“When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it.”
“Jesus is here a king by general acclamation, but king of grief by personal lamentation. He is the sovereign of sorrow, weeping while riding in triumph in the midst of his followers. Looked he ever more kingly than when he showed the tenderness of his heart towards his rebellious subjects1”
The compassion of Christ was on display throughout His earthly ministry in the workings of healing and forgiveness as well as His expressions of compassion recorded in the gospels. Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb; (John 11:35), He wept as He surveyed Jerusalem (Luke 13:34; *the emotion of the word is implicit in the text). But here in the text cited the word used in the original language i.e., Greek, has the sense of not merely shedding tears in a sense of sorrow, but has the idea of agonizing weeping that expresses deep lament and wailing for the trouble. This weeping expressed by Jesus here as he approaches the gate into Jerusalem on His triumphal ride upon a donkey was not the weeping of disappointment or dissatisfaction or even the emotion He felt at the tomb of Lazarus. It was a mournful lament for the City of God and her inhabitants.
Here was the eternal King making a statement of Who He is to His own people who themselves would be the make-up of the same crowd that would cry out; “Crucify Him!” And why we might ask such great shift in attitude toward Him in just a few days’ time? The answer is rooted in the impetus of our Lord’s weeping at the moment of His triumphal entrance. He presented Himself to His people as the humble, suffering Savior King, but they were looking for a powerful leader that would be their deliverer from the bondage of those heathen dogs, the Romans. They were looking for the manifestation of the Davidic crown; He offered them a cross. They looked for a King that would cater to their earthly peace; He offered them a spiritual peace that stands eternal. Yet, in spite of Christ’s full knowledge of their hearts, He erupts with deep heartfelt lamentation for their hardened hearts.
This ironic picture reveals the nature of God’s divine character. Jesus would pronounce divine punishment upon His own people in Matt 23:38; “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” And later arrive at the doorstep of Jerusalem as her King with a divine message of future destruction that would be fulfilled in every detail just 40 years later as the Roman general, Titus, would raise Jerusalem to the ground. Still, the declaration of her destruction fell on deaf ears and hardened hearts, for Jerusalem and the Jews had rejected her King and Redeemer.
In the echo of the pitiful wailings of the King comes a timeless warning for all who will see Jesus Christ as provider of their own gain and satisfier of their own pleasures; that the King of kings has compassion on all or any, though they abuse and mock His sovereign with praises that are of selfish content. Yet compassion and judgment are met together in sublime harmony in the weeping King. As tears raced down His cheeks in expression of love for those who would shortly reject Him; the breath of Divine sentencing would drop from the lips of the eternal King. This is the Son, in full expression of the glory of the Father. For God had pleaded with Jerusalem’s ancestors some 600 years before saying; “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11)
So, as we observe the glory of Christ’s passion and resurrection, let us be reminded that the whole of these events manifest the harmony of God’s character and the irony of man’s heart before the God of love and justice. He is not a God that delights in the destruction of those that reject Him, but the fountain of His love is no impediment to the wrath of His divine justice. Jerusalem stood in the moment of crisis and she was crushed under the finger of God’s judgment. The Psalmist fittingly warns; “Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled.” (Ps. 2:12)
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.