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Luke 19:41-48 – The Tears of Jesus

The Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, is higher than Mount Zion and the temple area. As Jesus rides the colt, he looks down on the city below – and he weeps.

Why does he weep? Because he knows the truth about himself – that he is the one who fulfils the hopes of the Old Testament prophets. Repentance and faith in him would bring Jerusalem peace – but sadly this truth is hidden from the eyes of Jerusalem.

This phrase “hidden from your eyes” occurred previously when Jesus had taught his disciples of his forthcoming suffering and exaltation. The “hiddenness from eyes” of the disciples then and of Jerusalem here form bookends to the final leg of the journey to Jerusalem. In-between these accounts was Jesus’ healing of a blind man – the only solution to spiritual blindness is for Jesus to restore sight.

Jesus will heal the blindness of his disciples, but Jerusalem is left in their blindness. This and the ensuing judgment cause Jesus to weep. Jesus speaks of Jerusalem’s future as being surrounded by enemies, torn to the ground and not one stone being left upon another.

Interestingly when the religious leaders objected to the praise Jesus was receiving on his approach to Jerusalem, Jesus had replied that if the people restrained their praises then the stones themselves would cry out (verse 40). Jerusalem will in the next week fall silent in terms of praising Jesus (sending him to the cross). Consequently, in verse 44 the stones do cry out – but they cry out silently. When not one stone is left upon another (at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.) though silent the stones themselves are a testimony that Jesus was and is king evident not in Jerusalem having been saved but in Jerusalem having been judged.

Jesus’ tears and Jerusalem’s destruction are all because the time of visitation was not recognized. In the Old Testament ‘the time of visitation’ could refer to a time when God came to be present with his people to save them (as he had when he brought Israel out of Egypt). Here God’s visitation to Jerusalem is actually Jesus’ visitation riding on a colt – another allusion to Jesus as God in the flesh.

Finally, there is a hope. Upon Jesus’ arrival in the temple area he drives out those extortionists acting on behalf of the priests and replaces their corrupt activities with his teaching daily in the temple. His word, his teaching and hearing him is the only place from which life can come.

The fact that those who are part of the temple establishment seek to destroy him and the fact that Jesus has already spoken of the temple’s destruction indicates that in the end only one temple will remain – the temple that is Jesus or the temple that is in Jerusalem – but only one will bring peace with God.