Luke 19:41-48 Jesus wept over Jerusalem

Notes from sermon preached on 28th August 2011

Verse by verse

41 “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.”

Jesus was coming down the Mount of Olives, and the city of Jerusalem came into view.  We can imagine Jesus saw the Temple and the other beautiful buildings, and the sight of it made him weep.  Why did Jesus weep?  He knew he would soon suffer at the hands of the chief priests and elders and be killed, but he wasn’t weeping for himself.  The reason Jesus wept was because of his intense love for his own people, and he saw so clearly the inevitable consequences of their unbelief.

Jesus’ reflected God’s heart for his people, just as the OT prophets had done beforehand.  For example, Isaiah sings a love song for the people of Israel.  Isaiah was a composer and a musician, and these days his song would have got into Songs of Fellowship!

I will sing for the One I love a song about his vineyard:

“My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.

He dug it up and cleared it of stones

And planted it with choicest vines.

He built a watchtower in it

And cut out the winepress as well.

Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,

But it yielded only bad fruit.” [Isaiah 5:1-2]

We have the words of this song, but not the music. Maybe someone should write some music for it!  But the point is you can see the love Isaiah has for God, and the love God has for his people.  Isaiah calls God “the One I love” (or my Beloved).  He sings about God’s vineyard, his people who are like a vineyard, whom God has planted, provided for, nurtured and cared for.  Then God looks for good fruit, but finds only the bad fruit of sin and evil.  The same was true in Jesus’ day as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.  Instead of good fruit, he saw only bad fruit, and out of this intense and tender love for his people, Jesus wept.

I wonder how Jesus feels about our country at the moment?  Does this verse helps you to see how much God loves you.  Does this verse give us an insight into how God feels about our unsaved family, friends and neighbours? Are we close enough to the LORD to feel what He feels?

42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. 

Jesus always knew that the gospel was for all nations, for all the people of the world.  But temporarily, he was sent to the “lost sheep of Israel” [Matt 10:???] to give the Jews one last opportunity to repent before the inevitable judgment.  So Jesus mainly preached the gospel and ministered to the Jewish people, but they rejected him.

Jn 1:11  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

God gave them the greatest opportunity they could possibly have had to receive him.  The promised Messiah – the light of the world, who shone in the darkness, the bread of life who provided for them, the good shepherd who guided them – was with them, and walked among them in flesh and blood, and he taught them.  But their unbelief was so deeply ingrained in them, they rejected him.

Jesus is in anguish, and expresses his grief, “If only, if only you had known what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  But they missed the opportunity.  It is possible in our lives as well to miss opportunities.  And not only do we miss the opportunity, often we don’t even realise we have missed it – it becomes hidden from our eyes.  This brought Jesus great grief.

I wonder what opportunities we have missed?  I wonder what blessings we have missed because we haven’t really been listening to the LORD, or know what God wants.  Sometimes other people can see it more clearly than we can!  LORD, help us not to miss your opportunities.

43, 44 “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone upon another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.”

Isaiah sung his love song, but then pronounced the enviable judgment which would come.

Isa 5:5  And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

Jesus does the same thing.  He says a day is coming when your enemies will lay siege to Jerusalem, and invade it.  Jerusalem will all be destroyed.  Then Jesus gives the reason: because you did not recognise the day of God’s coming to you!  All this happened exactly as Jesus had prophesied 40 years later when the Romans ransacked Jerusalem in 70AD.  Picture. It is historical fact.

I have a Bible Dictionary (IVP) which was published in 1962, but it just as relevant as when it was written:

“There are few points at which the teaching of the Bible is more sharply in conflict with the assumptions of our age than its teaching concerning God’s future judgment of all men … Man today rejects out of hand the idea that he must one day render account for his life and its decisions.  His loss of conviction of an after-life, combined with the erosion of the notion of moral responsibility … has contributed to the moral indifference and pragmatism of our times. Moral issues, in so far as they matter at all, relate only to the present moment and to considerations of personal happiness.  The thought that they might relate to some transcendent divine dimension, or that all men will one day be inescapably summoned to accept responsibility … is anathema. … Judgment is inevitable and awaits us all.”

