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Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem

February 21, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 19:41-42 (NRSV)

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

Focus

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus wept for the city and its people. He mourned over their brokenness and hard-heartedness. The example of Jesus challenges us to have open hearts as we look at the pain, injustice, and violence of our world. May our hearts be touched by the heart of Jesus during this season of Lent. May we also weep over the ways God’s peace eludes us today, even as we commit ourselves to join God’s mission of peace in our world.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In the last devotion, Jesus was approaching Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. His disciples welcomed him with joyful shouts of praise to God (Luke 19:36-38). Yet, as Jesus looked across the Kidron Valley to the city of Jerusalem, the mood changed drastically. All of a sudden Jesus began to weep. The Greek verb used here suggests, not just a few tears, but painful sobs (klaio, Luke 19:41). Jesus was demonstrably grieving.

The Roman ColosseumWhy was Jesus so upset? We can understand what motivated his outburst because he spoke as he wept, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). He went on to predict the destruction of the city by its enemies, something that would happen in AD 70 when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed its temple. (This event was commemorated in Rome by the building of the Arch of Titus, which is in the center of today’s photo, in front of the Colosseum.)

As I reflect on this heart-rending scene in Luke, I’m struck first by the powerful emotions of Jesus. I try to imagine what it might have been like to observe this display of feelings. I expect I would have been deeply moved, perhaps also somewhat confused. Remember, his disciples were welcoming him as their new king. Was Jesus revealing that his kingship wouldn’t happen? Was he not the longed-for messianic king of Old Testament prophecy? We who know where the story of Jesus leads are not perplexed in this way. But I think we would have been if we were with Jesus in that moment.

Second, I wonder if Jesus looks upon this world in a similar way today. To be sure, his saving work has secured salvation. His death and resurrection opened up the way of peace for all: peace with God, peace with others, peace within ourselves. Millions upon millions of people have begun to experience this peace through faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, our world is anything but filled with God’s peace. Injustice, violence, and oppression fill the headlines. Hatred is painfully common. And millions of people do not know God’s love through Jesus Christ. The church, God’s main vehicle for sharing this good news, is too often inept, self-absorbed, and divided. Though Jesus surely delights when his people walk in his way of love, are there times when he also weeps over us? Might he be saying about us, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

Finally, the example of Jesus challenges me to have a vulnerable heart toward others, even those who feel like my opponents. Jesus knew that the leaders of Jerusalem, both Jewish and Roman, would soon oppose him, mocking, flogging, and killing him (Luke 18:32). Yet he wept even for these. As I look at the pain in the world around me, as I think of people with whom I disagree, I wonder if I have the heart of Jesus for them. Or have I let the ways of this world harden my heart with self-righteousness? Am I able to weep over the brokenness, pain, and sin of this world and its people?

In this season of Lent, may God give us the grace to be touched by the heart of Jesus. May we share in his grief over the state of our world. May we invite him to soften our hearts even as we renew our firm commitment to his mission of peace.

Reflect

As you put yourself into this scene in Luke, what are your thoughts? Feelings? Concerns? Hopes? Hesitations?

Do you feel free to express your emotions, including emotions of sadness? If so, why? If not, why not?

How do you think Jesus feels today when he looks upon the earth?

Are you willing to have the Lord soften your heart toward others, even if this means you too will weep over their brokenness?

Act

Find a pace of quiet where you can be attentive to the Lord for several minutes. Ask him to make your heart more like the heart of Jesus. Whether you weep or not is not the main thing. Allowing God to open and form your heart is.

Pray

Lord Jesus, today I am struck by your expression of grief over Jerusalem. Thank you for sharing your feelings so openly. You give me permission to live more fully into my humanity, even as you once did.

Lord, I wonder if you weep over this world today. I know you see so many acts of goodness, kindness, and worship. I know you are honored when we, your people, love each other, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Yet you also see such brokenness and pain in our world. Like the city of Jerusalem two millennia ago, we also fail to recognize the things that make for peace. I’m sorry, Lord, to be part of a world that grieves you.

Help me, I pray, to open my heart even as you once opened yours. May I also grieve for the pain in this world. When I see injustice, racism, oppression, and violence, may I mourn. Help me not to harden my heart, Lord, even and especially against those with whom I disagree, or those whose behavior I disparage. As I weep over the state of our world, may I also join you in your mission of peace, remembering that those who make peace are blessed as your children. Amen.

P.S.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: Is It Okay to Grieve? Or Should You Just Be Quiet?


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