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Weeping Over Jerusalem

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Luke 19:41‑44

Weeping Over Jerusalem

We must not speak of the end of the wicked harshly, flippantly or smugly.  Rather, there should be holy grief.  We should learn to weep as Jesus wept.  Bible teacher Paul Rees tells of two ministers who were living in London at the height of the blitz when German warplanes were wreaking destruction on the city every night.  The bombing was frightful.  Thousands of innocent people were being killed.

One minister looked at the crater left by a bomb blast, a place where a house had once stood, and said, “Oh, how I hate Hitler.  I wish I could be God for just ten minutes.”  The other replied, “Friend, if you were God for ten minutes, I wouldn't want to be in your universe for ten seconds.”  The second had the spirit of Jesus.

Rev. Fernando Vangioni, an Associate Evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team, tells the story of an incident which occurred near the conclusion of a crusade in South America.  A woman came up to him and asked for his help the following night.  She said, “Tomorrow night I am bringing a girl with me whom I would like you to talk to.  She is very young, but she has gone through some terrible things.  About two years ago she went to New York City because people told her it would mean a beautiful new life.  But it wasn't that for her.  She fell in with bad company, particularly immoral men who used her shamefully.  They passed her around.  Her dreams were shattered.  Not long ago she came home, and she is very bitter.  I have been trying to get her to come to the meetings, but she has refused until this moment.  Finally, she said, ‘All right, I'll go once on the condition that you won't ask me again.’  So, I am bringing her tomorrow.  It may be the only chance she will have to hear the gospel.  Will you speak to her after the service?”

Mr. Vangioni said he would speak with the young woman, and on the next evening he was looking for her as he preached.  He saw her in the back, next to the woman who had brought her.  After the service ended he went to the back, was introduced and began to talk to the girl about the gospel.

She was hostile.  “Don't preach to me,” she said.

There is not a great deal anybody can do in a situation like that.  So Mr. Vangioni stopped talking and sad, “Well, do you mind if I pray for you?”

“You can pray all you like,” she said, “but I won't listen.”

He began to pray.  And, as he prayed, there was something about the girl's sad life revealed in her hard, hard face that touched him deeply.  Tears began to run down his cheeks and he became quite choked up.  At last he stopped.  There was nothing he could add.  “All right, you can go now,” he said finally.

Her reply was marvellous.  “No,” the girl said, “I won't go.  You can preach to me now.  No man has ever cried for me before.”

Are you a Christian?  Are you concerned for others?  Do you know they are perishing?  How can you not be moved for them?  Jesus wept for Jerusalem.  Should we not weep for our cities?  Is there nothing about Edmonton that might cause us to weep?  About Calgary?  About Vancouver?  Or Saskatoon?  Or Winnipeg?  Or Toronto?  Or Montreal?  Or Halifax?  Or any great city?  Even if your conformity to Christ is not sufficiently advanced to cause you to weep for a city, can you not weep for just one somebody who is perishing?  A parent?  A child?  A neighbour?  A friend?

Jesus Wept because the People Were Precious To God.  Why do we weep?  What situations cause us to weep?  Have you given thought to an answer to the question?  People weep in frustration.  There is no evidence that Jesus ever wept in frustration.  People weep in pain.  Though suffering massive pain in His crucifixion there is not a hint that Jesus wept at the onslaught of anguish which He experienced on the cross.  People weep because of compassion, because of sorrow, because of love.  If we focus on reasons such as this we come close to understanding why Jesus wept.

Jesus had passed through Jericho.  There he encountered a man named Zacchaeus who had heard of Jesus.  Climbing into a sycamore tree this despised tax collector was startled to have the Lord Christ address him: Zacchaeus, come down immediately [Luke 19:5]. Believing that Jesus was the Messiah, Zacchaeus was converted.  The man who had formerly been motivated by his love of money was suddenly and completely motivated by the desire to honour God.  Jesus’ pronouncement of his transformation is insightful.  Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost [Luke 19:9,10].

Jesus seized that opportunity to relate a parable, a means of teaching for which He was justly famous.  He told the parable of the ten minas, a story of how different servants parlayed what was entrusted to their keeping into yet more for the Master… that is all save one servant.  One servant tried to hide the mina entrusted to him, only to have his motives exposed and suffer censure.  The key to understanding this parable is the words of the master who applies a frightful standard to the slothful servant.  The master says I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant [Luke 19:22]!  Great privilege imposes great responsibility and no people had enjoyed greater privilege to that date then had the people of Israel.  The stage was set to call a slothful people to account.

