Tears Streaking Down A Holy Face

Text: Luke 19:41-48

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

It would have been an amazing sight to see.  The palm branches were waving back and forth, and the crowd was shouting, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem that Palm Sunday long ago. 

Now, it might surprise us to hear that in the midst of the shouts of praise and the waving of the palm branches that there were tears on the face of Jesus.  I am not talking about those emotional tears that one gets in the midst of great compelling events.  You know, the kind of tears a person gets when a favorite football team wins the Super Bowl or the kind of tears a person gets when something amazing happens, such as a joyful wedding or the news of a birth of a child.  No, Jesus was not taken up in the euphoric moment of praise with epic tears.  But rather, the tears that began to streak down His holy face and the loud weeping were due to pain and grief.  Yes, the tears were due to pain, grief, and agony, the kind of tears that come forth at funerals.  But why tears of pain and why that day?

It might be easy to think that these tears were because of the upcoming cross, for Jesus had indeed predicted His future death and He was drawing near to the place of His death in the city of Jerusalem.  However, these tears and this agony were not for Himself and were not for what awaited Him on the cross, but were because of the people of Jerusalem. 

You see, as Jesus rode on that donkey towards Jerusalem He saw a dreadful sight – a city that would reject Him.  Yes, as He looked upon the city of Jerusalem, He saw a city that would discard Him and the Gospel.  Jesus saw a city that would cast off true peace and forgiveness.  He saw a city that had a hard-heart. 

Tragically this was the pattern that Jerusalem had set for herself throughout the many previous generations.  As we know, the prophets in the Old Testament had consistently called for the people of Jerusalem to turn from their sins and false worship; however, many of the people refused to turn.  Instead, they sought to establish their righteousness and dismissed the words of the prophets, often times persecuting the prophets.    

The same was true for that Palm Sunday long ago.  The people of Jerusalem would reject Jesus with the grace and peace that He would bring, which would result in this beautiful city seeing destruction; that is to say, judgment.  That is right; the city of Jerusalem would soon see destruction by the Roman Empire – fires raging in the streets, children being slaughtered under the feet of soldiers, stones falling, and slaves being carried off; all because of their rejection of Jesus.  Yes, Jerusalem would soon see complete and total destruction because of their rejection of the Messiah who was riding into their midst. 

This is why Jesus wept.  He wept because of their future destruction; He wept because of their spiritual rejection – their lack of repentance and their hard-hearted-deaf-ears to the Gospel.

Contrary to what many people might believe about God, God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.  He is not pleased when the unrepentant refuse to turn from their sinful ways and sink into their own deaths.  But rather, the Lord wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.[1]  But then again, as we know, humanity is not willing to be gathered unto the Lord.  Humanity has acquired a taste for rebellion and sin.  Yes, humanity resists the Holy Spirit and even denies the sovereign Lord and rejects the Son of God.[2]  And so, with this in mind, we can begin to understand why Jesus wept. 

The tears of Jesus show His compassion and His grief.  He wept for His unrepentant city, and He weeps for those today who continue in their sin, just like Jerusalem.  Indeed, the Lord has sorrow for those who refuse to repent and those who rush carelessly forward into the judgment of God; a judgment which no one can survive. 

But maybe the Lord would not have to weep and mourn over humanity, if only He did away with judgment, hell, and wrath?  You see, there is a temptation with all of us that wants God to simply do away with the existence of the fires of hell and all that talk about judgment and wrath.  It is true, the sinful nature inside of everyone of us would love to do away with the uncomfortable idea of wrath and judgment and hell.  In fact, there are entire denominations that attempt actually to do this.  They refuse to mention things like judgment, and wrath, for they assume that in the end, a loving God will send no one to hell.  However, if it is true that there is no such thing as hell and if a loving God would never judge anyone, then the tears of Jesus make no sense.  Why would Jesus cry and why would He mourn if everything will be alright in the end regardless of what anyone thinks or does?  If there is no judgment and no wrath, then God’s call to repentance is meaningless, and Jesus’ tears are for nothing.  In fact, if there is no judgment and no wrath and no hell, then we do not need to bother with God’s warnings, and we can freely persist in our sins – we can eat and drink and be merry without any cares in the world, and Jesus should suck up His tears and be happy. 

