Weeping over Jerusalem
18th March 2016
Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village of Bethphage, two miles east of Jerusalem, to fetch a young donkey. When its owners asked them what they thought they were doing, they simply said, "The Lord needs it". That answer was all that needed to be said. True friends of Jesus, true believers, will always provide what Jesus needs.
It would be good for us to find a quiet place and ask ourselves, "What does Jesus need from us?" When His command comes, will the fact the Jesus is Lord be sufficient reason for us to obey?
They put Jesus on the donkey, and He began to ride towards Jerusalem, travelling over the Mount of Olives and passing by the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Prince of Peace was coming to His capital city. For a thousand years or more, the people had waited for the Messiah to come, and here He was. By riding on a donkey, He showed that He came as a man of peace, not of war, demonstrating that His kingdom was not of this world, as He would tell Pontius Pilate later that week (in John 18:36).
For three and a half years, the people of Judea and Galilee had seen and heard Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God, healing the sick, befriending the sinners, welcoming the children, showing by example how kind, gentle and godly a man can be when he's in right relationship with God. Sometimes, He'd had to stay in the country, or move about carefully, to avoid the authorities. But now the time had come. Now He was coming openly.
This was a triumphal procession, but it wasn't a military procession; Jesus was proclaiming the triumph of peace over war, of love over hatred, of the kingdom of heaven over the kingdoms of this world.
When the people of the city heard the news, they streamed out of the east gate, known as the Lions Gate, and joined the crowd already lining the road (John 12:18). The people were really excited. They gladly took off their cloaks and laid them on the road in front of Jesus's donkey. They were glad to be able to make a sacrifice, to have some small part in this momentous occasion, to add a little bit to the glory of Jesus Christ. Not one of them wondered whether his small sacrifice was worthwhile. They all knew that when you add up all the small sacrifices of all the individual believers on the Bethany road, it made a magnificent spectacle. The road was covered in cloaks and (Matthew and Mark tell us) with the branches of palm trees. And they shouted out:
The king was coming, and they were going to celebrate! They were going to shout for joy!
The celebration grew so loud that some people, who thought of themselves as very religious people, very respectable people, complained to Jesus, and told him to make them keep the noise down. But if you're excited because Jesus is here, it's not really appropriate to keep the noise down. It's good to shout for the coming King.
The Pharisees, the ones doing the complaining, had very rigid ideas about religion but, like a lot of religious people, their lives weren't as holy as they liked to pretend. Perhaps Jesus was quoting:
And Jesus began to weep:
Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to offer the city peace, knowing full well that His message would be rejected, and He'd be executed in just five days' time. There is no peace without repentance, and Jesus knew they wouldn't repent.
He knew that the crowd was excited. He knew that were welcoming Him as Messiah and King. He knew they were right to be excited. But he also knew they didn't understand. He hadn't come to lead a rebellion against the Romans. He hadn't come to set the Jews free from Roman law and Roman taxes and Roman brutality. He'd come to offer them real peace, eternal peace.
In fact, the first thing He did when he entered Jerusalem again the next day was to drive out the Jewish temple money-changers, to protest against the corruption of religion. The religious authorities had turned the temple, which God had intended to be a house of prayer for all nations, into a den of robbers.
Jesus didn't weep for himself. He didn't weep because he knew they'd arrest him, lie about him, torture Him and crucify Him. He wept for them. He wept for the holy city, for the people who would reject him, and who would pay a terrible price:
Forty years later, this prophecy was fulfilled. The Romans invaded Judea, laid siege to Jerusalem, killed most of the inhabitants, laid waste to the city and destroyed the temple. Not one stone was left on another. God is patient, but He's not patient for ever. If only they'd known what would bring them peace: repentance and faith in the Christ who would die for them in five days' time.
Today, we can turn away from Jesus. We can refuse to believe, refuse to repent. We can refuse the peace He offers.
Jesus comes to bring us peace with God, peace with others, and peace with ourselves - peace with our thoughts, and our history, and our consciences. He comes to pay the price for us, to forgive us, to give us right relationship with God.
If we respond to His message with faith and repentance, Jesus offers us eternal life, full forgiveness of sins, adoption as children of God and the fulness of the Holy Spirit.
If we refuse His message, He weeps over the destruction that will surely follow.