41 As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you and your children among you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst, because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.” (Luke 19:41-43)
Through the Bible: Luke 19
On the slopes of the Mount of Olives, to the east of the old city of Jerusalem, sits a small church called Dominus Flevit. Built in 1955 by the famed “architect of the Holy Land” Antonio Barluzzi, it was designed to resemble a teardrop. This is no accident, for “Dominus Flevit” is Latin for “the Lord wept.” The church commemorates the spot where Jesus stopped and wept over Jerusalem in the middle of His triumphal entry (Luke 19:41-43).
The church is significant for one other reason: every other Catholic church in the world has an altar that faces east. The altar of Dominus Flevit faces west; toward the city over which Jesus wept, and in which Jesus died.
The Prophet Fulfilling Prophecy
If all you knew about Jesus as a prophet was this story of Him weeping over Jerusalem, you might conclude that He was the New Testament version of Jeremiah, who also wept for God’s people (Jeremiah 9:1, 10; 13:17). But let’s remember that this scene took place in the middle of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was the prophet who Himself was the fulfillment of prophecy. Riding on a donkey fulfilled Zechariah 9:9. Crowds shouting Hosanna fulfilled Psalm 118:25-26. Cleansing the temple fulfilled Psalm 69:9. Jesus would fulfill at least seven Old Testament prophecies before He went to bed that night.
On that first day of Holy Week, however, most of this was lost on those waving palm branches and spreading out their cloaks. They had been waiting for a military Messiah who would deliver them from the oppressive Roman government. If they had been paying attention, they would have realized that Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a war horse. They remembered Zechariah 9:9—that a “righteous and victorious” king would come to them riding on a donkey; but they seemed to forget Zechariah 9:10—that “the bow of war will be removed, and he will proclaim peace to the nations.” They understood that “Hosanna” meant “please save us,” but they were shortsighted on what they most needed to be saved from. It wasn’t Ceasar; it was sin. It’s no wonder that less than a week later, when they saw their Messiah beaten and bound before Pilate, they concluded that Jesus couldn’t have been the Messiah they thought He was; and their shouts turned from “save us” to “crucify him.”
The Prophet Picking a Fight
While it is true that Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, that doesn’t mean he didn’t provoke people from time to time. Especially the Pharisees and Sadducees. These two groups of religious leaders didn’t agree on much, but the one thing they did agree on was that Jesus was a threat. So later on that week, both groups sent delegations to try and trap Jesus in His own words.
The Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, were first up. They confronted Jesus with an absurd hypothetical situation intended to make the doctrine of resurrection itself look foolish. Jesus didn’t take the bait. He shut them down by showing them how little they truly understood the Scriptures.
Next came the Pharisees. Whatever else was true about them, no one could deny that they knew the Law better than almost anyone else. Anyone besides Jesus, that is. They asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Rather than trying to pick one of the 613 commands of the Torah (an obvious “gotcha” question), Jesus instead picked the two commands that perfectly prioritize our vertical love of God and our horizontal love of one another.
Then, while the Pharisees were trying to regroup, Jesus stumped them with a question of His own: How could David call his own son his lord? This question not only confounded the Pharisees, it was also one more body blow to the Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection. If there was no resurrection, David would never be able to acknowledge a future descendant as his own Lord.
The Prophet Pointing the Finger
When Jesus talked to Nicodemus in John’s gospel, He told him that God “did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world” (John 3:17). But God didn’t say anything about not sending His Son to condemn religion. Think of religion as all the ways human beings strive to justify themselves before God. It can’t be done. Justification comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Since religion can’t produce justification, it instead breeds hypocrisy. It leads people into believing they can be saved by their own efforts. And it is superficial, dealing with only external surface issues rather than matters of the heart. Jesus’ harshest words in all the gospels are reserved for peddlers of religion. He calls them blind guides. Blind fools. Children of hell. Hypocrites, snakes, and vipers, on whose hands is the blood of an alphabet of prophets—Abel to Zechariah.
Ironically, our Prince of Peace really did come to bring division. As we draw ever closer to His triumphant return, we must constantly choose the best of two options. We must choose wisdom over foolishness: getting ready for His return rather than getting lazy at His delay.
We must choose between risking big for something good and playing it safe. God’s kingdom won’t advance when we bury our talents.
We must choose between compassion and indifference, never forgetting that what we do or don’t do for the least of these, we do or don’t do for Jesus Himself.
The Prophet Shedding Tears
And so, we come again to the place on the side of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept over the city He loved. If you visit Dominus Flevit, you will see all of Jerusalem spread out before you. Jesus saw this as well; not just the Jerusalem of His day but Jerusalem past and Jerusalem future. Jesus wept for all the prophets they had rejected in the past. He wept for all the people who were being misled in the present. He wept for all those who would reject His offer of eternal life in the future. Jesus longs to gather you to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks. When the new Jerusalem comes down, He longs to welcome you in to the Holy City.
But if you reject His authority, He weeps for you.