Palm Sunday: Jesus Weeping over Jerusalem
Mark 11:1-11 and Luke 19:41-44
Jesus wept! Any time we see someone in tears we stop and think about it. Our hearts go out to people who are legitimately crying because they are hurting. When we read that in the midst of the account of Palm Sunday that Jesus wept it causes us to want to know more.
This is the second time we read in the Gospels that we read that Jesus wept. Earlier Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. The Greek has two different words to describe one crying. At the tomb of Lazarus, the Greek tells us that Jesus wept (dakruo) what might be called “silent tears”, that is tears that simply rolled down His cheeks. Here the word is different (klaio) and tells us that His weeping was aloud. The word describes when one is overcome with grief and expresses it in an audible crying.
Luke 19:28 tells us that Jesus was approaching Jerusalem from the east, that is from Bethany. He came over the area known as the Mount of Olives and according to verse 37 was about to descend into the Kidron Valley. From there He was able to see the whole city of Jerusalem, It was a magnificent sight especially at the time of the Passover when thousands of Jews from all over Israel and the world had journeyed there to celebrate God leading them out of bondage to Egypt. Jesus saw that great city that was preparing to welcome Him. Verse 37 tells us that the disciples and others began to joyfully praise God. Then, without warning and certainly unexpectedly according to verse 41, Jesus burst into audible crying.
We cannot even imagine what must have gone through minds of the disciples. Why would Jesus be crying on such an important and glorious day? And then Jesus spoke these words of Luke 19:42-44. Read that passage.
There were two parts to His message. The first concerned “this day” according to verse 42 and the second the “day that will” come. “This day” referred to that very day when Jesus entered Jerusalem. He who was the King of kings and Lord of lords had come but, as John noted in the introduction to his Gospel, “He came unto His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Had they received Him things would have been so different, but they refused despite their reception of Him that day. Because they would not accept Him as Savior then verses 43, 44 would become a reality.
Jesus knew that because of their refusal to accept Him as the Messiah judgment would come and 40 years later, in 70A.D, the Roman armies came and totally destroyed the city, leaving it in ruin just as Jesus described it. The Roman army simply sat for well over 4 years allowing no one in or out of the city. Food was long gone so when those who had not already died of starvation or disease were too weak to resist, the Roman army simply walked in as victors. Josephus tells us over a million were killed and nearly that many more taken as slaves to Rome. Jesus knew that was going to happen, knowing it because He was God. Everyone, however, should have known it was coming. God had repeatedly declared that if His people did not follow, obey, and worship Him judgment was inevitable. Like us, however, few Jews believed God would do that to His people.
(Two important truths from the events of Palm Sunday are first, only God really knows the future and second, that fulfilled prophecy is one of the most powerful testimonies we have to who Jesus was.)
What should strike us all is how those tears demonstrated so vividly God’s love for mankind, a love that was so strong that God sent His only Son to be our Savior. His love is so strong that He rejoices when a sinner accepts the provision of the Cross. It is so strong that we are assured nothing in heaven or earth, in time or eternity will separate us from it. The picture of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem is an incredible testimony to the depth of God’s love for us.
For a moment think about the city He was weeping over. This was the city that had every reason to love God, obey, and worship God. It was the city in which He made His presence known in a special way in the temple that was there. They had, however, chosen to reject Him and what He had said to them in His word. Read what Jesus said about the religious leaders in Matthew 23:33.
There should have been incredible praise to God in Jerusalem for all He had done for them but instead of following His commands they set up a system of religious activities that only vaguely represented what God wanted. They refused to worship God, accept His Messiah or live the holy life demanded of them.
If it had been us that day knowing what Jesus knew we would probably have been looking to heaven and saying to the Father, “It’s about time.” Jesus knew what they were like and what they had done but read Matthew 23:27. The love of God is beyond anything we can even begin to comprehend, love displayed so loudly and vividly when Jesus wept over the impending judgment on Jerusalem.
The tears Jesus shed that day should speak volumes to us about the nature of God. Satan wants us to think that God is out to get us, that somehow God delights in zapping us. Unfortunately, too often the church has helped Satan get that idea across. In our zeal to encourage people to live holy lives we have sometimes pictured God’s anger at sin as an overriding characteristic of His. Too often the picture we have of God is of One sitting in heaven making a list and checking it twice to be sure He has down every time we slip up.
Of course, sin is wrong and every time we sin it hurts God and there are often consequences for us, but God does not delight in discipline or judgment. Sin sometimes angers God. Within a few hours of Jesus entering Jerusalem, He was in the temple area and was so angered by the sin He saw there that He turned the tables of the sinning money changers upside down. But the primary response of God to our sinfulness is tears, tears because He knows full well what we are missing out on because of sin.
Jesus introduced us to the creator of the universe, the all-powerful God who holds everything together, who knows everything and is everywhere, by declaring we can call Him our Father who is in heaven. Jude tells us we are loved by the one we call father. Read I John 3:1. The tears Jesus shed on Palm Sunday because it was necessary for God to judge Israel for its sin should speak as clearly as possible to us about God’s love.
As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Good Friday and Easter may I suggest we keep two things in mind. First, let’s keep the seriousness of sin before us. Sin hurts. Sin hurts us and sin hurts God. Sin separates. Sin caused Jesus to have to go to the Cross. But second, Holy Week and Good Friday are not about an angry God striking out against our sin but a loving God taking the judgment of our sin upon Himself. God loves us as the events of Palm Sunday so vividly demonstrate. Let’s remember that the whole week speaks loudly and clearly about how deep His love is for us.