Beloved. For three years Jesus had preached and taught in Israel and confirmed that teaching with the miracles. But the prophecy from St. Zechariah had yet to be fulfilled [Zch 9.9/ Mt.21.5]: Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey—the prophecy of the Messiah’s royal entry in Jerusalem. Now was the time of this great hour of grace when Jesus would literally fulfill this prophetic word. It was Palm Sunday and Jesus was on His final journey to Jerusalem. Riding the donkey, Jesus received the exclamations of “Hosanna!” from the crowd of people accompanying His royal entry into the holy city. But when Jesus saw the city of Jerusalem in the distance—its beautiful temple, the walls of the city, its palaces—His eyes suddenly teared up and He breaks out in in weeping. In the midst of a jubilant crowd of people, the entering king is in tears: As he came near, he saw the city and wept over it. And why? He said, “If you, yes you, had only known on this day the things that would bring peace to you. But now, it is hidden from your eyes. In fact, the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. Within your walls, they will dash you and your children to the ground. And within your walls, they will not leave one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time when God came to help you.” Jesus had come in grace to bring His saving message to the people but He would be rejected. Jesus is the true God and as God He is all knowing. He knew that although at the moment it looked like the people were happy to receive Him and His grace and His saving word, He knew that it was literally only a matter of days when He would suffer rejection and condemnation, when the Good Friday crowd would be screaming for His blood: Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
Here we see the great love of our dear Lord! Not only did He continue on to Good Friday and His suffering and death, but that was also the exact/ very reason why He came in the first place; the very reason why the true God became also true man—to suffer and die. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus is serious about our salvation. Although He knew precisely what it would cost Him—His very life and great agony and suffering from man and God—and precisely because He knew what it would cost Him and that He was the only one who could pay the price, Jesus came. He came to be the Savior of the world: to place Himself under God’s Law to obey it for us because we can’t; to shed His holy, divine blood to reconcile us sinners to the holy God.
So, yes, Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday showed that He was serious about doing everything necessary to save us/ the whole human race from sin, death, devil and hell. Let us never doubt the beautiful passages of Scripture [1 Tim 1.15; John 3.16; Ez. 33.11; 1 Tim. 2.4]: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; God our Savior…desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. The truth of Scripture is absolutely clear, beyond any shadow of a doubt: God wants to save all people and Jesus’ work is for all people. After all, isn’t that why Jesus told His Church to make disciples of all the nations by baptizing and teaching them? –His saving work is for all and He wants to save all. There is no person to whom you cannot say in all truthfulness: “The one true and holy God loves you; Jesus died for your sins; your sins are forgiven; heaven is open to you.” Jesus’ saving work is for you and all people—none excluded. He is serious about it.
So serious is Jesus about it, that He literally weeps over those that reject Him and His saving work. That’s what we see in our text today—Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, those that would reject Him and His saving work for them. Did Jesus know that He would be rejected by most? By most in Jerusalem? Of course! He’s the all-knowing God. But He came and carried out His work—and everything that it entailed: obeying the Law, suffering great temptations, rejection, suffering, crucifixion. That’s how serious He is about saving the whole human race—you and me—and even those who would reject Him. To put it differently, Jesus brought salvation to the whole world; by His life, suffering and death He saved every person from sin and death. But not all will, in the end be saved. Why not? Is it Jesus’ fault that He did not save them? Certainly not! His work was for all people. The sins of all are paid for and forgiven. So then, why, in the end, will not all people enjoy eternal life in heaven with all the angels and saints in the presence of the holy Triune God? In short, because they reject Jesus and His work. Jesus puts it this way in our text: If you, yes you, had only known on this day the things that would bring peace to you. But now, it is hidden from your eyes—hidden because they do not hear/ listen to the word of the Lord. As Jesus also puts it a few days later [Mt. 23.37]: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
That’s why Jesus weeps in our text when He sees Jerusalem. He was on His way to bring about the salvation of the world—He was intent/ serious about saving all—but He knew most would reject and as direct punishment for their rejection, the Romans would come in about 40 years and destroy Jerusalem and the temple: In fact, the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. Within your walls, they will dash you and your children to the ground. And within your walls, they will not leave one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time when God came to help you. Jesus weeps because from its side the people of Jerusalem boldly rejected Jesus when He came in grace and mercy to help, to bring true peace, peace between us sinners and the holy God. When Jesus and His saving work are rejected, only punishment can result. But this is not what the Lord wills; He does not take delight in it. Remember what He had said through the OT prophet Ezekiel: As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. The same thing applies to us today. Jesus has brought us true peace with God—the forgiveness of sin. Now Jesus is visiting us in grace—giving us that forgiveness, giving us His perfect holiness, giving us eternal life in and through His holy word and sacrament. Let us welcome and treasure these great gifts that He is giving us. Let us welcome and treasure Him as He comes to us in them. If we reject Jesus and His gifts that He gives us in His holy word and sacrament, we place ourselves outside of His grace and must face the wrath and punishment of God as the people of Jerusalem one day did. And what is worse—the eternal punishment in hell. Jesus weeps for those who reject Him. They cause Jesus to weep. May we not cause Jesus to weep.
