Weeping With King Jesus Over Ukraine

We’re cleaning out our basement as we do a remodel, and I’m finding all sorts of old treasures (and plenty of junk) in box after box. I came across an old framed print of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. I was immediately transported back to college, to the moment my faith was being awakened in a radical way. During that time, I bought my one (and only to this day) artistic print to frame. I was drawn to the Savior’s tears over a wayward city bent on violence. The city of Jerusalem means “peace” but the Way to peace was tragically hidden from many eyes. This week I am again drawn to that image of Jesus weeping over a war torn city.

When I stand up in the pulpit on a week when war has broken out on European soil for the first time in 80 years and say, “How are we to respond as a people?”, I am not referring primarily to how we Americans as a country should respond (though I care deeply about that and have opinions), but how we Christian followers of The Way should respond to this crisis. I’m not asking, “What should the U.S. military do?” but rather “What should Christ’s army of non-violent prayer warriors and peace-makers do”? And so far I have decided we should be joining Jesus in weeping over the situation in Ukraine.

Have you ever noticed worldly kings rarely weep (in public)? Not so with our King of Kings. Our King weeps.

While I watch missiles fly and tanks roll in on the news, I’m preparing to lead our church into the season of Lent that follows Jesus to the cross where he address our violent ways once and for all, showing his followers (and onlookers) a better Way. Jesus’ final week on earth began with him weeping over a city and leaders bent on violence. Many wanted the Messiah to roll in on a war horse, but he came humbly on a donkey. Tears dripping down his cheeks, he cried out a weary lament:

But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.” 

Luke 19:41-45

My heart is broken today for Ukraine and our world that still “doesn’t understand the Way to peace.” I began both my classes this morning at the university with a reflection and prayer based on this Scripture above. King Jesus continues to weep over our world, our cities, our nations, our wayward rulers and evil tyrants, and warped ideologies. In an earlier lament over the same city, Jesus poured out (no doubt in tears) his soul with a similar sentiment:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (Luke 13). Do you hear the tone of an exasperated father watching his beloved children train wreck their lives, begging them to turn from their destructive ways but his pleas falling on deaf ears.

For Christians, the Dying Savior absorbed all the violence and injustice and sinful offenses against God and our fellow man in His body on the Cross. He did this in order to put the way of Violence to death, and launch a new regime of peace and enemy-love called the Kingdom of God. This same Dying Lord then sent out his followers–Kingdom citizens from every tribe, tongue, and nation–into a war torn world with the task of showing people an alternative to war, the superior power of love over violence, forgiveness over revenge, reconciliation over retaliation, and power that lifts others up rather than pushes others down.

“The rulers of the world push people around with their power,” Jesus said, “But it shall not be so among you [my disciples]. Whoever wants to be great [and powerful] among you will be a servant” (Mark 10:43).

His tears flow and his lament continues today as many refuse to be gathered underneath the wings of his wise and transformative teaching on the Way of Peace: “O Putin, Putin… How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.” In Putin’s case, I hope it is not too late. Let us pray that he might still be confronted by the Risen Christ like the murderous Saul/Paul once was on the road to Damascus.

Jesus came 2,000 years ago to end the cycle of “redemptive violence” and teach us the Way to peace. Jesus came to inaugurate the Day when Isaiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled and people would begin to “turn their guns into garden tools…and nations would train for war no more” (Isaiah 2:4). “But,” Jesus laments, “you did not recognize it the day God visited you.”

Why did they not recognize it? Answer: they refused to surrender their pragmatic, conventional “power-over” mentality for dealing with evil and dare to take up a more counterintuitive and less popular “power-under” mentality God’s Messiah embodied and taught when he visited this earth. Two-thousand years after he first uttered from the cross, “It is finished,” do we still not recognize the Way to Peace?

Today, I’m grateful to live in the land of the free. I’m grateful to those who have fought and shed blood for my political freedom. I’m praying for a swift end to military conflict in Ukraine and the restraint of evil by whatever means are wise and necessary. I’m grateful for all the humanitarian efforts being mobilized to alleviate the suffering.

I am equally grateful for the army of Kingdom warriors who will join me in praying for peace to prevail in Ukraine and around the world. May we pray for all who are in harm’s way, and may followers of Jesus take seriously their high calling to be a here-and-now foretaste of that New Creation Jesus will someday bring in full. Let our personal and public witness inspire others to dream and imagine (and implement already now) that More Excellent Way (1 Cor 12:31) to peace Jesus has called us to embody as citizens of Heaven.

May our first response be to join Jesus on that hill, weeping with Him over all the violence that still holds sway on this war torn planet these days — whether it be the tanks rolling into Ukraine or the gun violence on the streets of Minneapolis. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Let us make St. Francis’ prayer our prayer these days: “Make us instruments of your peace.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9).

“The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s