reaction like you would get at seeing something great: it’s an amazed reaction at something sad; like the amazement you would feel at seeing some great injustice carried out. His amazement was a sign of great sadness: he was sad that they would not turn to him to be healed. Their stubbornness and pride prevented them from turning to the one person who could give them life and healing. Imagine how you would feel if you went up to the house of a poor person who was about to lose their house and offered to pay off their mortgage and had them slam the door in your face. You would walk away, shaking you head to think that someone would turn down such a great offer.
Think about how Jesus must have felt to think that his own townspeople would turn their back on him, even though they knew that he spoke with authority and performed miracles. It saddened Jesus to think that people would turn down healing because of their pride.
Considering that, imagine how sad God must feel when we reject his attempt to heal us of our sin and the curse of death that results. He looked down at our fallen state and had compassion, sending his son to pay the penalty for our sin. He didn’t have to do it, but his great love for us moved him to give his only begotten son so that we would not have to perish but could have everlasting life. Can you imagine how sad it must make God when we ignore that gift and out of stubborn pride miss out on such a great healing salvation?
Imagine how sad God must feel when we reject the healing in our life that we could have by turning over our sorrows to him. When we reject the answers that we could have by refusing to turn to him in prayer. When we reject the comfort that we could have by refusing to turn to him when we are hurting. When we reject the wisdom that we could have by turning to his word for guidance. It must surely amaze God that we refuse the great healing that he offers in so many ways because of our lack of faith.
And rest assured, that amazement is one of sadness. Remember, sadness is when our expectations do not match our reality: God expects that we would turn to him for our healing, but the reality is that like those in Jesus’ hometown, we often fail to receive the healing and salvation that God desires for us.
Let me bring all this together for us in closing, because each of these incidents in which God in human form shows his sadness illustrates how God the Father is also sad:
· First, Jesus was sad to see the impact that this fallen world had on his friends. Because of sin, death reigns in this world and it made Jesus sad to see how this affected those who were mourning Lazarus’ death.
o In the same way, it saddens God to see his perfect creation ruined by sin and his creation suffering under its curse. I believe that God is sad that we have to face death, disease, war, crime, hatred and so forth.
· Second, Jesus was sad to see the pain that we cause ourselves by our own rebellion. It’s bad enough that we live in a fallen, sinful world: we bring a lot of our suffering on ourselves with our sin. Jesus was sad to see Jerusalem suffering because of their rebellion.
o In the same way, God is sad to see the ways that we ruin our lives with our own sin and rebellion. He has given us his law and his word to show us how to live, yet we continue to sin against him, bringing judgment and suffering upon ourselves.
· Finally, Jesus was amazed with sadness to see people rejecting his offer of healing by their lack of faith. Even though he was in his own hometown the people would not trust in him. Their lack of faith kept them from being healed.
o In the same way, God is sad when we fail to receive such a great offer of salvation and healing from him.
o God has an answer for this sinful world: he is coming to make all things new.
o God has an answer for our sin and rebellion: he sent his son to pay for our sins.
o Yet, so many of us refuse to receive that salvation because of our lack of faith. Not only do we reject his salvation, we reject his guidance, his forgiveness, his comfort, his joy and his hope. All because we refuse to believe. This, I think, causes God the most sadness.
Sadness: the emotion we feel when our expectation does not match our reality. Jesus felt this many times during his time on earth, always in response to our sin and the consequences on us.
God feels the same way to us when we suffer needlessly. For you see, we need not suffer, we can turn to God and find the full life that he desires for us.
We can escape this sinful world, we can escape the judgment that we have brought upon ourselves, we can have the healing in every aspect of our life that we so desperately need.
If we love God, we would want to avoid making him sad, and we can do that today by turning to him for healing and forgiveness, which can only be found in his son, Jesus Christ.