And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,…
Let us observe, briefly, that in our Lord's lament over the doomed city there is to be traced a threefold vein of feeling.
1. The tears and words of Jesus Christ are the tears and words of a true patriot, for Jerusalem was the heart and head of the nation. It was, politically speaking, more what Paris is to France than what London is to England, and although Christ's ministry had been largely spent in Galilee, we know from St. John's Gospel that at the great festivals He had laboured often and continuously in the sacred city. It may be thought that there was no place for patriotism in the heart of Jesus Christ — that coming as He did from heaven with a mission to the whole race of men, and with a work to do for each and for all, He could not thus cherish a mere localized and bounded enthusiasm — that, as all had interest in Him, His interest must reciprocally be for all and world-embracing — that as in Him, according to His apostle, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free," but all are one, so He must have been Himself incapable of that restricted and particular concentration of thought and feeling and action upon the concerns of a single race or district which we practically understand by patriotism. My brethren, there is an element of truth in this. Jesus Christ, although a Jew by birth, belonged by His freedom from local peculiarities to the whole human family. He was, in a higher, more comprehensive, more representative sense than any before Him, human. All that was best, all that was richest in humanity, had its place in Him, and this is, at any rate, one import of the title by which He was commonly wont to speak of Himself as the Son of Man. But His relation to the whole race did not destroy His relation to His country any more than it destroyed His relation to His family — to His mother, to His foster-father, to those first cousins of His who, after the Hebrew manner, are called His brethren. Certainly He subordinated family ties as well as national ties to the claims of the kingdom of God — to His Father's business as He called it when only twelve years old. But because He kept these lower sympathies, claims, obligations, in their proper place, He did not ignore — He did not disavow them. To Him, as the Son of Mary, His family was dear; to Him, as the Son of David, the history of His country was dear. He would have parted with something of His true and deep humanity had it been otherwise; and therefore when He gazed on the city of His ancestors (for such it was) and saw in vision the Roman conqueror already approaching, and casting up earthworks on that very hill on which He was standing, and then by and by entering the sacred city with fire and sword, nor resting from His work till he had ploughed up the very foundations, till not one stone had been left upon another, His Jewish heart felt a pang of anguish which became tears and words. "If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."
2. But the lamentation of Christ over Jerusalem had a higher than any political or social meaning. The polity of Israel was not merely a state: it was a church as well. It was the kingdom of God among men. It is this which explains the passionate emotion towards Jerusalem which abounds in the Psalter — the joy in her glory, in her beauty, in her world-wide fame — the enthusiasm which can "walk about Zion and go round about her and tell the towers thereof" — the anger deep and strong which cannot forget that in the day of Jerusalem it was Edom which joined in the cry for her destruction — the woe which cannot, which will not, be comforted when she lies before the heathen in her ruin and her desolation. It was as a theocratic kingdom — as we should say, a Church — that Jerusalem and the whole Jewish polity was so dear to the religious Jew; and this aspect of the sacred city underlies those words which Jesus spoke on the road from Bethany. Once more. Jerusalem was not merely a country or a church; it was a hive of men and women: it was a home of souls. Among these, to each of these, the Divine Christ had preached, but had preached in vain. it was not the threatened architecture of the Herodian temple which drew tears from those Divine eyes. It was not chiefly the tragic ending of a history rich in its interest and its incident. It was the condition, the destiny, the eternal destiny of the individual men and women of that very generation to which Christ had ministered? What of them? They had heard Him; and what were they after hearing Him? Ah! it was over those souls for which He was presently to shed His blood that Jesus wept His tears. It was souls that for Him made up Jerusalem. And it is in this last sense that our Lord's words come most closely home to us. Our influence upon our country, upon our portion of the Church, is necessarily very, fractionally small. We are each one as a private soldier in a great army, who has only to obey orders that are given by others; but in our individual capacities it is otherwise. Here as single souls we decide as well as act. Here we are free to make the most of opportunities: we are responsible for doing so. And opportunities come to us as we walk along the path of life, as Christ came to the Jews eighteen centuries ago. They come to us: we see them coming. We know that they are at hand — that they are close upon us. We know — we might know — that they will not be within our reach always — perhaps not to-morrow. It is the time, the solemn time, of our visitation. It is some friend who has brought before us for the first time the true meaning, the true solemnity, the blessedness of life. It is some change of circumstances, some great soul-subduing sorrow which has forced upon us a sense of the transitory nature of all things here below. It is some one truth or series of truths about our Divine Lord, His person, or His work, unknown, or known and rejected before, which has been borne in upon us with a strength and clearness of conviction which we cannot, if we would, possibly mistake, and which involves obedience, action, sacrifice, as its necessary correlatives. It is an atmosphere of new aspirations, of higher thoughts, of longings to be other and better than we are, that has, we know not how, taken possession of us. It is the presence and the breathing, could we only know it, of a heavenly Friend who haunts our spirits that, if we will, He may sanctify them. Christ — in one word — has been abroad by His Spirit in the streets and secret passages of the soul, as of old He was abroad in the by-ways and the temple-courts of Jerusalem; and the question is, Have we welcomed Him? — Have we held Him by the feet, and refused to let Him go except He bless us? We are worse off though we may not trace the deterioration. We have suffered if not without yet assuredly within. We have been tried, and failed; and failure means weakness entailed upon, incorporated into, the system of the soul.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,