I suggest that Jesus wept out of love.  Christ the Son of God loved His ancient people, but the love of God is too great to be restricted to one nation.  The verse which every child learns early in Sunday School addresses this truth.  You will recall John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  God does not love this world system, for it is an enmity with Him.  God does not love this contaminated, dying world; but God does love those who inhabit this world and the evidence of His love is that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for the sin of all mankind.  Thus Christ revealed the love of God through His tears.  The tears which Jesus wept were the tears of God and each reflected an infinity of love.

In the hours preceding Jesus’ tears falling over Jerusalem we are witnesses to exceptional events … a bad man is saved and good people are condemned.  Preparing to enter Jerusalem Jesus arranged to ride into the city on a donkey’s colt.  Gathered around Jesus was a large company of disciples and these disciples began to loudly praise God.  They had witnessed many miracles, and the thought of His compassion moved them to spontaneously break out in loud shouts of joy and praise.  Matthew informs us that the crowd began to spread cloaks before Jesus that the hooves of the donkey need not strike the cobblestones.  They were cutting palm branches, waving them and placing them in the street before him as a sign of joy and in acknowledgement of His victory as Messiah. 

They were wrong, of course.  His coming was not to claim victory.  That coming will be later, for He shall yet come in victory.  The Second Psalm is the first Messianic Psalm included in the psaltery of the Jewish people.  David’s Psalm speaks of that coming victory when Messiah shall rule over the nations of the earth.

Why do the nations conspire

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together

against the LORD

and against his Anointed One.

“Let us break their chains,” they say,

“and throw off their fetters.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

the Lord scoffs at them.

Then he rebukes them in his anger

and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

“I have installed my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:

He said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have become your Father.

Ask of me,

and I will make the nations your inheritance,

the ends of the earth your possession.

You will rule them with an iron sceptre;

you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” 

[Psalm 2:1-9]

People are precious to God.  At a more intimate level, you are precious to God.  The love of God is such that He would have gladly sacrificed Himself for you, even had you been the sole occupant of this condemned world.  In John’s first letter is a beautiful passage which we need to hear.  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins [1 John 4:7-10].

I speak directly to Christian people when I say without equivocation, if we loved as Jesus loved our eyes would be wetted constantly with tears.  All around us are people who are precious to God.  We know this and even believe this with our minds, but somehow this truth has yet to grip our hearts.  So we have the strange phenomena of Christians who say with their lips, God loves you even as our lack of concern and thoughtless lives say to those same people, Go to hell.  My dear people, this should not be.  Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again [2 Corinthians 5:14,15].  We are different from what we once were, for God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us [Romans 5:5].  Let us therefore love enough to weep over the lost of our community.

Jesus Wept because the People Did Not Know God.  There is no question but that our Lord felt deep compassion for those who did not know God.  Mark, who perhaps more than any other evangelist exposes the heart of the Saviour for us, said that upon encountering a large crowd Jesus had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd [Mark 6:34].  His response was so different from ours.  He began teaching them many things.  The people were at the mercy of the moment, suffering at whatever whim precipitated the first movement.  Seeing their confusion and lack of direction, Jesus began to teach them.

I find it amazing that we Christians endeavour to emulate the master, but upon encountering the people of this world we think it necessary to do something different.  We want to feed them, to clothe them, to relieve them.  I am not saying that these are not good things, even actions worthy of worshippers of the Son of God, but the old saw which states that good is enemy of the best yet pertains.  When our Lord dispatched us into the world to preach the Good News to all creation His primary charge was that we teach [teaching them… cf. Matthew 28:20].

Jesus repeatedly displayed great compassion.  The word compassion is a revealing word.  It means literally with feeling.  Splagcnivzomai, the Greek word which is translated compassion in the New Testament speaks of showing mercy, of feeling pity.  It reveals the feelings of God as closely as anything we shall ever find.  What events or actions made Jesus feel compassion?  Encountering crowds He felt compassion because he saw them as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd [Matthew 9:36].  One must believe that the vast numbers of people without biblical teaching and without God and without hope in the world yet move the Master to have compassion.  Seeing the pain of suffering humanity moved the Master to compassion [Matthew 14:14].  Those who would seek Him to the point of personal sacrifice moved Him to compassion [Matthew 15:32].  Those who were hurting and yet sought Him were met with compassion [Matthew 20:34].  Those without hope in society move the Master to compassion [Mark 1:41].  Likewise, the grief which comes from the apparent conquest of the last enemy moved the Master to compassion [Luke 7:13].  In every one of these instances Jesus used the opportunity, not only to respond to the hurt of humanity, but also to teach.

