King Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
Text: Luke 19:41-
Readings: Luke 13:33-
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and he had nearly arrived. For the last, relatively short journey from the Mount of Olives to the city itself, Jesus had prepared a very public approach – there was to be no quiet slipping into the city on this visit instead he planned a royal entry.
How important it is to understand just who Jesus is! His identity is not a matter of indifference but is key – Jesus was coming to Jerusalem as a king, the king!
As Jesus made his way down the slopes of the Mount of Olives he was accompanied by a large crowd made up mostly of disciples who were cheering him along the way. This crowd would later grow even larger as it was added to by numbers coming out of the city to welcome him.
The scene is a festive one full of excitement and animation.
That’s where pick up the story this morning.
Jerusalem comes into View
The city of Jerusalem was built on top of a hill but it wasn’t the highest of the hills in the region. While Jerusalem rose 745m above sea level the Mount of Olives was 80m higher. As Jesus and the crowd progressed they turned a corner and the city of Jerusalem came into view. A valley lay in between but from the slopes of the Mount of Olives the city of Jerusalem was clearly visible below them.
And suddenly the whole atmosphere changes. The excitement of the coming of the king is, for a few moments, extinguished for the King has started to weep, he has burst into tears.
This wasn’t the only time the Bible tells us that Jesus wept. He wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus – death is the horrible result of sin and Jesus was deeply moved by it. The writer to the Hebrews also tells us more generally that Jesus shed tears frequently as he prayed.
Here now, outside the city of Jerusalem he weeps again.
Jesus wasn’t weeping for himself even though he knew that in a week’s time he would be put to an agonizing and humiliating death outside the city walls. No, Jesus did not shed tears here for himself but for the city and its inhabitants:
v.41 "when he saw the city, he wept over it."
Here we have further evidence, if indeed we needed any, that Jesus loved the city and its inhabitants. He knew all about the fickleness of the people and their underlying hostility towards God and to himself yet still we find him weeping over the city.
This section at the end of Luke 19 is charged with echoes from an earlier period of Jewish history. Jeremiah was a prophet who also spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem that would take place in his day as Babylon invaded and wreaked havoc upon the nation demolishing the Temple of the day. Jeremiah was known as the "weeping prophet" for he too was greatly moved as he contemplated the sorry state of his nation, a nation resolutely set to disobey God and ignore his word:
Jer.9:1 "Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!"
It was Jeremiah too who prophesied that God’s house would be transformed from being a house of prayer to become a den of thieves – a prophecy which Luke records in the next few verses.
And here it is King Jesus who weeps over stubborn, sinful Jerusalem!
My friends, the God with whom we have to deal is no cold, hard emotionless deity who is indifferent to the plight of men and women, boys and girls. No, our God was moved with compassion to send his only begotten Son to be the Saviour of the world. It was love that moved the Father to send his Son and it was love that caused the Son to come!
The Bible’s presentation of Jesus is astonishing. The Jesus of the Bible is God incarnate, the One through whom and for whom all creation came into existence, he spoke to the winds and waves stilling them with a word, similarly he cast out evil spirits with a word of command but he is also presented to us as a man of warmth and compassion: he healed all kinds of diseases and sicknesses in all kinds of people happily receiving the most despised members of society.
Do you know this Jesus?
Tears are Explained
Jesus saw, Jesus wept and Jesus spoke and it is time for us to consider just what he had to say at this significant moment of his approach towards Jerusalem.
What did Jesus mean by these words? They are very important so let’s break it down into sections.
Firstly, it should be clear to us that Jesus is concerned with peace and those things that make for peace. And this peace should be understood as referring to peace with God. It was just such a peace that the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not have.
Jesus’ words reveal his diagnosis of the problem that the inhabitants of Jerusalem had. It was a diagnosis that is by no means limited to them alone but indeed to the whole of mankind. It is a diagnosis that is relevant to each and every ordinary human being who lives in the world with no saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Put simply: man in his natural has no peace with God. That is what Jesus meant when he said they didn’t know what made for peace. You simply don’t speak that way about someone who does have peace with God.
The folk lived in Jerusalem the city where God had chosen to make himself known, the place where he had chosen for his Temple to be built as the place where he would meet with his people. They had enormous privileges but they made no use of them – they were ignorant of the essentials, the most important things that made for this peace with God.
That should stir us. It is possible to live in a so-
"The things that make for peace" – Jesus was referring to himself. He was the King who came humbly riding on a donkey and coming in peace. As the Good Shepherd, he was soon going to lay down his life for his sheep. He had organised the events of his entry that was taking place at just that moment in order to draw attention to himself. In the week that was about to begin he would dominate events again putting himself at the centre of attention for all in Jerusalem. But the fickle crowd happy to acclaim him one day would be ready to turn against him when he didn’t do things the way they wanted.
