And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,…
1. This visitation of Jerusalem by its Monarch was unobtrusive. There was nothing of outward pageantry or of royalty to greet the Son of David; there was no royal livery, no currency bearing the king's image and superscription — all these things had passed into the hands of a foreign conqueror, or in parts of the country, into the hands of princes who had the symbol of independence without its reality. There was not even the amount of circumstance of state which attends the reception of a visitor to some modern institution — a visitor who only represents the majesty of some old prerogative or some earthly throne. As Israel's true King visits Jerusalem He always reminds us of a descendant of an ancient family returning in secret to the old home of his race; everything is for him instinct with precious memories; every stone is dear to him, while he himself is forgotten. He wanders about unnoticed, unobserved, or with only such notice as courtesy may accord to a presumed stranger. He is living amid thoughts which arc altogether unshared by the men whom he meets as he moves silently and sadly among the records of the past, and he passes away from sight as he came, with his real station and character generally unrecognized, if, indeed, he is not dismissed as an upstart with contempt and insult. So it was with Jerusalem and its Divine Master. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. It may, indeed, be asked whether the unobtrusive character of His visit does not excuse the ignorance of Jerusalem. But, my brethren, there is ignorance and ignorance. There is the ignorance which we cannot help, which is part of our circumstances in this life, which is imposed on us by Providence, and such ignorance as this, so far as it extends, does efface responsibility. God will never hold a man accountable for knowledge which God knows to be out of his reach; but there is also ignorance, and a great deal of it, in many lives for which we are ourselves responsible, and which would not have embarrassed us now if we had made the best of our opportunities in past times, and just as a man who, being drunk, commits a street outrage is held to be responsible for the outrage which he commits without knowing what he is doing, because he is undoubtedly responsible for getting into this condition of brutal insensibility, so God holds us all to be accountable for an ignorance which He knows to be due to our own neglect. Now this was the case with the men of Jerusalem at that day. Had they studied their prophets earnestly and sincerely, had they refused to surrender themselves to political dreams which flattered their self-love and which coloured all their thoughts and hopes, they would have seen in Jesus of Nazareth the Divine Visitor whose coming Israel had for long ages been expecting. As it was, His approach was too unobtrusive for a generation which looked forward to a visible triumph. Thus they knew not the time of their visitation. And the visitation of Jerusalem was final; it was not to be repeated. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers of the Jewish race by the prophets, in these last days spoke unto them by His Son. Those were His last words to His chosen people, the last probation, the last opportunity; we may reverently say that there was no more after that to be done. Each prophet had contributed something which others could not; each had filled a place in the long series of visitations which no other could fill. Already Jerusalem had been long since once destroyed after a great neglected opportunity. The Book of Jeremiah which we have lately been reading in the daily lessons, is one long and pathetic commentary on the blindness and obstinacy of kings, priests, prophets, and people who preceded the Chaldean invasion, and who rendered it inevitable. And still that ruin, vast, and for the time being, utter as it was, had been followed by a reconstruction, that long and bitter exile by a return. But history will not go on for ever repeating events which contradict probability. One greater visitation awaited Jerusalem, one more utter ruin, and each was to be the last. "Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." What is the explanation of that "because"? What is the connection as between cause and affect which it suggests? Does it mean merely that the Jews, having as a people rejected Christ, were punished by the destruction of their city and temple, but that nothing further can be said about it? That the punishment was independent of the crime, although not excessive, and that it might just as easily as not have been something else than what it was, since the punishment was inflicted from without by the Roman army, which, consisting as it did of brave and disciplined pagans, could have no ideas about the spiritual history or responsibilities of a distant Asiatic race? No, brethren; this is not the full or the true account of the case. Here, as elsewhere, God works by laws which we may trace and which are not generally superseded by agencies of a different character. Jerusalem's ignorance of its visitation by the King Messiah, had a great deal to do as cause with effect with Jerusalem's ruin. What was the main cause of that ruin? It was, as has been said, that the Jews were under the influence of a false and blind prejudice and ambition. They had made up their minds that their Messiah was to be a political rather than a spiritual king; He was to make Jerusalem the centre of an empire which would hold its own against the legions of Rome; and with this overmastering prejudice in their minds the Jews could not recognize the real Messiah when He came, and the day of their visitation escaped them. Yet it was this same political phrenzy of theirs which ultimately brought them into trouble with the Roman power; and if they had only understood the real meanings of their prejudices, had seen in their Messiah a spiritual monarch, and had accepted Him when He came, the mind of the people would have taken, must have taken, a totally different direction, and the fatal collision with the forces of Rome would never have taken place.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,