Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines, relates the findings of a study on stress. A group of mice were given a dose of amphetamines. As predicted, they became frantic, agitated, and eventually many of them died. The real surprise of the study came when another group of mice – who were not given the amphetamines, but who were with the others – showed certain symptoms: they became frantic, agitated, and eventually many of them died.
We live in a stressed-out world. On an “ordinary” day, most of us are like one group of mice or the other when it comes to stress. But today, with the headlines telling us to brace for the “hardest and saddest” couple of weeks of our lives, our stress may be off the charts. All of this, interestingly, is taking place during the hardest and saddest week in the story of Jesus’ life, which is the story of the world.
Whether you experience it as stress, worry, anxiety, fear, dis-ease, or something else, the reality is the same. What are we to do, and how are we to live? As we walk along the road to the cross (and then to Easter) with Jesus this week, we see him under stress; and we have an opportunity to honestly examine the stress in our own lives.
Where is your stress coming from today?
For today, read Luke 19:41-44.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
This isn’t the first time Jesus weeps. He is not frantic or agitated, but he is deeply grieved. The nation he loves, the people God chose to represent him to the world, have rejected him. He’s not surprised, just sad. And he sees ahead to the horrible siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 60, when the Roman general Titus will destroy the city and the Temple.
Apparently, there is a correlation between the people’s lack of acceptance of Jesus and their suffering. But Jesus doesn’t call this down as a vindictive punishment, he weeps over the reality that Jerusalem’s hardest and saddest days are still ahead of it. He acknowledges a cosmic reality: that God’s fallen, broken creation is estranged from its Creator, who is the source of peace.
And that is why Jesus was there. He was entering into the final, awful week of his suffering – precisely so that that fallen, broken creation could be reconciled to God. Jesus is not overcome by his stress; he acts on it sacrificially.