Luke 19:29-44 “Crying for Zion”
Do you realize that in the Bible there is only one nation on the whole planet that God ever blesses? I know that many nations like to think that they have been specifically blessed by God; our own country falls into that category as we sing “God bless America.” However in the Bible, only Israel has the stated blessing of God.
Well, some may point out that America did not exist back then, and that we have a post-biblical blessing. Others point out that God’s blessing of Israel is really only in the Old Testament, and we are a New Testament people today. Yes, and no! If the blessing of the nation of Israel stops at the Book of Malachi, that is to say the end of the Old Testament, then what should we today make of the fact that Jesus weeps for no other nation accept Israel after his triumphal entry into its capital? What should we do with the apocalyptic vision of the “New Jerusalem” coming down from heaven that we read in Revelation 21? This is not just Hebraic history; the Bible says it is the heavenly future as well!
If we are followers of Christ, and I know of course that we are, should we not also cry for Jerusalem today? I think the answer must be a solid yes. As Christians we should be concerned for Israel. God has had a long-standing promise for Zion that I think is best heard in Isaiah 30:19-21, “Yea, O people in Zion who dwell at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. When he hears it, he will answer you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying ‘This is the way, walk in it. . . .’”
This is from my favorite prophet Isaiah. It was written over five hundred years before Jesus appeared. It promises that the “Teacher” will come to show the how to “Walk” in the way of the God again.
Yes, the teacher came! His name was Jesus of Nazareth. The people realized this fulfillment of ancient prophecy with waving palms and screaming out “Hosannas.” Jesus walks straight up to the Temple of Jerusalem, AND Jesus is rejected. The political and religious leaders of the day will have nothing to do with this Jesus of Nazareth! They do not need a messiah. They are happy with the status quo. They do not want to rock the boat and thereby lose their status and worldly power.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome mulls over the rejection of Jesus in Jerusalem. In Romans 11:1-2 we read, “. . . Has God rejected His people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. . . .”
I always like to point this out to non-believers: You may reject Jesus in your heart; yet, God will not reject you! Throughout much of the last two millennia of European history, Christians have taken it upon themselves to reject the Jewish people because of this false understanding. God never rejected the Jewish people. Again, Israel is the only nation ever blessed by name in all of history.
Just because people reject Jesus, that does not give us the “go-ahead” to reject them. God’s love is for all of God’s children. But, when Jesus weeps for Jerusalem, as in today’s scripture, we see that He knows already what the future history will be for the Jewish nation. In fact he states outright how the Temple will fall.
When people reject Jesus today. I look at them as if they have built up their own walls around what they think is right and sacred, and to be sure those walls will fail. Their bulwark of hate will come crashing down.
Just as Jesus cried for those in Jerusalem, we this morning must cry for those in Waimea, or Kauai in general, our country, those who would reject the Teacher named Jesus sent by God.
Sometimes, I do not know what else to do but weep. A boy who comes everyday to the Ed Center after school to play basketball with his buddies. But, he always comes in late. I see him cross over the street towards the building, but then he disappears. He is over getting high on pakalolo as it turns out. Talking with him does not stop him from destroying his own life. The behavior continues. He has been in broken families and foster care all of his life. He feels he cannot be himself without getting a fix of drugs first. I know how this story is going to most likely end up. I can only weep. I weep for the children of Waimea, for the broken families, homelessness, and drugs. How many families have been destroyed by drugs!
In verse 42 of today’s scripture Jesus laments “If you even today knew the things that make for peace.” He is crying this out against Jerusalem, a city that literally means “The temple of Peace.” Ironic isn’t it? The city that has been most fought over in the history of the world means “peace.” Rarely have they known peace in that city. They have rejected peace as much as they have rejected Jesus at the time of his triumphal entry.
The Israelis today have built high walls to defend themselves. They have security cameras everywhere. Armed guards are ubiquitous. Just three weeks ago, the Israelis stripped Palestinians of right of residency anywhere in the City, including East Jerusalem, which is the Palestinian capital. Palestinians now have no right to live in their own capital city!
So often we think that peace is brought on by having walls. We repeat the popular saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” We forget that Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Real peace is about removing the things that separate us and coming to help one another.
Let us move to the last verse of our scripture. Jesus states, “You did not know the time of your visitation.” Everyone seemed to know. They were yelling and screaming for Jesus. Jesus states even in verse 40 that if the people themselves were silenced even the stones would cry out for him. All of nature recognizes Jesus even. How can Jesus say that he was not recognized?
I would like to refer to Peter’s first letter, chapter 1:13-14, “Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. . . .”
This text literally means that people desire to be ignorant of Jesus. How can all these people be shouting out Jesus’ name and yet the fact that God is visiting His only temple is lost to the ignorance of the few leaders who only desire their own ignorance. They do not recognize the time of their own visitation by God.
They were probably too busy to know that they were being visited by God. A few weeks ago Helen had an old school mate come to visit all the way from Hong Kong. She took time off to take him around the island. The whole time that he was here, I was busy doing my usual stuff as a pastor. He stayed at the parsonage, but I never saw him there. Finally in the end, I met him for thirty seconds in the driveway before he was off to the airport again.
Were the leaders of the day in Jesus’ time simply too busy to recognize that Jesus was visiting them? Are we too busy? I like the fact that when Jesus came to the Temple in Jerusalem most everybody put down what they were doing at the time, picked up a palm frond and made a joyful noise unto the Lord!
Yet, I am sure that even back then, people were too busy to attend to the visitation of God in their time. They were ignorant, and comfortably so. Maybe they would meet Jesus in the road as he was leaving Jerusalem again, and that would be all. This is the desire of ignorance—the passion of ignorance. If you feign not knowing who Jesus is, then you will not be forced into that moment of either accepting or rejecting him.
That is the miracle of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem: nobody now can passionately ignore Jesus as so many try to do today. This time of celebration of the visitation of God to the holiest place, to the city of peace, in the country blessed by God just forces the issue. We cannot say, “We do not know who Jesus is.” We cannot pretend the Messiah has not come.
This is what I want you to go home with today: If you happen to know someone in your life, in your families, or among your friends who are not really accepting Jesus, and not rejecting him either, but rather much just ignoring Him in the desire of their ignorance, then make a noise so that person will no longer be able to ignore the Lord. Sing hymns of praise. Wave your arms in halleluiahs.
Jesus is right now weeping for them to know Him, to know peace in their lives.