Luke 19:41-44 and Rev. 5:1-10
How poignant it is that we have this account of Jesus’ tears over the city of Jerusalem as our gospel lesson today.
It was just two days ago that two Palestinian men entered a synagogue in Jerusalem with butcher knives and a gun, killing four Jewish rabbis who were at prayer, and a police officer who answered the call for help. Tensions have been high in Jerusalem in recent weeks as Palestinians and Jewish Israelis clash over control of the sacred area of the old city known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. In the past few weeks, two mosques have been set ablaze in arson attacks in the West Bank, leaving copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in ashes. Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the synagogue attack by ordering the demolition of the attackers’ homes, as well as the acceleration of the destruction of homes of Palestinians who carried out earlier attacks. And so the cycle of violence and retribution that has plagued Jerusalem and the Middle East for centuries continues.
It is not hard to imagine that Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem even today.
We refer to this passage from Luke’s gospel as a lament. The Bible is no stranger to laments: the psalmist laments, the prophets lament, God laments. In the words of Biblical scholar Fred Craddock,
“A lament is a voice of love and profound caring,
a vision of what could have been and of grief over its loss,
of tough hope painfully releasing the object of its hope,
of personal responsibility and frustration,
of sorrow and anger mixed,
of accepted loss but with energy enough to go on.” (1)
Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem reveals the depth of his love for God’s people. As he descends the Mount of Olives toward the city gates for the final time, he weeps over their refusal to repent of their sin and seek forgiveness, and mourns their rejection of God’s offer of peace.
When our hearts find their home in the heart of God, we too will feel this deep sorrow –
for Israelis and Palestinians hopelessly caught up in a cycle of violence and retribution in the Middle East,
for nations and peoples imprisoned and bound by hatred and animosity,
for families and individuals living in the tension of their seemingly irreconcilable differences,
and for the ongoing battle between good and evil in our own hearts and lives.
God’s heart breaks with love, and as our hearts find their home in God’s heart, our hearts will be broken, too.
But we are not left without hope. As if to counter-balance this note of sorrow, the book of Revelation offers us a vision of the ultimate victory of God,
of the final triumph of good over evil,
of love over hatred,
of peace and reconciliation over violence and strife.
So we do not lose heart. We do not abandon hope. There is One who is worthy to open the scroll, the vision proclaims, One who is worthy to receive “blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (Rev 5:13). And one day we will stand with him, in that place where there is neither sorrow nor weeping, but life and peace forevermore.
- Craddock, Fred B.; Luke (Interpretation Commentary); (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990); p.229.
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