“He Beheld the City and Wept”
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things [which belong] unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
Among the ancient pagans, there were numerous weeping gods. The dismembered moon goddess of the ancient Mexicans is portrayed as having tears of gold flowing from her eyes. In Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon, he relates his fabrication of a time when Enoch saw God weeping, tears that fell as rain upon the mountains. (Mr. Smith must have smoked one too many peace pipes with the Western Indians!)
Of course, we have no regard for pagan idols and the religious myths built around them. But there are three specific passages of Holy Scripture that portray God our Savior weeping tears more precious than gold. In these three texts of Scripture we see the incarnate God, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ in tears. Surely, there are things to be observed in the tender heart of our Savior, both to instruct and comfort us, as we see Him weeping.
In John 11 we see a wondrous thing. You know the context. Lazarus, a man the Savior loved, has died. The Lord Jesus has come to raise him from the dead. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, were broken-hearted and weeping. In the company of His bereaved friends at the tomb of Lazarus, we see the Son of God weeping and groaning in himself (John 11:32-38).
“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.”
“Jesus wept.” — That 35th verse is the smallest verse in the entire Bible. Yet, in some respects, it is the largest. Here is our incarnate God weeping with His weeping people. What can this mean? Why has God the Holy Spirit caused these words to be written? What do they teach us?
They teach us that the Lord Jesus Christ, our blessed God and Savior, is a real man, a man touched with the feeling of our infirmities. His love for Lazarus was great. When they saw Him weeping, “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” Oh, how the Son of God loves us!
Though we sorrow not as others who have no hope, God’s people feel pain and sorrow just like other people do. Sorrow does not necessarily imply rebellion against the will of God, or unbelief. The most fragrant flowers are found growing in the soil of sorrow. Were there no tears in our eyes, there could be no rainbow in our souls.
If our God and Savior is so tender and sympathetic that the sorrows of His friends caused Him to weep, how much more we ought to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn!
Hebrews 5:7-8 describes our Savior in the days of His flesh.
“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”
I have no doubt that this passage has specific reference to our Savior’s agony of heart and soul in Gethsemane (Mark 14:34-36). In His time of great heaviness, sorrow, and distress, we find our Lord Jesus in prayer. What an example He sets before us. The first one to whom we should turn in every time of trouble is our heavenly Father. Our God should be the first to hear the words of our complaints. He may or may not relieve our trouble; but it is good for our souls for us to unburden our hearts at the throne of grace. There, and only there will we discover the all-sufficiency of His grace (Hebrews 4:16; James 5:13).
What was the cause of our Lord’s great heaviness and sorrow in Gethsemane? What was it that crushed our Master’s heart? What so greatly disturbed him? It certainly was not the fear of physical pain or the fear of dying. It was not even the fear of dying upon the cross. Our great Savior came into this world in our flesh that He might die as our Substitute at Calvary.
That which crushed our Savior’s heart was the anticipation of being made sin for us. The heavy, heavy burden which crushed his very soul was the enormous load of sin and guilt, the sin and guilt of all God’s elect which was about to be His.
Our Savior’s great sorrow was caused by His anticipation of being made sin for us. “It was,” wrote J.C. Ryle, “a sense of the unutterable weight of our sins and transgressions which were then specially laid upon Him.” He who knew no sin was about to be made sin for us. He who is the only man who really knows what sin is, the only man who sees sin as God sees it was about to become sin. He who is the holy, harmless, undefiled Lamb of God was about to be made a curse for us. The holy Son of God was about to be forsaken by His Father.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “began to be sore amazed,” to be in great consternation and astonishment at the sight of all the sins of His people coming upon Him; at the black storm of wrath that was gathering thick over Him; at the sword of justice which was brandished against Him; and at the curses of the righteous law, which, like thunderbolts of vengeance from heaven, were directed at Him. No wonder the verse closes by telling us that, in consideration of these things, our Savior began “to be very heavy!” That which crushed our Savior’s very heart and soul was the very thing for which He came into the world. It was the anticipation of all that He must endure as our Substitute.
The message of Holy Scripture is Substitution. The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, our Mediator and Surety died in our place, in the place of God’s elect, as our Substitute. By His own blood, when He was made sin for us, when He was slain in our stead, He satisfied the justice of God for us, magnified His holy law, made it honorable, and purchased for us the complete, everlasting forgiveness of all our sins. He died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. Christ died at Calvary so that God might be both just and the Justifier of all who believe. It is written, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (Proverbs 16:6; Romans 3:19-28; Ephesians 1:7).
Since the Lord Jesus Christ died as the sinners’ Substitute, since He has met and fully satisfied the justice of God for us, believing sinners have no reason ever to fear condemnation by God, accusation before God, or separation from God (Romans 8:1-4, 31-39). Since Christ died for me, I cannot die. If you are in Christ, for you there is no possibility of condemnation by Him, accusation before Him, or separation from Him.
It was the enormous load of our sin and guilt which crushed our Savior’s heart in Gethsemane (Isaiah 53:4-6).
Th’ enormous load of all my guilt
Was on my Savior laid,
When He, Who knew and did no sin,
For sinners, sin was made!
“Awake, O sword,” in furious wrath,
Jehovah cried; and He,
(The Lamb of God, my Substitute!),
Was sacrificed for me!
In that same way, by grace and truth,
My ransomed soul is made
“The righteousness of God in Him,”
And I from sin am freed!
This wondrous mystery of grace! —
Salvation, full and free,
Shall be the subject of my songs
Here in Luke 19:41-44, we see the Lord Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem.
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
Behold the Man Christ Jesus: tender, merciful, gracious, and compassionate! Behold your God, full of compassion! — “He is gracious, full of compassion” (Psalms 112:4; 78:38-39; 111:4; 145:8-9).
Here we see the great tenderness and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ toward sinners. When He came near Jerusalem for the last time, “He beheld the city and wept over it.” He knew the character of the people who lived in Jerusalem. Their cruelty, their self-righteousness, their stubbornness, their obstinate prejudice against the Gospel, their pride of heart were all things open to Him. He knew that they were plotting to murder Him, and that in just a few days their hands would drip with His blood. Yet, He beheld the city and wept.
Why did he weep over the lost and ruined city? His own words in these four verses give us three distinct reasons for His great pity.
1. The Lord Jesus wept for His countrymen because they were ignorant of the Gospel (v. 42).
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