Few weeks ago, dozens of Hollywood celebrities arrived at the Oscars in Los Angeles. I think it is safe to say that weeks of preparations went into each and every arrival. Each person was painfully aware of what he or she was wearing and how they looked. Each arrival was carefully staged and likely each celebrity had a few remarks prepared for the crush of the media before they arrived. It was an entrance that was very, very carefully planned before a foot was set on that red carpet.
When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, His entry was even more elaborately planned for this was something the prophets in the Old Testament said would happen hundreds of years before. Yet the way Jesus entered Jerusalem was anything but an entrance filled with glitz and glamour. Still the donkey and palm branches symbolize the fact that Jesus was acclaimed as a king. However, what Jesus does after His arrival is quite remarkable. He does something that a head of state would likely ever do: Jesus cries! These verses teach us something very important about who Jesus is and what He came to do. Jesus cries because He loves the very people who are going to reject Him. Let’s read Luke 19:28-44.
Jesus was approaching the city of Jerusalem during the triumphal entry. Jesus was riding on a donkey amid all the palm branches and cheers from the crowd. Coats were placed on the road to make a suitable path for Jesus as they shouted “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” The road from Bethany to Jerusalem comes around a large bend and suddenly the city of Jerusalem comes into view.
Then amid the cheers, there is the unmistakable sound of Jesus Himself crying. The word Luke uses makes it clear that it was not just a few tears trickling down his cheeks, but great sobbing and weeping aloud. And this must have seemed so utterly odd. This is not what you expect after a grand entrance like this.
Do we have trouble with the image of Jesus crying? We sometimes want Jesus to be tough and or at least in control of his emotions, right? It’s okay if he had emotions but keep them under control. “Jesus, be calm and in control and by all means, don’t make a scene!” We don’t know how the disciples reacted but if we had been there, we might have been at least perplexed and perhaps embarrassed because of Jesus’ response.
But you see, this shows just how deeply Jesus felt things. He was sobbing in a way that would make most of us feel uncomfortable. This is the kind of crying that we see when an overwhelming tragedy occurs. This is the kind of crying that we may have seen when a person is told that a spouse or child has died in an accident.
Verse 42 gives the reason: Jesus said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Jesus is not sobbing because the people of Israel had seen so much violence, oppression and bloodshed, which they certainly had. Jesus’ tears are not like those we might shed for those who are dying from famine in Africa or victims of the some other natural disaster like in Columbia or those who innocently killed in wars terrible violent acts. These are not tears for those who suffer innocently.
The depth of this is seen in two words in verse 42, the first being the word “known.” To “know” is not just an intellectual knowledge, but it reflects a relationship with God. They had known it was possible to live at peace with God and they rejected it. These people could have had “peace.” The word peace refers to the peace with God that could only come when one believes in and accepts Jesus. These people had seen Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching. They had Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Messiah, in their midst and they refused to see him as he was and to believe in him fully. They had the opportunity for peace with God through Jesus, but had rejected it. God came to them and they turned their backs on Him. That is what breaks Jesus’ heart.
What breaks Jesus’ heart in our lives? Jesus has come to give us peace so that we can live in peace with God. And yet so often we go our own way and follow our own desires. We politely thank Jesus for dying for us and then do what we want to do anyway. We selfishly live for ourselves and follow our own desires rather than following our Lord.
We know that we are to do certain things in the name of Jesus and we don’t do them. We know that we are to care for the poor and the victims of injustice and we fail to do this very basic teaching found throughout the whole Bible. We know we are to live generously and show kindness to others and instead we live for ourselves and find ways to justify it that would make the Pharisees proud. What is it in your life that would cause Jesus to say, “I’ve come to you and you still are rejecting the peace I came to give you?”
In verses 43-44 he says, “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
The judgment Jesus describes is an ancient battle strategy: the siege. The enemy builds an embankment around the entire city out of earth and lumber. This embankment is for its own defense as well as a place to launch their attack. The result is that the entire city is completely cut off and slowly grows weakened. Eventually the enemy could enter the city and the destruction would be complete. All the inhabitants, adults and children, would be killed or taken captive. The city itself would often be burned to complete the destruction. What Jesus describes here did actually happen to Jerusalem less than 40 years later. It is because of this terrible destruction and even more so because of the people’s refusal to recognize and accept God’s offer of peace in Jesus that Jesus cries. Jesus wished that they would believe in Him, but they would not. Jesus loves his people and weeps for His people because they have rejected Him.
So let’s ask ourselves this question: Does Jesus still weep today? Certainly there are many things that deeply sadden our Lord. There are many people who have never heard of him. There are many people who have heard the gospel, but have rejected Jesus. And Jesus sees Christians sitting back, not caring and I believe He weeps.
But God continues to love these people even when He is rejected. In fact, God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” For some here this morning, there is the clear invitation. Perhaps you have heard the invitation before and have said “no.” God offers His peace to you this morning and weeps if you refuse His call to you. God is not waiting for you to become “better” or more moral; He simply wants you to believe in Him.
Schipper continued, “The newspaper had slipped downward as the story progressed and ultimately I just had to ask where dad was now. ‘Oh, I’ve got him on the Harley. Let me go get him.’ He returned carrying his motorcycle helmet with a plastic bag of dad’s cremated remains hidden inside. Turns out he was going to bury dad in the sand of this most wonderful place. “Turns out I’m a Chaplain,” Schipper said. “Would you like me to pray or something to mark the moment?” The man gave Schipper a most peculiar look and then thoughtfully paused. “No,” he said, “but I’m really glad that you are here. How about just being my look-out so I won’t get caught.”
Schipper watched as he disappeared down into the saw grass and fulfilled his promise. He shook Schipper’s hand jubilantly on his way out and said, “Thank you, that was really amazing! I can’t tell you how glad I am that you were here.” Schipper wrote, “And then, he just rode off, leaving baffled me behind trying to figure out what had just happened.”
God weeps for people like the man on the motorcycle and the person you work with or live next door to who shows no interest in spiritual things. So let’s look for the opportunities to be a witness to those around us. These are the people Jesus weeps for and he invites us to be used by him to share the good news of Jesus with them in words or in simple acts of kindness. Jesus is calling us to pray that others may come to receive eternal life. I believe Jesus is still weeping for those who are lost; are we weeping with Him?