But, of course, if we listen to God’s voice in the Bible, all this kind of thinking is not an option. 

Dear friends, it is true that the Bible reveals a God who is patient, loving, and full of mercy; however, the Bible also shows us that we have a God that does not overlook continual rebellion.  Even though it comes across as politically incorrect, the Bible reveals a God who will punish and destroy in the end. But keep in mind, He will punish and destroy with tears in His eyes. 

What does all of this mean for us today, though? 

Although our Gospel reading is showing us the Lord’s sorrow and judgment over unrepentant Jerusalem, it is also a warning for us today.  That is right; when we despise God’s Word as being too intrusive to our lives or when we disregard God’s Word by just turning a deaf ear to it or when we take God’s Word for granted, we have placed ourselves right into the same place as hard-hearted Jerusalem.  And with hard-hearted Jerusalem, there is a punishment that will most certainly come.  No one – I repeat – no one who despises God’s Word will escape His judgment, wrath, and hell.  Even though this is difficult to hear, it is true.  Even though this causes us to squirm in our pews, it is the reality of how things work.   

So, dear friends, beware when you hear God’s Word, and you walk out of the church thinking,

‘Ah, that talk of judgment is just a bunch of hogwash.’ 

Beware when you hear God’s Word, and you say to yourself,

‘That Word of Law is just too oppressive and just too strict; God is surely not that serious, for He has lightened up in the twenty-first-century.’  

Beware when you hear God’s Word, and you mumble to yourself,

‘God will send nobody to hell because He is a loving God; besides it is not right for anyone to be judged.’ 

Beware when you hear God’s Word, and you say,

‘I am just fine the way that I am; I don’t need Christ as a crutch.  I don’t need the church or anything offered in the church.  I can do it on my own.’  

Yes, beware, because God will not be mocked.  He does not wink at sin.  He will not forget.  Rejecting, despising, and disregarding God’s Word is no joking matter, nothing to be taken lightly.   

Therefore, dear friends, repent.  Repent of disregarding and despising God’s Word and taking it for granted.  Repent of not trusting God’s Word.  Repent of sin in thought, word, and deed.  And as you repent, know that Jesus’ tears are for you.  Yes, His tears are over your sin and your rebellion and your hard-hearts and your deaf ears.  In other words, let us cry with Jesus over our sin and our rebellion.  Let us cry with Jesus over our hard-hearts and our deaf ears.  Together with Christ, let us mourn our sinful condition and beat our chest, saying, “Lord have mercy on me, the sinner.”    

And in the midst of all the tears, we must pause and hear just how crazy all of this rebellion and stubbornness really is.  You see, when Jesus was weeping for Jerusalem, He was actually on the way to endure the judgment and wrath of God against the sins of Jerusalem.  He was on His way to the cross.  In other words, the judgment and wrath and hell that we so deserve – the judgment and wrath and hell that Christ weeps about – is the very judgment and wrath and hell that fell right upon Jesus as He hung on that cross for you and me and the entire human race. 

How crazy is it for us to neglect the Lord Jesus and His Word, for He has done everything for our salvation.  He despises our sins more than we could ever despise them ourselves.  He cares for us more than we care for ourselves. He loves us more than we could ever love ourselves and considers it all worthwhile.

Dear Baptized Saints, the Lord longs for this: to simply gather you unto Himself in repentance and faith because He does not desire your destruction.  Indeed, humanity was not created for destruction.  You were not created for annihilation.  And so Jesus’ tears are evidence of His compassion for you. 

Dear Baptized Saints, Jesus went to Jerusalem to bleed and die and rise, to welcome you home with tears of joy.  And all of this is why He is your true Lord and Savior. He is the Savior that we do not deserve but the very Savior that we certainly possess.  He is the one who cares for you and has made you His own.  He is the one who preserves you and will keep you to the end of the age, protecting you from wrath, hell, and judgment by His work on the cross in your place.

Today, the Lord comes to you, not with wrath, judgment, and hell, but with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Yes, He reaches out to you to give you the gift of repentance and to impart the gift of faith.  And as He does He cries out:  “Now is the acceptable time.  Now is the day of salvation.” 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] See 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4.  
[2] See Matthew 23:37, Acts 7:51, 2 Peter 2:1, and John 3:36. 

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