Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, (Luke 19:41)
As a small child, one phenomenon of farm life kept me endlessly fascinated – how a mother hen could cover her chickens, hide them completely from sight, and yet not crush the life out of them. I would watch, utterly fascinated, as those tiny balls of fluff vanished or as they thrust themselves from their downy camoflage and emerged back into sight. There is something so immensely nurturing captured in this simple picture, one which Jesus Himself painted to illustrate His own feelings for His people. It is an analogy that imbues the same tender imagery as the Spirit of God broods over the waters before creation. It is an image that eloquently captures the loving, merciful, nurturing heart of the God of creation for His people.
This concept of nurture, care and protection is a vivid backdrop for today’s verse, which highlights the obvious parallel between God’s people then and God’s people now. Of course, Israel remains Israel, and the Bible makes it very clear that God will return His attention to them before the end of the last days. The church will never replace Israel and is, in effect, grafted in.
But there is a parallel between the condition of the people’s hearts then, at the first coming of Christ, and now, on the eve of His second coming. A challenging question emerges – are we repeating history? Do God’s people in these last days manifest the same attitudes and condition of heart that God’s people did in those days? It reminds us that we can never assume a sense of spiritual superiority. If God dealt with unbelief and religious prejudice back then – His own chosen people – He will certainly do the same now. The church is not exempt. Rather, because we have known the full grace of God in Christ, we may possibly even have a greater accountability.
But these two words capture our attention: Jesus wept. It was not a weeping from a personal sense of hurt and rejection, but rather from the knowledge of the consequences. It was grief and sorrow born from the truth that, though He loved each one to the point of death, would lay down all that was rightfully His for their sakes, they would still choose to turn away, to refuse to accept what was so freely given. His were tears of mourning for those who choose not to be loved. He wept for the desolation of heart and spirit that would come, for the bondage and destruction and the inevitable eternal separation.
Jesus wept. Oh, those are words that must touch our hearts. This is the response of our King to those who reject Him. Is this our heart? Can we, like Him, look on a world lost in the pursuit of self and weep? Or do we unconsciously adopt the attitude that ‘they had their chance’ and write them off. Do we have a heart that mourns, that longs to ‘gather them in,’ that will weep on our knees before our God for those who deny His love and grace?
It is, perhaps, easier to pray ‘generically’ for the lost – which, tragically, includes many within the church who follow a form of religion without truth and substance – than for someone we have personally had contact with. We can justify our reluctance to persevere for these people with verses from the Bible – if they reject our message we should dust our feet off and move on, or not throw pearls before swine. Yet these do not excuse us from living the heart of Christ. Jesus went to the cross, and they were included in grace. He wept. He grieved. He mourned. He manifested the full anguish of a parent with a wayward, rebellious child.
Gethsemane can never be excluded from the cross. It is part of the whole. The cross is the completion of love – Jesus took on the total sin and consequences of sin so that those who run to Him may enter His grace. But the issue was resolved and determined in His anguish in the garden. His great anguish of spirit was not simply reconciling Himself to the inevitable will of God. That reconciliation manifested the unutterable grief of a God for the lost, of a Father’s eternal anguish for His children. Jesus found the resolution to go to the cross in the inexpressible pain of love for people whom He knew would reject Him.
We are told to love God, and then love others with the same love He has for them and us. Jesus epitomises that love. It is a love that looks past human attitudes and rejection to what lies beyond. It is a love that weeps, that is not afraid to share the anguish and feel the pain. It is a love that brings us to our knees in prayer and intercession, no matter how many times they choose to reject the truth. It is a love that takes us to Gethsemane and to the foot of the cross. To share the heart of our Saviour is no small thing. His heart demanded all, His everything, His life. Do we have the courage to weep?
Sweet Saviour, open our eyes to see beyond the things of the flesh. Reveal to us what You see. Give us, Lord, that new heart, one that weeps for the lost, and the courage to manifest Your great love in our lives and on our knees.