In Luke 19, God cries. God weeps. God is sorrowful. It remained for Jesus of Nazareth to illustrate with thorns, nails and a crossbeam that at the center of the heart of a sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, all-powerful God, there is a cross. “And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it…” The question is why? What is the source of Christ’s tears and in him the tears of God himself?
A Lack of Knowledge
Tears welled up in the eyes of Jesus of Nazareth because as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem, the city of peace, he saw a lack of knowledge. “Would that even today you knew?”
They had been told. Abraham told them. Moses told them. Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel told them. And Hosea, in speaking for God, said this, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest after me” (Hosea 4:8). We’ve been told too.
In Ezekiel 33:11, God made his plea: “Say to them, 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; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?”
God called you to himself. God loves you with a love greater than you imagine. God sent his only Son to die on a cross. If you were the only person on the face of the earth, he would have come to give you a new life. You may say, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not pure enough,” and “I’m not honest enough.” God has forgiven all of that. You now know.
Yet there are people today with that kind of knowledge who will walk away and forget it. Jesus stood beside the city of Jerusalem, saw their lack of knowledge after they had been told, and he wept. Jesus stands outside our cities, sees the same thing, and weeps. Jesus still weeps.
A Lack of Action
Jesus wept over a lack of action due to their lack of knowledge. “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” The point is this: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22-25).
As Christians, under the teaching of God’s Word, we have a lot of stored up knowledge. How are we going to use it? As Christians, we know what to do. We know what God says about compassion, about the lonely in this world. We know what God says about our honest and loving witness. We know what God says about taking care of the poor and looking after the widow. We know what God says…and action follows that knowledge.
I have a friend who prays to God, “Father, teach me to weep for my sins, so that I might weep for the sins of others.” Jesus stood outside the city of Jerusalem, looked down on people who knew more of God than any race in the history of mankind and hadn’t acted on that knowledge, and he wept. Jesus still weeps.
The tears of Jesus were the tears of compassion. “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you…”
The tears of Jesus were the tears of compassion.
That prophecy came true in an astounding and startling way in the year 70 AD. The legions of Rome moved into Jerusalem and a million men, women and children were slaughtered to death or died of starvation. Not one stone was left, literally, upon another. In his mind’s eye, Jesus looked to the future, seeing the starvation, the hurt, the suffering, and the pain, and he wept.
The problem of pain, stated simply, is this: If God is good and all-powerful, why is there so much suffering in the world? Either God is not good or God is not all-powerful. The teaching that Jesus came to give was the Father saying, “I wish I could change it. I wish I could make it different. I wish I could have created a world where no one hurt and no one suffered, but because there was no other way, I came to you and I suffer too.”
Are you afraid? He was afraid. Are you lonely? He was lonely. Do you weep? He wept with us. If our hearts are tuned to his, we will shed tears of compassion too. Jesus stood beside Jerusalem, saw what was happening, and he wept. Jesus still weeps.
They Didn’t Accept Him
Jesus knew himself to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. When he looked out over Jerusalem, he saw those who refused to accept him. Again he wept. All of these things will happen “because you did not know the time of your visitation.” John 1:9-12 describes the sorrow: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”
It’s quite a sight to see the Son of God standing by a city and crying. Jesus cried because, as he looked out over that city, he saw not just the city of peace, but the world. Jesus saw what would happen just a week later on a cross. He would die for their sins so that they might be free, so that they might have eternal life, so that they might have abundant life, so that they might have joy, peace and meaning. He wanted them to see it. He wants us to see it too.