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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Worship Service, 2005-03-20

Text: Luke 19:41-44

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when many churches remember the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, prior to the events that led to His betrayal, His death and His resurrection. In His triumphal entry, we are told that Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on an ass. This was the fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy given 500 years earlier that the Messianic king of Israel would enter into the city not on a horse, as a mighty conqueror, but on a lowly ass, as a gentle bringer of salvation. (Zechariah 9:9)

The route that Jesus took into Jerusalem began at the Mount of Olives, which is on the east of Jerusalem. As He rode the ass down the road on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, crowds of people began to throng that road and praise Him loudly, hailing Him as the King of Israel. All their excitement came about as a result of hearing about the great miracles that Jesus had performed.

Now, the crowds also waved palm branches in their hands (from this we have the name 'Palm Sunday.'). These branches were readily available from the palm trees that were found in abundance on the slopes of the Mount of Olives at that time, and they were associated with rejoicing, victory and triumph. In fact, during the Maccabean era about 200 years before Christ, when Simon Maccabeus had captured a certain part of Jerusalem from the enemies of the Jews, his entrance there was greeted with triumphal shouts and palm branches. 

Thus we can imagine the scene on that Palm Sunday as Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem on His ass. What a rousing, mighty royal welcome He was given by a whole multitude of people, with loud praising and vigorous waving of palm branches! Now, such public acclaim, honour and recognition is rarely given so spontaneously without any planning. It would easily have been the desire of any human king or leader. In today's terms it would indicate that public opinion was fully in his favour, and that he has the top ratings in all popularity polls. And any man receiving such treatment might feel lifted up with a great sense of exhilaration, joy and pride. But not the Lord Jesus.

Instead of revelling in the overpowering rejoicing all around Him, Jesus did something quite unexpected. As He gazed at the happy faces of all the people standing in the foreground, and at the whole city of Jerusalem with its many stately structures in the background, He wept. He was so overcome with deep sorrow and grief in His heart, that tears began to flow from His eyes, and He openly and verbally expressed His emotional lamentation over the city. 

Why did Jesus give such a different response during His triumphal entry? Was it because He knew in His omniscience of all the terrible things that He was going to suffer there within a few days' time? Not at all. Jesus was not weeping for Himself. What then was Jesus weeping for? Let us try to find out by examining the words that Jesus spoke in His lamentation over the city, as given in vv.42-44. And as we look at them, we will discover at least three reasons for His weeping. Firstly He wept:

I. Because of His Unending Desire for the Peace of Jerusalem

We see this in v.42 - 'If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.' The central idea in this lamentation is peace. Jesus was expressing His sorrow for Jerusalem because it had rejected Him and therefore missed its opportunity for peace. 

You will notice that the words used here are 'thy peace,' as if peace was something that rightfully belongs to Jerusalem. And historically, that was supposed to be the case. Jerusalem was meant to be a city of peace. When King David made this city the capital of Israel about 1000 years before Christ, he chose it because of its excellent location. It was located right on the border between the tribal territories of Benjamin and Judah. Since his predecessor, King Saul had been from the tribe of Benjamin, while David himself was from the tribe of Judah, there would be a feeling that Judah had taken over the royal rights of Benjamin. Jerusalem's location on the border between them would therefore help to bring peace and reconciliation between the two rival tribes.

Furthermore, the city of Jerusalem was located high up on top of a mountain ridge and it was blessed with its own sources of water from several good springs. From a military point of view, this would make it like a natural fortress, and all who dwell in it should feel quite safe and secure from all enemies, and be able to enjoy peace. That is perhaps why it was named, 'Jerusalem' which means, 'The City of Peace.' And in Psalm 122:6 God's people are exhorted to 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem'

But history has shown that Jerusalem has not been a city of peace even until recent times. In its turbulent history spanning 3,500 years, Jerusalem has seen so little peace. At least 118 major conflicts have taken place over it, and rivers of blood have been shed to possess it. It has been besieged no less than 32 times, attacked and plundered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, and finally the Ottoman Turks. And even when Israel re-acquired Jerusalem in recent times, it has become a terrible bone of contention between the Palestians and the Jews. Blood is still shed in terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. It is no wonder that some have called it 'the most contested piece of real estate on Earth.'

Instead of being a city of peace, Jerusalem has therefore become a city of weeping - it has perhaps caused more weeping than any other city in the world. e.g. the book of Lamentations by Jeremiah was written just after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, Jeremiah 9:1 'Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!'