Nothing moved the heart of the Saviour as did the sorrowful spectacle of a people called by the Name of God but who were ignorant of the very One they claimed to know.  If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace… [Luke 19:42]?  Here was the great catalyst for divine compassion!  The people claimed to know God, claimed to be known by God, and yet they were ignorant of the peril in which they then stood.  Had they never read the prophets?  Had they never heard the words of David?  Were they unfamiliar with the warnings of Moses?  Each alike had warned that if the people turned from the Living God they would suffer beyond anything imaginable.  Of course they knew of these warnings since they were read in the synagogues every day and since they were read in the Temple at each of the great feasts.  The tragedy was not that the people did not know the prophecies, but rather that they knew the prophecies and did not care.

Of course I am not addressing the Jewish people at this time.  Those who then moved the Master to tears are long since passed into judgement.  I do speak to Canadians, a people who are certain that God has blessed them richly.  I address a Canadian congregation who would claim that as a nation we have served God powerfully within recent history.  Canadian missionaries and Canadian Bible publishers spread the knowledge of Christ far beyond anything those ancient Jews could have imagined.

Despite any past service to the cause of Christ which Canada may claim I suggest that as a nation we have ceased believing God.  Though we go through the motions of religion, though churches are no doubt filled with people on Christmas Eve and perhaps again on Christmas morning, I suggest that in the main the Faith of Christ has ceased to be a meaningful feature in the life of most Canadians.  More horrifying still is the fact that the Faith of Christ Jesus has ceased to have great impact in the lives of those who are most vocal and most vociferous in proclaiming their faith.

I cannot help but wonder whether the Saviour looking down upon our nation, would say If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…  Let me be pointed in asking whether you believe the Word of God.  Do you believe that salvation is the free gift of God to all who will receive Him as Saviour?  Do you believe that those who refuse to accept His reign in their lives are eternally damned?  Do you believe that the Spirit of God will empower you to speak boldly to turn some to life in Christ?  To whom have you spoken in this week past?  Who has heard of the call of Christ because of your obedience?  Do not tell me that you believe the Good News of Christ; show me.

Do you believe that Jesus shall return again, and that momentarily?  Do you believe that when He comes to gather His church that those who remain shall enter into awesome and unprecedented judgement?  Do you believe that those who are judged as sinners are eternally separated from the love of God?  Do you weep at the certainty of their death?  Do you find yourself moved with compassion for them?  What you do in response to the need of the lost is evidence of your faith, all else is mere talk.  I have no doubt that Jesus would weep with deep compassion because the most of our fellow Canadians do not know God.  If Jesus is moved with compassion for these lost friends and fellow countrymen, should we not be moved with compassion and seek them out to tell them of the love of God in Christ?

Jesus Wept because Judgement Was Coming Upon the People.  The compassion of Jesus was energised by the knowledge of the pending judgement.  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 [Luke 19:43,44].  Jerusalem would shortly experience heart-rending judgement, and this frightful judgement was but a dark harbinger of the judgement which shall surely be pronounced against individuals who have failed to receive the grace of God.

As I watch the prophets of God I am astonished by their compassion for those against whom they speak … even enemies who are sworn enemies of God and of the people of God.  Isaiah repeatedly revealed deep compassion for Moab as he pronounced judgement against them.  My heart cries out over Moab [Isaiah 15:5].  I weep, as Jazer weeps, for the vines of Sibmah.  O Heshbon, O Elealeh, I drench you with tears [Isaiah 16:9].  My heart laments for Moab like a harp, my inmost being for Kir Hareseth [Isaiah 16:11].  In a similar manner Isaiah likewise prophesied against Babylon and confessed, My body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labour; I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see.  My heart falters, fear makes me tremble [Isaiah 21:3,4].  Jeremiah also felt deep compassion for the nations against whom he pronounced judgement.  I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the men of Kir Hareseth.  I weep for you, as Jazer weeps, O vines of Sibmah… my heart laments for Moab like a flute; it laments like a flute for the men of Kir Hareseth [Jeremiah 48:31,32,36].

