With my head in my hands I wept a deep, groaning prayer of sorrow from a heart of love. My plea was simply, “Help him let love in!”
But I’m getting ahead of myself…….
The praise and worship of the crowds in the Triumphal Entry have just faded and before Jesus’ eyes stands the city of God’s chosen people – Jerusalem. It was Israel he chose and set apart from all the nations of the world (Deuteronomy 7:6). Through them all the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3) as was promised to Abraham. One would come through Israel to deliver them from the great oppressor, Satan. This One promised would crush the serpent’s head, thereby defeating him forever (Genesis 3:15).
Israel knew He was coming. They had anticipated it for centuries. While they waited, they ‘clarified’ the law given to them by God by adding their own rules and traditions. Eventually, their traditions – which merely kept the outside appearance of a man clean – came to override God’s law (Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:7-9) so that these rules of the Pharisees were the absolute standard for the devout leaders of Israel. The only problem is that “God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24), not in the traditions of man.
Keeping up of the outward appearance to please men hardened their hearts to the truth of God’s Word and blinded them to spiritual things. This hardening of their hearts, as they loved their commands greater than God’s, caused them to hate God instead of love Him. It caused them to live by sight instead of by faith. So much so that when the Messiah, God in the flesh, came to them – the One they had been so long waiting for – they rejected Him. Why? Because Jesus would not follow their traditions. He would not subject Himself to be put into their mold nor meet their behavioral expectations and conform to their man-made requirements. He didn’t have much good to say about their traditions:
“And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” – Mark 7:6-8
Even though they rejected Him, they knew He had an authority higher than themselves (Matthew 7:28-29). They knew God was with Him because of all the miracles He was doing (John 3:1-2). They knew He was the one sent from God. They knew all these things about Jesus, but they rejected Him anyway in hardened unbelief.
Despite their hard hearts and rejection of Him, Jesus wept for these rulers of Israel. We find Him here after the Triumphal Entry:
“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 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 and 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 know the time of your visitation.’ ” – Luke 19:41-44
Did you catch that? Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
The Greek word used for ‘wept’ means “to mourn, weep, lament; weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified; to weep for, mourn for, bewail, one“. Jesus was so grieved for Jerusalem that He mourned for it which caused Him to weep over it. It wasn’t the first time He wept over this city. Just a few chapters earlier, He cried:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not.” – Luke 13:34
He was willing, they were not. Jesus’ lament show us His deep love and compassion for mankind. He loved the people of Jerusalem so much, even as they vehemently worked to eliminate Him, that He weeps over them in mourning.
Can you hear His plea of love? If only you had known what would make for your peace...
He would still have taken them under His forgiving wings of unending grace and given them the only peace they needed, yet they would have nothing of it. Receiving that peace would have required a humility they were not willing to accept.
Many years ago my family had the privilege, by God’s providence, to have a young boy in our care for a time. His young heart was hardened which often made it difficult at the beginning, especially when things didn’t go as he liked. He would shut-down, go within himself and there was no reaching him. In these times, he would sit still and stare with a stone cold emotionless face, blind and deaf to any kindness toward him. I would extend love and mercy and compassion, but my efforts were always refused with defiance. My heart became so heavy for this dear child one day, I went quietly into the kitchen and I sank to the floor. With my head in my hands I wept a deep, groaning prayer of sorrow from a heart of love. My plea was simply, “Help him let love in!”
My heart was not heavy because I was offended at the child’s rejection of my love. His coldness in these moments didn’t hurt me or anger me, but it grieved me beyond belief. I was broken for his soul that knew not love. Love was here, willingly being poured out, and he could not believe it nor would he have it. The harsh reality of it broke my heart that day on the kitchen floor as I wept for his soul.
I can’t help but think that this, on a much more minute scale, is similar to the sorrow Jesus was feeling when He wept over His beloved Jerusalem. He wasn’t grieving because of what He was about to suffer. He wasn’t offended, or hurt, or angry. Love was here, at the gates of Jerusalem, willingly being poured out, and His own people wouldn’t believe it nor would they have it. That sad reality grieved Jesus and made Him lament for their souls.
Thankfully, the Lord answered my prayer for this precious boy almost immediately and also gradually over time. He became a very happy little one for the rest of his time with us. He let love in. Unfortunately, the Scriptures clearly reveal that religious Israel did not. Their story goes from bad to worse.
Jesus is full of compassion for lost sinners. God is not an angry oppressive ruler anxiously waiting to bring His wrath against humanity. He desires that all would come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). See His love for us as He weeps for lost Jerusalem – for you and for me? As much as the people in that day didn’t deserve His compassionate lament, neither do we. Yet He stands so willing to accept and receive anyone who would believe Him and come to Him.
“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8 NIV
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