This helps us now to understand why Jesus wept over the city during His triumphal entry. He wept with Jeremiah and with all the prophets who loved the city of Jerusalem. He wept in full sympathy with those who have been longing for peace in Jerusalem, a peace that should have been possessed by Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the city of Peace! He felt the the anguish and sorrow of the city and of the nation it represents - the nation of Israel. And since Christ was himself a Jew, He naturally felt burdened that the His own people should be blessed with peace in this world and the next.

And now as our Lord and Saviour today, the Lord Jesus Christ desires for us to be blessed with the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that is ours through being His people. He said, 'Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' (John 14:27). And because He desires this peace for us so much, we can be assured that He weeps with us when we are troubled and bereft of peace. Dearly beloved, the tears that Jesus shed on earth reminds us that we have a Saviour who understands our feelings. 

His tears must also remind those who are still unsaved not to forsake the opportunity for peace with God that Jesus came to bestow on us. As the Prince of Peace He alone can bring sinners into a permanent state of peace with God (Romans 5:1) and grant them the perfect peace of God which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) - Jesus has given opportunity after opportunity to many of the unsaved to possess this peace. And yet strangely, many choose to forsake that opportunity or to despise it altogether!

That is exactly what Jerusalem did. The Jews could have had such blessed peace� but they did not have it because they missed their opportunity! As John 1:11 says, 'He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.' And now, because they received Him not, the things that belong to their peace are hid from their eyes as v.42 says. This speaks of the blindness of Israel to the Gospel message, and it explains why the vast majority of Jews have responded to the Gospel with unbelief or hardened hearts until this day. 

Now, as we proceed to look further into our text we learn another reason why Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem: It was

II. Because of His Unlimited Knowledge of the Punishment of Jerusalem

This knowledge is revealed in v.43 'For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side' As Christ fixed His gaze on the city from the ass on which He rode, He could see not only its present state, but also its state 40 years later. Being the Omniscient God who knows all things, Jesus could foresee the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans. Two days after the Triumphal entry, when Jesus and His disciples beheld the city of Jerusalem again from the Mount of Olives, he provided more details about its coming destruction in His Olivet discourse:

Luke 21:20-24 'And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.' 

It is understandable why Jesus would weep over the city. It was to be a terrible destruction, with great loss of life. In the year AD 70, as a result of a Jewish rebellion, Titus the Roman General and son of Vespasian the Emperor, captured the city of Jerusalem and razed it to the ground. The destruction by the Roman armies was so complete that all that remained of the glorious Temple was just a wall. 

And today it is known as the Wailing Wall because many Jews go there to weep and wail over the destruction of their beloved city. That destruction in AD 70 eliminated the Jewish nation for almost 2000 years, and scattered the Jews throughout the whole world.

Perhaps we should ask, 'Why was the punishment of Jerusalem so severe?' It was because of their sins against God. Although the Lord had given them the Law and sent prophets to them, they did not obey Him and seek after Him as a nation. On the day after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus cursed a fig tree that bore no fruits, and it withered (Matt 21:18-19). This fig tree was perhaps meant to be a picture of Israel - that it had proven itself to be a barren nation - lacking in the fruits of righteousness that the Lord expected from it. 

In John's Gospel we see that the chief rulers of Israel loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43). And the fact that Jesus just after His triumphal entry, had to cleanse the Holy Temple because it had become like a den of thieves, shows the deep level of corruption that infected the religious leadership of that time (Luke 19:45).

But all these sins of Jerusalem were not as great as the sin of rejecting the Messiah. Let us look at v.44 'And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.' The last part of this verse highlights for us the ultimate cause of Jerusalem's destruction: It was because it failed to recognize the time of its visitation. Whose visitation is this? It is God's visitation. When God the Son came to His own people, the Jews, they refused to receive Him. It was not that they were ignorant of His visitation, but they deliberately refused to recognize Him as their God.

Now, a person may ask, 'Wasn't the royal welcome given to Jesus at the triumphal entry such a recognition? Did the Jews not hail Him as their King as He entered Jerusalem?' The true picture is revealed only a few days later, when instead of offering Him cheers of 'Hosanna! Hosanna!' they hurled at Him jeers of 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'

Why did the multitudes change their tune? It was probably due to their having an utterly selfish and mistaken concept of the Messiah. They had heard that Christ had just raised a man named Lazarus from the dead at Bethany, and so they probably hoped to feast their eyes on more great miracles to be performed by Him in Jerusalem. What made this miracle so remarkable was the fact that Lazarus had already been dead for 4 days when Christ brought him back to life. 

