As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Scripture tells us that "during the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission" (Hebrews 5:7). There are two specific instances when Scripture says that Jesus "wept." Today's reading is one of these two. Was Jesus a cry baby? Or, if you prefer, was Jesus excessively emotional?
The short answer is no. Emotional, yes; excessively emotional, no. All passionate people are emotional. When people feel deeply for something, it moves them to great emotion. We saw evidence of this a few days ago when we read the story about how angry Jesus got with the money changers and the merchants selling animals in the temple. "Take these things out of here!" he commanded. "Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"
In today's story, Jesus weeps. He is entering Jerusalem, and as he sees the city, he breaks into tears, unmindful of the rejoicing around him. Why? Because he wanted to bless the people of Jerusalem with the peace they had always longed for, but they were going to deny themselves this by rejecting him. As the famous verse goes, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16), yet they rejected this love and all that came with it.
Isn't it enough to make anyone weep? And yet, nobody seems to shed a tear anymore or feel emotion about anything. There is so much hatred and violence and injustice and inequality, and it's met with just apathy. It reminds me of the legend about Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned. Although the story is probably apocryphal, this pretty much describes how the world behaves today. But forget the world. This is pretty much how the church acts today.
Some people are going to perish—and perish for all eternity—and nobody seems to care. What can we do, people ask? Plenty. But we need to care first. And to care, we need to realize that there is a life after this one, and it lasts forever. There are two destinations. One is with God; one is without. And the one without God is going to be immensely painful. And then we will want to reach out to everybody, not just our friends, but also our enemies, because we wouldn't want anyone to suffer like that.
And when we see that they don't recognize the truth of this eternity, we will weep too. Just like Jesus did.