“No More Tears”
All Saints’ Day (Observed), November 5, 2017
The End of Tears
Text: Revelation 7:(2–8) 9–17
Today we are going to talk about crying. You know, tears, snorfling, weeping. Now to be clear, we are talking about sad crying, not happy crying. Erica will tell you I tear up every time I watch the movie “Miracle” or see footage of the end of that hockey game. (1980 Winter Olympics: USA 4, USSR 3)
There have been pop songs about crying. (Roy Orbison comes to mind.) Movies showed us Scott Farkus mocking Ralphie Parker when he started to cry after getting hit with a snowball, and also tell us there is no crying in baseball.
I mention this as there is an old saying that says that this life we live here is a “vale of tears.” That is an old English way of saying, “valley of tears.” That expression comes from a single Bible passage: Ps 84:6. Our English Bibles today don’t translate that psalm verse with “valley of tears.” They just use the Hebrew word, Baca: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you [O Lord] . . . As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs . . .” The Valley of Baca. That Hebrew word Baca is related to “weeping.” Regardless, the expression “valley of tears” is still known to us—and the experience of life as a “valley of tears” is known to us as well.
Even though we are Christians, we still experience those tears. We who believe in Jesus are God’s saints, but we are not immune to the bad stuff. Quite the contrary. Yet, on this observance of All Saints’ Day, we rejoice, because, yes, Life in This World Is Often a “Vale of Tears,” but the Day Is Coming When God Will Wipe Away Our Tears Forever.
Again, I will state for you here that this world truly is a vale of tears. Even though pop psychology tells us such a view is unhealthy, and advertisers and marketers tell us it’s untrue, we know better, right? When it comes to advertisers contradicting this, E.D. commercials are good for this. (You know, the people in the bathtubs.) Or have you noticed in every beer commercial everybody is always smiling? “I have this beer in my hand, and I can’t stop smiling!”
We know that life is not us always smiling. There are so many sources of tears.
Physical pain can cause us to cry. So far, praise the Lord, I have not hurt enough from running to cause this. But I can tell that I have shed tears when passing kidney stones.
Grief over death is an obvious one. I am sure we have all shed tears in a hospital room, funeral home, or church at the loss of a loved one.
Loneliness or rejection too, right? I am guessing most of us have shed tears when we have come to the realization that someone we cared about strongly did not feel the same way about us.
Sympathy for others is another one. Sometimes we cry simply because others are crying. Comfort Dog handlers know all about this, right?
And the last one I have for you is our own sin and guilt. How often have we wept when we realize that we are poor, miserable, sinners? This has happened in the Bible. Ezra 9:15–10:1: Ezra and the people of Israel wept when confessing their sins. Lk 7:37–38: the woman with the ointment wept while cleaning and anointing Jesus’ feet. Mt 26:75: Peter cried when he realized he had denied Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted. If we saw our own sin completely and in all its gory splendor, we, too, would weep greatly and bitterly.
Even in our happiest moments, there is often some sorrow. Author Henri Nouwen wrote: “There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness. When you touch the hand of a returning friend, you already know that he will have to leave you again. . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.”1
This is a world where we know tears and sadness. God knows this. In compassion for us, God is not blind or deaf to our weeping. There are Biblical examples of this as well, of course. God heard the cries of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt (Ex 3:1–8). God heard Hagar crying in the wilderness when Abraham ran her and their son Ishmael off (Gen 21:8–21). God heard the cries of childless Hannah and blessed her with Samuel (1 Sam 1:9–20).
What tears have you shed? God has seen your tears and heard your weeping. The Psalms speak of God storing up our tears in a bottle and keeping a record of them in a book (Ps 56:8).
But God has done more than notice our tears. In Jesus Christ, He has actually entered into our valley of sorrows. And Jesus experienced sorrows. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died (Jn 11:33, 35). Jesus cried over Jerusalem and its coming divine judgment (Lk 19:41). Jesus cried in sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing the path of betrayal, abandonment, and death that was before Him (Mk 14:33–34; Heb 5:7).
But Jesus also came to do more than simply weep with those who were sad or in mourning, He came to take away their tears! To the widow at Nain, Jesus comes to raise her dead son, saying, “Do not weep” (Lk 7:13). To those wailing at the death of a man’s little daughter, he says, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” At first, they mocked Him, but soon the girl was alive, and their tears were gone (Lk 8:52)! To Mary Magdalene, weeping in the garden outside His tomb, Jesus comes to speak her name and to bring her resurrection joy (Jn 20:11–16)!
One day, our God end all of this crying stuff. This world is a vale of tears, but its tears are temporary! This is God’s promise to us: Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy (John 16:20).
And then there is our text. A day is coming when John’s vision will be our own vision, it will be what we see. A huge multitude from every nation, all dressed in white, with palm branches and songs worshiping Jesus. No hunger! No thirst! And no tears! The blood of the Lamb (v 14) will have made all the difference. Jesus’ death and resurrection means that will be us someday. In that day, crying, weeping, snorfling, will be no more.
For now, we wait. And often, we weep. But I have Good News. “Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus says, “for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:4). And as we wait for the day God will dry our tears, we look for opportunities to dry the tears of others, to extend to them God’s own compassion, to bring them the good news of Jesus—who saw their tears, carried their sorrows, and forgave them by His blood.
Today, we remember God’s faithfulness to those who have died in the faith, whose struggles and sorrows are over, whose tears have ended. God’s saints shed many tears in this world. But for His saints in heaven, there is no more crying—just joy. They see the face of God (Mt 5:8), and God sees them. And one day when we see Him face to face, He will reach out his nail-marked hands to us—and wipe away every tear.
In Jesus’ Name.
Adapted from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 27, Part 4.
1. Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2004), 53–54.