This quote is mainly about God’s future judgment: we will all have to give an account of how we have lived our lives before God.  It is appointed for man to die once, and then the judgment.  And the question will be the same, “Did you recognise the time of God’s coming to you?”  In other words, “What have you done with Jesus?”  Have you rejected him, have you rejected the means of peace and blessing, forgiveness and salvation?  Or have you receive him so you may become a child of God?

That’s the final judgment.  But God’s judgments are not confined only to the future, as Jesus in this passage shows.  They are already at work in the earth in this present age.

Now, I can imagine some of you might be thinking, “Okay, but what about New Orleans?  What about 9/11?  What about the Japanese earthquake?  What about Libya? Are these God’s judgments?  Maybe they are!  But we shouldn’t be quick to jump to conclusions, because we don’t know all the facts.  For example, it has always been known that New Orleans was liable to flooding, or the East coast of Japan is prone to earthquakes.  Was it wise to build cities or nuclear reactors in these areas in the first place? So is this really God’s judgment?  And we shouldn’t be quick to blame God either and insist he is unjust, because we don’t know everything. If there is injustice God will put these things right in eternity.

 

 

45 “Then he entered the Temple area and began driving out those who were selling.”

On entering Jerusalem Jesus goes straight to his Father’s house.  Even though Jesus has just announced the destruction of the temple, he doesn’t just walk away from it leaving it to its doom.  He institutes a renewal of spiritual life in the Temple by throwing out the marketer’s and teaching every day.  As Christians we are living in the end times, and judgment and coming – we’ve read the book; but that’s not a reason to walk away from this world. Not at all: we need to be involved as Christians as much as possible to be salt and light.

46 “It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘den of robbers.’”

The first part of this verse is a quote from Isaiah 56:7, “My house will be a house of prayer for all nations.”  The phrase ‘den of robbers’ is a quote from Jeremiah 7:11.  Jeremiah 7 is all about corruption in the OT church.  The priests use the LORD’s name, but they steal, murder, commit adultery, and swear by false gods [Jer 7:9].  We can assume the same kind of things were going on in Jesus’ day.

There’s something about the cleansing of the temple we can easily miss.  Since the days of Abraham, God had chosen the Jewish people to take the gospel, as announced to Abraham, to the nations and to be a witness to the nations.

God had said to Abraham, “and all nations on the earth shall be blessed through you.”

This had always been God’s purpose, so the whole earth would be filled with the knowledge of the LORD.  Isaiah had said,

Is 49:6 “I will make you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

God’s expressed purpose was for his people to be a missionary people, and the temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations.  The outer court, which Jesus cleansed, was the court of the Gentiles.  What a terrible witness it would have been for a Gentile coming to the temple to seek God.  The Jews should have welcomed the stranger and witnessed to of the steadfast love of the LORD.  Instead, in those days the Jews called the Gentiles ‘dogs’; they wouldn’t even associate with Samaritans, who were mixed race.  And Gentiles coming to the temple would have seen signs around the Temple warning not to enter certain areas upon certain death.  This was a complete reversal of God’s purposes, and it was this which made Jesus so righteously angry.

What about us?  What do people see in our lives, in our church?  Do we welcome people and can we tell them of the steadfast love of the LORD and share the gospel?

47 Every day he was teaching at the temple.  But the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and the leaders of the people were trying to kill him.

I imagine Jesus was teaching on his favourite topic: the kingdom of God.  The leaders of society had become corrupt, but God was doing a new thing in the life and ministry of Christ.

Isa 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

I believe in our day this is an encouraging word for us as well.

We see the murderous intent of the religious and political leaders.  Jesus always had compassion on the ordinary people; they were like sheep without a shepherd.  But he spoke harsh words to the leaders, because this was the real problem.  Chaucer wrote a poem, and this is a small part of it:

“This parable he joined the Word unto –

That, “If gold rust, what shall iron do?”

For if shepherd be foul in whom we trust,

No wonder if a common man should rust!”

This was the problem then, and this is the problem now, rusted gold.  After the recent riots Mr Cameron said, “The root cause of this mindless selfishness is … a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society.”  Mr Cameron has in mind 120 000 so-called feckless families – I’m sure they need help.  But I think God has got in mind the complete irresponsibility of our political leaders who have been legislating against biblical values for the last 40 years.  What we are seeing is the bad fruit of that irresponsibility.  It’s time for our country to (re)turn, not just to moral values, but to biblical values before it’s too late – and it’s completely hidden from our eyes.

Let us pray.

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