There are two places in the gospels that we see Jesus weep.
The first time he weeps over a person (John 11:35).
The second time he weeps over a place (Luke 19:41).
This Jesus, who rode into town on a donkey, doesn’t seem to be afraid of human emotion. He is, after all, fully human. He knows the experience. He knows frustration. He knows joy. He knows weariness. He knows prayer. He knows life.
The person Jesus wept over was Lazarus, one of his closest friends.
The place Jesus wept over was the place His Father loved deeply (Psalm 78:28), the city of Jerusalem.
So imagine the scene, Jesus looks over the very city that he has had his face set towards since Luke 9:51 and it is in his full view. He sees the sights, hears the sounds, smells the smells and he is moved to weeping over the city. Curious that this man, who knows the fullness of human emotion, is the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) and he is weeping for the city of peace.
When we break down the name Jerusalem we find two words “yeru” which means “foundation of” and “salem”, which means “peace”. Jerusalem, therefore is the “city of peace”.
Though called in name “the city of peace”, Jesus knows this city will not have peace, because the city will reject him, the one who not merely offers peace, but is himself peace (Eph. 2:14). History affirms the words of Jesus as 40 years later Rome would ransake Jerusalem and take it around 70AD.
Nazareth, his hometown, rejected Jesus. Jerusalem, the place he loved that he had his face set towards, would reject him. Again, Jesus knows human emotion, he knows what it means to be rejected.
Knowing the coming rejection that he will experience from the religious leaders he cries out, “would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” To reject Jesus is to reject peace. Jerusalem rejected Jesus, therefore forfeited her birthright of being the city of peace.
Jerusalem thought she knew what would make for peace, but she was wrong because though peace was in her gates, she chose something else.
When we put this in perspective, what comes to full view is that Jesus truly loves and cares for this world. Though rejected by the world he still loved the world to die for the world – this included Jerusalem.
Jerusalem on earth failed, though still standing and certainly a hotbed for debate and rich in history of war and strife, we no longer look to the Jerusalem of old. Now, because of the one rejected by the old Jerusalem, we are looking to the new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12). The city where humanity lives in perfect relationship with God. Rejection is not even a memory, all that is, is a people living into eternity with God, forever and ever.
Praise God that this Jesus who wept over Jerusalem, will one day usher in the New Jerusalem where weeping will be no more and instead rejoicing will be the sound throughout the city of God.
Why do you think Jerusalem rejected Jesus? Are there parts of your life where you have rejected Jesus? What are they and how can you offer those places to him?
Luke is Pastor of Discipleship to the community of saints, in Christ, at Nashville UMC.