The Weeping King
Preached by Jason Abbott
In 66 AD, a number of factors led to a Jewish rebellion against the Romans; and, while it was initially successful, it led to the ruin of the holy city of Jerusalem in the end—tens of thousands of Jews died either through starvation or at the hands of the Romans during the siege. This is how the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus describes that horrible event.
Throughout the city people were dying of hunger in large numbers, and enduring unspeakable sufferings. In every house the merest hint of food sparked violence, and close relatives fell to blows, snatching from one another the pitiful supports of life. No respect was paid even to the dying; the ruffians searched them, in case they were concealing food somewhere in their clothes, or just pretending to be near death…. Need drove the starving to gnaw at anything. Refuse which even animals would reject was collected and turned into food. In the end they were eating belts and shoes, and the leather stripped off their shields. Tufts of withered grass were devoured….
Through violence, the Jews had tried to establish peace. Many of them, without a doubt, hoped and prayed that Yahweh would visit them to grant success and victory over their enemies. But, he did not.
Yet, three decades earlier, Jesus warned them that salvation wouldn’t happen in this way. That’s today’s text. He prophetically weeps over Jerusalem’s hardness of heart and spiritual blindness in the passage we’re going to look at this morning.
Let’s read what Luke records of Christ’s lament.
41 And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 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 44 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.”
As we dig into God’s word, we are going to ask three questions of the text: (1st) What visitation is Jesus talking about? (2nd) What peace is Jesus talking about? And, (3rd) what you is Jesus talking about?
1. What visitation is Jesus talking about here (v. 44)?
We all know that visits can be good as well as bad. You might get a visit from an old friend (that’s good), or you might get a visit from the IRS (that’s bad). The reason for the visit determines whether we will see it positively or negatively, whether we will be excited by it or fearful of it. And, the same is true of visitations from the Lord in the Bible.
For example, there’s a very positive sense to the Lord’s visitation at the end of Genesis when Joseph is speaking to his brothers before his death. He says:
“I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones…” (50:24-25).
Here, we find the promise of a liberating visitation of the Lord to his people so that he can lead them into their promised inheritance—a land flowing with milk and honey. This is an overwhelmingly positive visitation, a visitation of salvation for the faithful.
In contrast to this, we find an altogether different kind of visitation in Isaiah. There, the Lord’s visitation means punishment and swift judgment for his enemies. Isaiah explains what is to come.
And in an instant, suddenly, / you will be visited by the Lord of hosts / with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, / with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire (29:5-6).
(That’s bad.) So…what kind of visitation is Jesus talking about in our text? Is it a positive or negative visit of the Lord? The answer is yes. The answer is both.
In verse 44, Jesus laments over the fact that Jerusalem didn’t know the time of the Lord’s positive, life-giving visitation. It didn’t receive him as the Messiah—the Savior. So, in that sense, the visitation he speaks of was a good one missed.
But, because it was missed—because Jerusalem didn’t know its true King—another type of visitation from God would come. And, that one brought destruction and ruin on the city that rejected the King. That’s the negative visit Jesus predicts in today’s passage—the judgment of God through Rome more than 30 years later. This is how Jesus describes that negative visit.
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…(vv. 43-44).
This event came to pass. This became part of the awful history of Jerusalem, the history Josephus would later record. It is tragic.
An apologetic note—Some will argue that Jesus couldn’t have known this. They suggest that these verses must have been inserted following the devastation of Jerusalem in AD 70. This, however, tells us more about the critic than it tells us about the veracity of Scripture. It reveals a secular mindset in theological questions concerning the identity of Jesus—that he couldn’t have performed the miraculous, that he couldn’t have known what was to come, that he couldn’t have been Divine. And, with these kinds of presuppositions in hand, they’ve ruled-out certain answers before they’ve even begun their study.
Yet, friends—if God exists—couldn’t he choose to become a human being? Couldn’t he choose to walk with us? If he exists, would he be shackled by the laws of nature—unable to heal the sick or to walk on water or to see into future history? He’d be an awfully small god if he couldn’t. Nevertheless, that is precisely the type of god (the only type of god!) these critics will tolerate in their study.
Before we move on, I want to point out something beautiful and convicting about the Lord Jesus. He weeps over the destruction of those who’ve rejected him. He mourns over the judgment of those who are his enemies. Jesus’ heart is broken over the rebellion of the city of Jerusalem. This is a touching snapshot of our Lord. And, it’s one we must struggle to exemplify as his followers.
