And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” -Luke 19:41-44
Jesus had entered Jerusalem for the final time before his arrest and death. It was Sunday, which we call Palm Sunday, and by Friday he would hang dead on a cross. Jesus had been to Jerusalem many times. One of the first acts of his ministry was to cleanse the temple, driving out the money exchangers and sellers of animals (John 2). He had taught openly in the temple colonnades and porticos. Now, from the vantage point of the Mt. of Olives, Jesus overlooked Jerusalem- one of the most beautiful cities in the Roman world, beautifully built with gleaming white walls, and at its center, the brilliant gold-topped Temple.
What should have been a sight to bring tears of joy and pride instead brought tears of sorrow and mourning to Jesus’ eyes. Tears of sorrow because Jesus could look ahead and see what was coming upon Jerusalem. Not just his own arrest, torture, and crucifixion, but Jesus looked a generation ahead and saw the complete destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple.
The Jews revolted against Roman control in 66 AD. Jerusalem fell under the control of rebel factions, and the Roman legions, led by future emperor General Titus, arrived at Jerusalem in April of 70 AD. The siege of the city began April 14, 70 AD, and ended with the capture of the city in August. The Romans sacked the city and demolished and burned the great Temple
Every word of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the city was fulfilled. This was the reason for his weeping.
But there is more to it than that. Jesus wept because even at that very hour of his arrival it was not too late for the people to repent and believe the Word of God. “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” Imagine, the Prince of Peace was about to enter their city, but the people did not recognize him or acknowledge him. Five days later they would crowd around Pilate’s judgment seat and shout for his crucifixion. They could have had Peace- God’s peace. And with God’s peace they could have had his blessing of safety and prosperity. Instead they chose to crucify the Lord of Glory, and in so doing they chose their own utter destruction. The “things of peace” were hidden from their eyes. They were so blinded by false doctrine and faithlessness they did not recognize the Messiah when they saw him face to face.
There has been much weeping over our city lately. The death of George Floyd, the protests, the riots, arson, destruction of property, and looting. And all of that during a horrible pandemic. But looking beyond all that, there is more that should make us weep. The number of souls who do not believe in Jesus, who know nothing of God or grace or forgiveness or eternal life. There are those who follow other gods, who hate and mock the Living God and the Christian religion. Their eternal loss is a greater disaster than anything that has befallen the city.
Our prayerful lament we borrow from Jesus, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” That is our very mission as a church and as a Christian religion. To make known to everyone the things that make for peace. To make known Jesus, the Prince of Peace. To make known the Peace he won on the cross. To make known the peace he offers sinners today. To make known the heaven of Peace in which everyone who believes has a room. “But now they are hidden from your eyes.” There is much work to do to open eyes to Jesus.
“ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?… 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” -Romans 10:14,15,17