Deserved Weeping

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. Buck up Jeremiah. Judah is getting what they deserve. They are prideful; stiff-necked; rebellious. Years and years of turning their back on God and his holiness. Years and years of sacrificing their babies. And although all of that is true, and even though Jeremiah’s message is about the just judgment of God, Jeremiah weeps. In 9:1 he says, “Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” In 13:17, “But if you will not listen to it, my soul will sob in secret for such pride; and my eyes will bitterly weep and flow down with tears, because the flock of Yahweh has been taken captive. And in 14:17 we have, “You will say this word to them, ‘Let my eyes flow down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my people has been crushed with a mighty blow, with a sorely infected wound.” Yes, they deserve the judgment. But they are people; Jeremiah’s people.

In Luke 19:41-44 Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem. When he draws near, when the city is in view, Jesus weeps. The word probably speaks of an audible weeping. This is not a silent private weeping off in a corner somewhere. This is a wailing out of grief. And what is so sad? This city is made up of people; Jesus’ people; people he is on his way to die for. But they don’t get it. The city of peace does not know the things of peace. Peace has drawn near and they don’t see it. They are blind to the truth of the Messiah; the one whose birth was praised by an angelic choir singing out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” The people shout out about peace in heaven at his coming, but the religious leaders were blind. What was so sad? They had the answer right there. But because of their pride that peace was hidden from their eyes. Pride has a way of hiding many things. Peace especially.

Then Jesus uses some pretty rare words to describe a siege. The enemy is coming and they will throw up a rampart. The word is literally palisade. A palisade is a fence made of wooden poles. In our context it probably refers to a rampart that is supported by palisades on either side. Josephus tells us that Titus had four constructed against Jerusalem (Josephus, War 5.466). They enemy will also surround them and hem them in. Josephus also reports that a wall was constructed around the city of Jerusalem (Josephus, War 5.508). This was to ensure that no one was able to flee. And Jesus said that they will cast them to the ground and their children with them. Sieges were horrible things. The siege of Jerusalem was no exception. People hunkered down, starving, and awaiting the dreaded moment when the walls would be breached. There was cannibalism; there was battle between two factions led by John and Simon; there were whole families found who had starved to death. When the enemy came rushing over the walls, they struck down adults who were mostly too emaciated to fight back; they killed children who had become waifs wandering the city. Those who were too old or too young were killed. All who had picked up a sword were killed. The rest were taken as slaves. Some of them were put to use in further sieges against their own people.

And finally, not one stone would be left upon another. This was a common phrase that was not intended to be taken literally. It meant complete destruction. Josephus tells us that most of the wall was leveled, but that some of it and some of the towers were left standing (Josephus, War 7.1-4). The city will be destroyed. And on 70 AD, Rome was successful and Jerusalem fell. Jerusalem did not fall merely because of Rome’s superior might and ruthless tactics. Jesus informs us that Jerusalem would fall because they did not recognize the time of their visitation. The word “visitation” often refers to divine visitation. In the prophets it usually referred to judgment. They were blind to peace and they failed to know that God had come into their midst. They didn’t repent. They didn’t accept Messianic peace. They arrogantly stood against the ministry of Jesus.

Did they deserve 70 AD? Yes. In a sense we all deserve judgment. And in this passage we get a glimpse of the heart of God. Jerusalem will be judged. But Jesus does not revel with the justice of it all. He breaks down and howls out his grief. They should have seen. They should have known. They should have accepted the Messiah. And isn’t that sad? We all deserve judgment, but God longs for us to see and accept his peace. Follow Jesus and know peace. And weep for those who are blind. Peace.