Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
As we read yesterday of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, today we take up a lament of Jesus over the holy city. Luke is the only gospel to mention this ironic expression of profound sorrow from Jesus’ lips coming just after his exclamation to the Pharisees that “if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” That is, the lamentation comes right after the people’s expression of praise. We spoke yesterday of the people’s fickle hearts. These two episodes juxtaposed against each other highlight our fickle nature and how we so easily change given our circumstances: Those who praise him now will reject him later.
So as Jesus draws near the city, he who receives the people’s praises begins to weep, not over himself and the suffering that awaits him, but over the city itself which destruction he prophesies both here and again a few days hence. It was a dire judgment of God on the city wreaked by the Romans in A.D. 70, roughly forty years after Jesus’ prophetic words. It was truly a horrible event as described by Josephus, a Jewish historian, writing of it at the end of the first century.
But at this point, we wish to underscore our Lord’s compassion even in judgment. Jesus says that the judgment rendered by God was over their rejection of himself, since they “did not know the time of [their] visitation.” Had they received their king, this would not have happened. Of course, that they would not receive him was prophesied (Isaiah 53, to list just one reference), and was an essential part of God’s plan in redeeming His people. The mystery of the relation between God’s foreordination and man’s freedom of will is beyond my feeble mind to understand or explain and is unnecessary to cover for this devotion. But what is necessary to cover is our Lord’s heart for sinful man. God is not happy when executing discipline upon His children, no more than we are when we must do the same. Jesus can only weep as he peers into the future and sees the city surrounded by armies. It is a pitiful sight, especially in contrast to the people’s praises presently surrounding him. We do not know the future, and it is good that we do not. But we do know that whatever comes, be it blessing or sorrow, that our Lord is not absent but rejoices or weeps with us. And He calls us to do the same with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 12:15). In this way, the ministry of the Church fills up the sufferings of Christ as we care for one another even in the midst of judgment. Then let us bear one another’s burdens as he did ours all the way to the cross (Galatians 6:2).