So, yes, Jerusalem boldly rejects and despises Jesus’ coming in grace. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus would weep over it. After all, isn’t Jerusalem just getting what it deserves? In a movie, who cries when the bad guy gets it in the end? What truly brought Jesus to tears was His merciful love of the people of Jerusalem. Even though they would reject and despise Jesus and His grace, He still loved them in His mercy. Just think of it for a moment—Jesus is willingly entering Jerusalem in full knowledge that He would be rejected and crucified—and not just crucified but that He would suffer the wrath of God for the sins of all people, that He would be made the world’s sinner before God and suffer the very pangs of hell. But that was not foremost in His heart and mind. What was? The suffering of Jerusalem. This is the merciful love of Jesus toward us sinners. He forgot His own suffering in light of Jerusalem’s. As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.
Dear Christian, let us always keep before our eyes these tears that Jesus shed over Jerusalem and let us apply them to ourselves. Let these tears of Jesus move us to repent of our sin. Let us see that our sins are indeed real and a serious matter and that, if left unrepented, they can condemn us eternally in hell. It was for our sins that Jesus came. He laid down His life for us on the cross. But if we reject that forgiveness, Jesus’ work for us would then be for naught for us.
Looking at Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, let us not think of Him as a milquetoast; let us never mistake His weeping, which is the expression of His merciful love toward us sinners, as weakness and an inability to do anything about sin. Lest we think that our sins don’t matter, that Jesus, because He here weeps, will not carry out His threats of punishment on those who reject Him and His work, what do we read next? Jesus entered the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling things there. He told them, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’!”
Jesus, now for the second time, cleansed His temple. Here He comes to the heart and core of why the people were despising the word, not believing in Him and were continuing on in sin. And why? Because of the sin of self-righteousness which infected the people. The people would come without a true repentance and think they could purchase themselves free from the wrath of God. They thought they were doing God a favor by doing the sacrifices—going through the motions at least of the sacrifices—and by this made God obligated to them. They traded off their supposed good works for God’s favor and blessing. And then there were certainly those who were true, faithful OT believers who in love of the Lord and in faithfulness to Him, and in true faith and repentance wanted to bring the Lord the proper sacrifice but were scammed and fleeced by those who were selling things there. How the faith of the faithful was tried and scarred and perhaps even irrevocably damaged by that whole scene. Jesus entered the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling things there. The same Jesus who in merciful love wept over Jerusalem now comes in a righteous anger calling them out on their sin. What of His merciful love? It was still there—and now He showed it in a different way. Certainly this self-righteous temple crowd would not be moved by tears but by a call to repentance. He told them, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’!” A den is a hide-out, a place of refuge where they feel safe from the law. These robbers felt safe there—until Jesus came with the Law and began driving them out. A powerful call to repentance!
Not only was Jesus calling them to repent but by enter[ing] the temple courts and [beginning] to drive out those who were selling things there He was showing that by His coming, the work/ time of the temple was over. Jesus is that perfect once for all sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world—the very Sacrifice all the OT sacrifices pointed forward to. He is there! He has come! The OT sacrifices have served their purpose and run their course.
Dear Christian, today’s Gospel is a wonderful call to repentance. Let Jesus’ tears move us to repent as we see His merciful love toward us, as we see He is serious in saving us from our sin. Let us not let this time of His coming to us in grace be wasted. As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. INJ Amen.