Sermon: Weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19)
Order of Service: Service of Prayer & Preaching
#540, “Christ, the Word of God Incarnate”
#644, “The Church’s One Foundation”
#917, “Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise”
Location: Good Shepherd, Marshall, MN
And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it. (Luke 19:41)
On Palm Sunday, we focus on the pomp and circumstance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. We focus on the cheering of the crowd of pilgrims coming into Jerusalem. We don’t focus on what Jesus is feeling in the moment. While everyone else is cheering and shouting, Jesus is weeping.
Why is Jesus weeping? What is it that has brought the Savior to tears?
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”1Luke 19:42-44
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!”2Luke 19:42 What things make for peace? We typically think of peace as the cessation of hostilities. The end of war. The fulfillment of the words spoken by Isaiah and Micah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not rise up against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”3Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3 This is what we think makes for peace. But we’re wrong!
We know that can’t be what makes for peace because Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus didn’t come into the world to stop wars from happening. In fact, He came to make the divide sharper. Starker. “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”4Luke 12:51 He goes so far as to say, “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”5Matthew 10:36 As He prepares His disciples for what will happen in the last days: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. … All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”6Matthew 24:6-8 Wars didn’t end because Jesus came into the world. That’s not why He came.
The things that make for peace are “hidden from your eyes.”7Luke 19:42 They are not evident in the world around us. The world around us is a world of death. Death has never given peace. In fact, death broke this world’s peace in the first place. The serpent’s implantation of the idea that God wasn’t speaking the truth about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The peace in which God created the world was broken. God’s blessings have been forever hidden from human eyes. Only to be revealed in Christ. But even in the revelation they are hidden in Christ.
St. Paul points toward this in our Epistle reading today. “Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.”8Romans 9:30-31 Those who went looking for righteousness in the Law God had given them failed, while those who never received God’s Law found a righteousness by faith. At the beginning of the ninth chapter of the epistle, Paul writes, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises.”9Romans 9:4 The Israelites had all these wonderful gifts from God Himself, but righteousness was still hidden from them. It was found by those who weren’t even looking for it.
Righteousness cannot be found through human striving. Despite the great advancements in human history, we are no closer to achieving righteousness on our own than Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.
“For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you.”10Luke 19:43 Those enemies don’t have to be from far away. They can be quite close. As I said earlier quoted from Jesus, “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”11Matthew 10:36
Whether from near or from far, every enemy builds an embankment against you. As humans, we are forced to put up barriers to protect ourselves. It’s not the way God intended it, but sin has accomplished this rather easily. An enemy must build an embankment in order to scale the walls with which you have surrounded yourself.
No one is immune. Even Jesus had enemies both within and without His circle of disciples. Holy Week saw Him hemmed in on every side.12Luke 19:43 The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and elders were all thirsty for His blood.13Luke 19:47 Not in a good way. They sought every opportunity to take Him away quietly.
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”14Matthew 26:3-5
The outside enemies from society were bad enough, but those who were closest to Him truly brought tears to His eyes. Simon Peter denied knowing Jesus three times while in Caiaphas’ courtyard.15Matthew 26:69-75 Judas betrayed Him to His enemies.16Matthew 26:14-16, 47-56 All of His disciples fled when He was arrested.17Matthew 26:56 Jesus was hemmed in on every side. Within and without. His enemies were everywhere around Him.
But that’s exactly where He wants them to be. Everywhere around Him. Each and every one of us has been His enemy. All who have sinned are His enemies. There are sinners both within and without His circle of influence. The world is filled with sinners. The Church is also filled with sinners. However, Jesus seeks to bridge the gap between enemies through the Church. Through the gifts He gives of His Word and Sacraments. In these gifts, He surrounds Himself with His enemies to make them His brothers and sisters. Children of the same heavenly Father.
Amid all the troubles of this world, Jesus seeks to make us one with Him. Just as He did when He came into the flesh. Just as He did when He came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
For the Israelites, there was no greater trouble than the foreign oppressors. While they obeyed Roman law, they bristled against it when it ran against their religion. They had built up the Temple into an idol. The place where God had caused His name to dwell. They had turned something good into something terribly bad. And now, God was sending punishment upon them.
God’s enemies will tear Jerusalem down to the ground.18Luke 19:44 It will be completely levelled. “They will not leave one stone upon another.”19Luke 19:44 Jerusalem and her inhabitants had become God’s enemies, “ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”20Romans 10:3 Now, God was ready to come against them in His wrath.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of the impending judgment. Judgment that awaits all of God’s enemies. As David says in the Psalms, “Though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever.”21Psalm 92:7
Jesus’ Incarnation announced the LORD’s visitation. But they didn’t notice it. Whether it was at the beginning of His earthly life, or during the three years of His ministry, or even in the last week before His crucifixion, they did not see that God was in their midst. He visited them, but they didn’t see. Even in His presence, they didn’t see.
When He entered the Temple on Palm Sunday, they were going about their regular business. Business that didn’t involve Him. Although they were in His house of worship, their minds and hearts were far from worshipping Him. They bought and sold their wares, making His house of prayer a den of thieves.22Luke 19:45-46 Robbing those who truly sought to worship God by making the social divide between the religious elite and the lay person even greater.
Jesus wept over all the sin that had infected the world He created. That had broken His world. But He had come into the world to fix the brokenness. He had come into Jerusalem to finish the journey that would mend the brokenness. He established, once again, the entire world to be a house of worship.23John 4:21-24 To make the unrighteous righteous through a once-for-all sacrifice for sins.24Hebrews 9:26
Through His sorrowful tears, Jesus knew the joy that would come out of the sorrow and pain. “The righteous will flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green.”25Psalm 92:12-14
A week later, He knew that all this would have happened. The unrighteous will be made righteous through His death and resurrection. Sin would be atoned for. The world would be set aright once again. And all this through the tears He shed, both on the road into Jerusalem and on the cross of Golgotha.
This was the only cure for man’s “perpetual backsliding.”26Jeremiah 8:5 The pain and agony of His crucifixion takes away sin’s offense. This is the great divide between sinners and saints. “For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”27Romans 10:4 He came into the world—He came into Jerusalem—to fulfill the Law28Matthew 5:17 and to dispense the true righteousness that comes only through faith.29Romans 9:30-32
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they didn’t understand. Jesus weeps over Marshall because you don’t understand. But Jesus’ weeping is not inconsolable. He weeps for those who will refuse to accept His righteousness. But He rejoices over you who do accept it. Who readily give thanks and praise to the God who has saved you. Those who refuse Him will be destroyed,30Psalm 92:7 but those who love and follow Him will never be put to shame.31Romans 9:32 You and I are among that number for whom He rejoices because He has forgiven us our sins and cleansed us from all our unrighteousness.321 John 1:9 Amen.