Jesus wept – Thursday, 33rd week in ordinary time – Luke 19:41-44
Luke’s Gospel is structured around Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The last stage of this journey turns into a triumphant procession from the Mount of Olives into the city. The text of today corresponds to Palm Sunday in the scriptures. In the days to come the great shepherd will become the lamb of God! Luke tells us how the powers of this world rise up to try and stop Jesus.
For now, “he approaches the path down from the Mount of Olives” when the whole multitude of the disciples begin to praise God singing Hosanna. Contrary to popular belief, in all four Gospels we don’t find the triumphant entry taking place as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem but on the path down the mount of olives. It is on this path that he pauses and weeps over Jerusalem and then enters the city.
Jesus was riding a donkey a rather unusual animal one might think for such a triumphant entry. In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses if they rode to war, but donkeys if they came in peace. So the riding of the donkey was not demeaning, it wasn’t a symbol of lacking power. When Jesus indicates to his disciples that he should ride on a donkey that no one had ever ridden before, he is initiating a public, kingly act. He is revealing openly that he is the Messiah.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on what could only be the most chaotic day; it was Passover. Jerusalem was the centre of the Jewish faith. Everyone would be there and ironically most of them wouldn’t even know God was right there in their midst. They were too busy expecting this great king; a man who would lead the nation to their greatest moment as they would go to war and defeat their Roman oppressors.
That was not who Jesus was! They didn’t understand Jesus, because they completely misunderstood His mission. They wanted to be saved from Rome more than from their sin. They wanted their own independence more than they wanted God himself and they trusted in their own human force more than God. The result was destruction.
They missed the point and that broke His heart. They missed the message of God and so Jesus wept over them. He does not weep simply for the city itself but for the whole nation of people it represents. The saviour had come but they were still bound to their political expectations and he knew it. He felt deep sorrow at its resistance to God’s word. Within one week He would be gone.
What Jesus declared actually came true in 70 AD. Within the same generation at hand they began a revolt a four-year insurgency campaign in Judaea and it ended with the Romans surrounding the city and destroying its people and its temple.