John tells us that, as Christians, we are to follow the example of our Lord. He writes: “Whoever says he abides in him [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). What implications does that have for the picture of Jesus we’re looking at this morning?
- What does the image of Jesus weeping over the ruin of his enemies mean for the way we think about and engage in politics?
- How should Christ’s tender heart toward the people who would ridicule and torture and kill him change the way we interact with that guy or gal who’s a real jerk at work?
- In what ways should this picture of Jesus’ sympathy change how we pray for those whose lifestyles are offensive to us?
Our Lord’s anguish, over the terrible future of Jerusalem, should challenge how we live as his followers—should challenge how we treat those who oppose us.
Well, we need to move on and figure out what kind of peace Jesus is talking about here. What’s the nature of this peace which Jerusalem missed out on?
2. What peace is Jesus talking about here (v. 42)?
Look again at what Jesus says.
Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes (v. 42).
A biblical understanding of peace (and, thus, a Christian understanding of it) always begins with one’s relationship to God. There’s no such thing as real peace with others, unless we’ve first received peace from the Creator of us and all others. It’s a “necessary ingredient in true peace.” This is the Christian view.
You see, the proper theology of peace is never simply theoretical—in fact, no theology is. All true theology is practical and experiential. Thus, when it comes to peace, we must first experience it in order to practice it. We must receive peace from our Creator in order to truly extend it to our neighbor.
Remember back to the introduction of the sermon, remember what initiated (in 70 AD) the destruction of Jerusalem. Wasn’t it the pursuit of economic peace and political peace and religious peace through the defeat of the nation’s enemy—Rome? Wasn’t that what the people thought would make for peace? But it didn’t. In the end, it only brought them more war and more devastation.
Yet, what is Jesus doing in this passage? Consider the contrast between him and that future picture of Jerusalem. Consider what it means for him to seek peace. In this passage, he stands with and before his enemies—those who will soon betray and mock and kill him. Nonetheless, he weeps for them. But, Jesus is not helpless; Jesus is not a victim; his tears fall from a position of complete power and control. His enemies won’t take his life from him; he lays it down by design (John 10:18). He lays it down for his enemies. He lays it down for peace. What they think makes for peace and what actually makes for peace couldn’t be more different!
Jesus has arrived on Jerusalem’s doorstep in order to offer his enemies peace with God, which is the necessary beginning of what will make for an actual peace and an everlasting peace.
Just think about it in terms of your own experience.
- When you get that promotion which promises you real financial security, does it give you a lasting peace?
- When you fall in love and get married, does that relationship rescue you from feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction?
- When you finally have the position of honor and respect and prominence, which you’ve always sought after, does it keep you from having feelings of insecurity and disrespect.
Friends, only peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ can provide this. The Bible tells us that only relationship with God can bring us real, lasting peace. As C. S. Lewis rightly explains in Mere Christianity:
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
So, Jesus stands weeping for the city of Jerusalem because it does not know what makes for peace; the city does not know him and will not receive him as King and Savior and God. It has missed the visitation of peace.
Well, let’s move finally to the question of you in this passage.
3. What you is Jesus talking about here (vv. 42-44)?
As we read through the passage, I wonder if you heard the repetition of you. Jesus stresses it eleven time in just three verses. Listen to it again.
Would that you [Jerusalem], even you, had known…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 (vv. 42-44).
Now, at that time, Jesus was speaking to the city. Thus, Jerusalem is the you in this passage. But, Jerusalem is also a paradigm for how one relates to the Christ and what it means to accept or reject him as King. The repetitiveness of you here “makes it all very personal.” As you read it, you cannot help but evaluate yourself; you cannot help but question your own reception of Christ. And, I certainly believe Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, intended that effect.
So, we should end by asking ourselves: How have we received Jesus Christ? How have you received Jesus Christ?
- Is Jesus just a means to an end to you? Welcome if he serves a purpose?
- Is Jesus simply a savior to you? Welcome when you need something?
- Is Jesus a convenient king to you? Welcome to reign over all those areas in your life that you care to give him?
Friends, if this is how you welcome Jesus, then you haven’t welcomed Jesus as your full and true King. Repent of these sins! Receive God’s reign and peace! Trust in Christ Jesus!
 Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Luke, 280.
 Ibid., 281.