Over the next 4 days during Holy Week we are going to stay in Luke’s gospel, but jump to Ch.19 to follow Jesus’ week in Jerusalem between his triumphal entry and his death and resurrection.
Luke’s gospel has 24 chapters, 10 of them (9 to 19) focus on Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. His ministry in his local area in the North, is very different from how he responds to the capital city. His week in the capital fills 2 chapters, as the Son of God, confronts God’s Holy City, which is under the rule of religious Pharisees and oppressive Romans. The City which moves from greeting him to praise and palm branches on Sunday, to calling for his death by Friday.
I want to look at Jesus’ relationship with Jerusalem in 3 ways.
Monday – Jesus’s response to Jerusalem
Tuesday – Jerusalem’s response to Jesus
Wednesday – Jesus’ warnings for Jerusalem’s future.
Today Luke 19.41-48
And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
After months travelling to Jerusalem, Jesus’ first sight, he weeps over it. His heart is broken by what he knows about what is to come for this great city and it’s blindness to the coming conflict. We see Jesus’ first response is compassion, just as it was with so many of those he healed and other communities he visited. God’s first response to you, is love and compassion.
He weeps, because he knows what is to come. This resonates with 620 years earlier, the year 587BC, when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem and razed it to the ground, because God’s people had broken their covenant with him. This passage links back to Ch.13 when he laments over Jerusalem as a city that has lost its way.
Jesus doesn’t draw on the breach of covenant as the reason though. His ‘because’, is that they did not recognise their time of visitation. The sin of Jerusalem was to reject the Son of God. May that never be our sin.
He then goes to the temple and we have a dramatic moment, when he drives out the corrupt money changers and those selling pigeons (at extortionate prices) for sacrifices. Jesus, the compassionate one who wept over Jerusalem switches to Jesus the passionate one, who angrily turns on injustice, corruption and greed. We see the breadth of Jesus’ character, he has a tender heart, but also a passionate one, against injustice and against religion. His anger is partly at the corruption he sees, but particularly because it’s being done in God’s temple. There is a link here, Jesus’ compassion is for the people of Jerusalem, that passion turns to anger because of those who are causing the city to miss who he is.
Into the story comes the confrontation with the religious leaders, who have been plotting against him throughout his journey to Jerusalem. Now in what they perceive as their home turf, the confrontation begins. The religious leaders hated him, because he brought a new story, to subvert all that they stood for and in particular he was a challenge to their corrupt power. They act throughout as defensive and power grasping, they take him out, because they are threatened by him. This confrontation will lead Jesus to the cross. One thing is clear, Jesus and religious control don’t mix well. Jesus was compassionate to the sick, the poor, the misguided, but angry and aggressive to the blind guides of hollow religion.
How do we read this in the light of coronavirus?
Like Jesus, we can turn our lament into intercession. One thing I’m learning to do in this strange season, is be more attentive to my heart, in particular my emotional responses to pain. As I live life at a different pace, I have greater emotional bandwidth to handle empathy and compassion for those who are suffering. Over the past few days, I’ve realised that letting my heart breathe has brought new life to my prayer life. I was awake in the night last night, crying out to God for our nation, in a way that I just haven’t had the emotional energy to do for some time.
We need wisdom about how we handle the news, we need to know what’s going on, but not become news junkies, nor get compassion fatigue. That said, our world is hurting and afraid, as God’s people, when we are emotionally engaged with our world, we can pray.
And what about hollow religion and injustice? Like Jesus, we are called to battle it. Sometimes we are called to share Jesus’ anger, we definitely need to keep the church pure to be about Jesus, his kingdom, prayer and nothing else. Let me offer one prayer I’m praying right now through this virus and invite you join me in it. This dramatic pandemic, will cause change, I’m praying for those things which are not rooted in relationship with God, (which is all things hollow religious) to fade, die, collapse and for God’s church to rise through this season with new life, passionate hope and greater faith. Will you join me in praying for that?