This is astonishing!  It is as though a United States Congressman spoke against Osama Ben Ladan and wept because of the judgement pronounced.  It is as if a United States Senator prophesied the doom of North Korea and confessed pain because of the words spoken.  It is as though an American General warned Sadam Hussein of pending judgement and then wept because of the judgement pronounced.  Confessing pain at the judgement of the wicked is unusual because we have become so casual in speaking of the doom of our enemies; but we also once were enemies of God.  Should we not have compassion for those who are as we once were?  Should we not fear God’s judgements?  No Christian should ever speak lightly of the death of the wicked or of judgement on sinners.  Whether we speak of doom in the physical realm or whether we speak of eternal doom, we dare not permit our speech to become frivolous concerning those so judged.

I sometimes fear that portions of the Word of God have become so familiar that they are no longer considered relevant.  For instance we have heard the words of Paul in the second chapter of Ephesians so frequently that those words no longer have an impact in our lives.  How awful the condition which once condemned us.  As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…  Remember that formerly … you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world [Ephesians 2:1-5,12].

Though He Himself would judge the peoples, Jesus felt no joy at that prospect.  Instead, He was compassionate and moved to tears because the people would be judged.  As Christians who bear the image of God we must know that we honour Him when we reflect His character, and in no way is His character more apparent than in compassion.  Compassion for those who are perishing will move us to loosen our tongues and impel us to risk relationship in order to spare our friends and neighbours, our loved ones and even those whom we know but casually.  Let us resolve to reflect the compassion of Christ.

Jesus Wept because That Judgement Was Unnecessary.  There was also deep sorrow in Jesus’ words since He knew that judgement was unnecessary.  Those words spoken reveal the depth of His sorrow: because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you [Luke 19:44].  Jesus offered Himself to Israel as the promised Messiah, and the people nevertheless rejected Him.  Had Israel received their Messiah at His first appearing He would have begun His earthly reign immediately.  However, the wise, the powerful and the religious chose to trust their own grasp of power instead of trusting God’s grace.

Matthew, telling of the incident before us, comments on the reason for this action. This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion,

‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

[Matthew 21:4,5]

Matthew was quoting the Prophet Zechariah who had written long centuries before:

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

and the war-horses from Jerusalem,

and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of

the earth.

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

I will bend Judah as I bend my bow

and fill it with Ephraim.

I will rouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Greece,

and make you like a warrior’s sword

Then the LORD will appear over them;

his arrow will flash like lightning.

The Sovereign LORD will sound the trumpet;

he will march in the storms of the south,

and the LORD Almighty will shield them.

[Zechariah 9:9-15]

There was such a rich promise, and Israel rejected that offer of grace.  It is an axiom of God that should people reject the offer of grace there remains no prospect except awesome judgement.  To refuse the gift of life is to cling to the sentence of death.  To fail to submit to the Lord of Glory is to surrender to the Prince of Darkness.  To turn from the light is to continue to walk in darkness.  Such foolish choice should always touch the heart of God’s holy people, for we may be assured that it touches the heart of God.

How can we read the words of John’s Gospel and not be moved with sorrow? Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God [John 3:19-21].

This is my plea to the people of God this day, that we would spend time in the presence of the Lord Christ.  There, in His presence, I would urge each of us to reflect on His love, on the compassion of the Saviour and think of the sorrow which He must feel as men and women pass into eternity without hope and without God.  If we would spend time in Christ’s presence discovering the secrets of His heart, we would be transformed.  Never again would we speak casually about the lost nor would we ever again forsake opportunity to speak to the damned of His grace.

To any who have shared this service and who have yet to submit to the reign of Christ in your personal life, the divine love of which I have spoken is a love for you.  Christ loves you with a perfect love which led Him to die in your place.  You see, He received in Himself the judgement of God which threatened you.  Now if you die it will have been a needless death since the penalty of sin is paid.  If you fail to avail yourself of this divine grace, your doom will be your own responsibility.  There is no joy in this pronouncement, but sorrow that some would choose to die in their sin rather than submit to Christ as Lord.  I trust you are not such a foolish person.

This is the message of life which is proclaimed throughout the world from every pulpit where the truth is taught.  At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us [Romans 5:6-8].  The responsibility which you bear is to believe this truth, even as the Word declares.  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” [Romans 10:9-13].  And that is our prayer for you.  May you believe this Good News and thus avoid the eternal condemnation which is pronounced against all outside the grace of God.  Amen.

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