Jesus and His disciples had left the area around the Sea of Galilee and walked the approximately seventy-five miles to Jerusalem. They had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover along with other Jews from all over. Jesus entered Jerusalem mounted on a donkey with the people cutting branches from the trees and spreading them and their coats in the road before Him. They were convinced He was the Messiah. The crowds went ahead of Him and shouted praise. “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) In only a few short days the tides would turn and a Jewish crowd would be shouting, “Crucify, crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:22,23; Luke 23:21)
In reading the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in the Gospel of Luke, my attention honed in on Luke 19:41-44.
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
It troubles me when I read about Jesus weeping. Jesus knew what was coming for Jerusalem. Jesus was probably referring to the soon to occur destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. And it was all because they did not recognize Him.
God set apart a people for Himself. The Jewish people. Through them God revealed Himself – what it means to be in a covenant relationship with Him. What it means to love Him with all your heart and soul and might. And through God’s people would come the Messiah, the Savior of the world. But God’s own people did not recognize Him. They could have had peace. And now it was gone. Jesus wept over what was to come.
The horrific history: In A.D. 66 (a short 35 years or so after Jesus was crucified), the Jewish people rebelled against the Romans who were ruling Judea. Emperor Nero sent a massive army to put the rebellion down. The northern area was defeated by A.D. 68 and Rome turned their full force on Jerusalem. They surrounded the city. Starved them. Then in A.D. 70 the Romans broke the walls and burned and destroyed the temple. Most were slaughtered. Corpses piled up everywhere. Blood ran down the temple steps. Jerusalem lay in ruins. The few Jewish people who survived the destruction of Jerusalem were taken as slaves; many being sent to the mines in Egypt, many to the arenas, many as slaves to Roman households. The people were the spoils. The temple had been plundered and burnt to the ground. Never to be rebuilt. All that was left after the destruction was the Wailing Wall. (Read about this sad time in Jewish history in 70 Titus Destroys Jerusalem.)
The first believers in the gospel were Jewish. But by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, the Jews, for the most part, had rejected the gospel. By A.D. 100 the church was composed almost entirely of Gentiles (non-Jews.)
His own failed to recognize Him.
John 1:10-11 tells us:
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
And Luke 20:13-16 tells us in verses 15 and 16a:
“So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.”
Jesus knew his death was imminent. He knew the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was going to happen in the future. He knew His people would reject Him. He wept.
The hope though comes in John 1:12-13:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
I find Holy Week both heart-wrenching and at the same time flooding my heart with immense joy. Heart-wrenching for those who still don’t recognize Him. And yet a profound joy and gratitude in what Jesus has done for us. He willingly became the atoning sacrifice for a wretch like me... for a wretch like you. Through Him, we are saved.
Mere words don’t profess what my heart feels.
Recognize your Savior.