And so they eagerly expected this Messiah to resurrect the glorious Davidic Kingdom of Israel back to life, a kingdom which had been dead by then, for more than four centuries! Thus, their cries of 'Hosanna! Hosanna!' expressed their hopes that Jesus would now lead them to overthrow the Romans, and to restore all the lost glorious fortunes of the Kingdom of Israel.

But when it became very clear to them that this was not His intention at all, and Jesus did not perform the great miracles they had expected (although He did heal the lame and the blind who were brought to Him at the Temple), all their excitement gradually died down. In the days that followed, this selfish concept of the people became evident, as they went back to their own businesses, and paid hardly any attention to what the Lord Jesus said or did. All the high honour that they had given to Him during His Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem was soon forgotten, as they gave attention to other pursuits. 

This gives us a better understanding now of why Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. Amid all the loud praising and waving of palm leaves, He alone could see their true motives, and the sinful, selfish and unbelieving hearts of the vast majority of the people there. Outwardly, they seemed to recognise Him, but inwardly, they refused to recognise and accept Him as their God who had made them, and who had now come to visit them. And they rejected Him even to the point of demanding His crucifixion a few days later, despite all the ample signs and evidences they had received from Him. 

Dearly beloved, perhaps there may also be some in our midst this morning who would outwardly praise Jesus as their King here in this sanctuary, but inwardly they do not recognise the claims that He makes upon their lives. Perhaps the time of God�s visitation has come upon you, but you have ignored it and even despised it. If this is true of you, please be informed that this is a far greater sin than any other sin. The sin of wilful unbelief in Christ is unlike any other sin. As it brought about the utter destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, it will surely bring about your eternal destruction in the fires of Hell. And this destruction is so fearful that it should cause us to weep over our sin of unbelief.

Here in our text, we see Jesus weeping over the impending destruction of Jerusalem because of the unbelief of the Jews. Do you know that He also weeps over the impending destruction of your soul that results from your unbelief? Jesus, being the Lord God, takes no delight in the death of sinners. Listen to what the Lord Himself says in Ezekiel 33:11 'As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?' 

Can you see how much He longs and weeps for your salvation? He knows your heart and he knows what your end will be like if you do not repent of your unbelief. He is much grieved at your continued rejection of Him, and at your indifference toward Him. Why? Because of His great love for you.

III. Because of His Unbounded Love for the People of Jerusalem

This love that Christ has for you is just like the love that He had for the people of Jerusalem. If you look at v.44 you will notice how He referred to them. He called them 'children.' Doesn't this reveal the fatherly care and compassion that He had for them? Psalm 103:13 says, 'Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.'

Now we can see that the tears that Jesus shed on His way to Jerusalem were not just tears of grief over their lack of peace, and over their sins of unbelief. They were also tears of unbounded love for His people. Just two days after the Triumphal Entry when Jesus uttered another lamentation over Jerusalem, He expressed His love for her people much more extensively. This is found in Matthew 23:37-39 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.' 

Can you see here how tenderly Jesus loved His people? He longed to gather them like a mother hen under His wings - so that they will find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28) and life in Him (John 10:10). And not only did He want to gather them together under His wings, He says that He had wanted to do it often - He had sought not just once, but again and again to bring them under His wings, but each time He did this, they would not respond.

The tears that Jesus shed for Jerusalem truly reveal His great unbounded love for His own, a love that never ceases to seek earnestly after their welfare and salvation. Dearly beloved, this same Jesus who wept tears of love at that time, weeps also out of love for you now. Have you been like Jerusalem, in a backslidden condition, unwilling to listen to His many calls to you, His calls to obey Him and to renew your first love for Him? Have you grown cold toward Him, refusing to respond to the many tender appeals and warnings He has been giving to you again and again through His Word? If you have been like this, you must respond to His love. Let it draw you back to the Lord. Let His love bind you with a new commitment and resolve to walk with Him each day, and to live for Him each day.

And when you have seen how greatly the Lord Jesus loves you, please do not forget how much He loves others too. Let us do all that we can to make His love known and to bring the lost to Him, so that by the time when Christ will come riding triumphantly from heaven to earth to receive His own and to gather them under His wings, many would have already received Him.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25