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God’s Word for You

Luke 19:41-44 The tears of Christ

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 29, 2019

41 As he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,  42 saying, “If you, even you, had known in this day…! If you had known what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes.

Jesus’ words as he sobs his “strong sobs” (Franzmann), he chokes out the sentences of verse 42 and following. The words are so emotional that the first sentence is not complete, so I have not tried to smooth it over.

There are four parts to what Jesus expresses in verses 41-42.

First: He weeps. Or rather, he sobs heavily “for her,” for the city of Jerusalem, “the city where I chose to put my Name” (1 Kings 11:36). Our God is not emotionless and cold. He is moved by our prayers (2 Chronicles 33:13). Jesus wept and grieved at the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35). The Lord in heaven even laughs when he is opposed (Psalm 2:4, 37:13, 59:8). This confused Solomon, who once thought that laughter is foolish (Ecclesiastes 2:2), but later discovered that even laughter has its place in God’s plan (Ecclesiastes 10:19). When God shows grief, it is because of the sins of his people and the results of that sin, either in death or in even worse sins (Ezekiel 6:9), or in punishment. “I am grieved,” the Lord said, “over the disaster I have inflicted on you” (Jeremiah 42:10). Jesus’ tears at this time are explained by what he says.

Second: “If you, even you, had known this day…!” The Lord’s words trail off, probably in his heavy sobs, so that the sentence is unfinished. But Jerusalem was given a special insight into the coming of the Lord. This was the city where Isaiah preached. This was the city where David sang. This was the city where Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac prefigured the Heavenly Father’s willingness to sacrifice his only begotten son.

Third: “If you had known what would bring you peace!” The Lord felt the nails and cross and the crown of thorns and the jeers of the Temple priests even now. “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). It was not a donkey bringing peace to mankind, but the wrath of God on man, taken in its full blast by the Son of God, that was bringing peace.

Fourth: “It is hidden from your eyes.” This is a statement of law. It was God’s chastisement on many, probably most, of the people of Jerusalem that they did not understand what was happening. The sin of rejecting God is also called obduracy, the hardening of one’s heart. God’s answer to this is to take part. When one hardens one’s heart, God may also harden that heart, so that no return in repentance is possible. If the sin of unbelief had hidden the Messiah from Jerusalem, then the answer of God was to hide the Messiah still more. If you will not see him, then you shall certainly not see him! This will appear later when many of the people would shout, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25).

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 They will 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 recognize the moment of your inspection.”

Jesus is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, especially by the Romans under Titus (later Caesar Titus) in 70 AD. The Romans “went in numbers into the lanes of the city, with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook, without mercy, and set fire to the houses wither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest” (Josephus, Wars 6,8,404). The Romans set fire to it, and the fire swept everywhere “in the night, and as all was burning, came that eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul] upon Jerusalem; a city that had been liable to so many miseries during the siege, that, had it always enjoyed as much happiness from its first foundation, it would certainly have been the envy of the world” (407-408). The coming of the Romans was not just an accident of the political history of Palestine. It was the outpouring of the wrath of God. “The LORD has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations. The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the world’s people, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem. But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous.” (Lamentations 4:11-13).

The word “inspection” at the end of verse 44 is the Greek word episcopes (ἐπισκοπῆς). It is usually translated “visit” or “visitation.” In Luke, it occurs in 1:68 (“for he has come”), 1:78 (“will visit us”), and 7:16 (“God has visited his people!”). It has the idea of “to look in on.” It can be either a law word in which God visits his people with judgment, or a gospel word in which God looks in on his people with rescue and relief. This visitation or inspection is divine; it is both law and gospel, and either outcome (punishment or rescue) is always possible, depending on whether an individual has faith or not, since only faith saves and only unbelief damns (Mark 16:16). This was the moment of Jerusalem’s inspection, and God the Judge looked in on his people and wept.

Despite his grief and his tears, Jesus knew what had to be done. He went ahead because of the grief and tears of those who trust in him. He knows your pain; he knows your sorrow over your sins, and he knows that you and I are helpless to do anything to end the destruction and death that sin brings. “You, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you, and you are the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14). Jesus had come to inspect, but also to save.

    Ride on ride on in majesty!
    In lowly pomp ride on to die.
    O Christ, your triumphs now begin
    O’er captive death and conquered sin.

    Ride on ride on in majesty!
    The angel armies of the sky
    Look down with sad and wond’ring eyes
    To see th’approaching sacrifice.

              Henry A. Milman (1791-1868)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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