Do you understand these "things that make for peace"? Do you recognise who Jesus is and the extraordinary value and worth of what he did in coming to die on the cross to secure the forgiveness of sins for all those who will put their faith and trust in him? And more than seeing these things have you actually gone on to actually put your faith in him having repented of your sin?
Secondly, Jesus’ words make clear that he longed for the inhabitants of the city to come to know the things of which they were so ignorant. He understood that had these dear people really understood who he was and what he had come to do they would then have acted in a totally different manner to the one in which they were to act. True knowledge about who Jesus is and what he came to do is never mere head knowledge it is knowledge that leads to a change of heart and to a new course of action.
True knowledge about Jesus doesn’t show itself by us simply resolving to turn over a new leaf or to try a bit harder in some vague way – it means agreeing with his diagnosis that we have taken wrong decisions in our lives, decisions with which God is displeased and for which he will hold us accountable. Admitting our failure with a desire to be changed is what repentance is all about. But admitting failure is not enough, we need help and when we have a true understanding we realise that Jesus is the only one who can help us. Knowing this means we will apply to him personally for his help and for his forgiveness – we won’t try to sort matters out for ourselves any other way.
Thirdly, Jesus declared that the truth the inhabitants of Jerusalem needed (as which we too need) was, in fact, hidden from their eyes. Of course they could see what was taking place but they weren’t able to understand the significance of it all – it was this significance and the meaning of the facts that was hidden to them. That should make us stop and think too: do we understand what Jesus and his life and death mean for us?
But the question can be asked "Who hid these things from them?" and we have two alternative possibilities:
Satan is described as acting in this manner:
2Cor.4:4 "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
How futile to rely on mere human efforts to dispel this kind of darkness! And how important to know that God is able to shine in human hearts in order to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The second of the two possibilities is found on Jesus’ own lips when he quoted the prophet Isaiah in:
Jn. 12:40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart..."
This time the reference is not to Satan at all but to the One True Living God and the reference is to a judicial hardening of the heart and mind of those who have long set themselves to reject the truth that was presented to them.
If Jesus had this in mind here then surely the words are meant to serve as a very serious warning. Beware of putting off repentance and calling out for salvation – an opportunity missed may well turn out to be the last one we have. If we understand today we should act today for we may find we simply do not understand tomorrow!
Ignorance is a terrible thing especially when it concerns the Saviour of the World – we will not be able to plead ignorance as our defence argument:
Acts 3.17, 19 "And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers... Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,
The underlying assumption of Jesus’ words is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would have changed had they really understood. Have you understood? Have you changed?
A Future without Hope
Jesus continued to explain why the change of heart and behaviour that would have flowed from a true knowledge and understanding of these crucial matters was so important. Wrong behaviour flowing from a corrupt orientation would lead to catastrophic results!
Specifically for the inhabitants of Jerusalem their persistence in rejecting him as their King and Messiah would lead to a rejection of the entire nation, a rejection that would be symbolized by the very literal destruction of the city that would take place in AD70.
At that time the Jewish nation after a failed revolt against the occupying Roman forces would see their capital destroyed and their razed to the ground. The fall of the city would reflect the fall from grace of the nation of Israel.
The nation had been so privileged down through the years, down through the centuries. God had chosen the nation intending to make himself known through her to the entire world. God had given her prophets who had communicated faithfully his word and the promised Saviour, the Messiah, came from this nation. But there was such little fruit to be seen and the nation itself would be passed over as she rejected her King who came indeed in the name of the Lord.
And it could all be summed up in terms of this ignorance, this lack of understanding. The people simply did not know the time of their visitation v.44.
God had come to the nation. God was coming at the very moment in the person of his Son into the city of Jerusalem. He was coming, recognised by some but only by a few. The leaders of the people hated this King riding on a donkey proclaiming peace with God through him and him alone. These same leaders would do all in their power to lead the inhabitants of the city away from faith and trust in Jesus Christ. These inhabitants just a few days later would join in the rejection of their king as they would lift their voices and cry out putting pressure on the weak Roman governor with their:
"Crucify, crucify him." (Lk.23:21)
King Jesus was moved with compassion as he gazed upon the rebellious city that he loved and was prepared to save:
Lk.13:34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"
It was too late for Jerusalem however. They simply would not have Jesus to be King over them and what loss and destruction followed for them! It need not be the same for you today. There is yet an opportunity to seek the Lord while he may be found – but don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Ask God to show you what it is you don’t understand and go on asking until he gives you the understanding that will cause you to run to the Saviour.
May God give us all grace.