And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,…
I. WHY DID HE WEEP? It has been supposed that the picture of that approaching ruin and desolation which was coming so rapidly upon the unconscious capital, at once appalled and overwhelmed Him. He sketches that picture in strong and rapid strokes Himself (vers. 43, 44). And that which added to it an element of profoundest gloom, was the unconsciousness of those whom such a doom was threatening. Scarce a soul in Jerusalem seems to have been greatly sensible either of the national decadence or of its own individual peril. Must it not have been this that made Him weep? I do not doubt that it was an element in that Divine and unmatched sorrow. But that sorrow loses its profoundest significance unless we see that it had another and deeper element still. What is it, that in the thought of a wise and good man costs him the deepest pang when he encounters the waywardness and wrong-doing of his own child? Is it merely that, as he looks forward, he sees the inevitable misery which that waywardness will entail? But you may be sure that such a parent is thinking of something else with a keener anguish still. He is thinking, "What must the nature be that is so insensible to love and duty and goodness!" He is thinking, "What are the moral sensibilities of one to whom baseness and ingratitude and wrong-doing are such easy and instinctive things!" He is thinking, "What have I to hope for from a child whose ruling impulse come out in deeds like these!" And even so, I think, it was with Christ. Nay, we are not left to our surmises. His own words tell us what made Him weep: "If thou thine eyes." It was this spectacle of human insensibility, of eyes that would not see, and of ears that would not hear, that broke the Saviour down. The love of goodness, the longing for righteousness, the aspiration for nobleness and spiritual emancipation — these were dead in them. And it was this that made Christ weep.
II. And this brings me to that other question suggested by these tears of Christ. WHAT DID THEY MOVE HIM TO DO. Remember, that so far as the Jerusalem of that day was concerned, He Himself intimates the case to have been hopeless. And when that scornful indifference on their part was exchanged at last for a distinctive enmity, with that needless prodigality, as doubtless it seemed even to some of His own disciples, He flung away His life. Flung it away? Aye, but only how soon and how triumphantly to take it again! Such a history is pregnant with lessons for to-day. There are a good many of us, who from the elevation of a thoughtful observation, are looking down on the city in which we live. How fevered and faithless and morally insensible seem multitudes of those who live in it. How can such a one look down on all this and not weep? God forbid that such a spectacle should leave any one of us insensible or unmoved! But when that is said, let us not forget that with Christ weeping was but the prelude and forerunner of working. There were tears first, but then what heroic and untiring toil! I hear men say, no matter what good cause invites their co-operation, "It is of no use. Most men are bound to go to the devil; it is the part of wisdom to get out of the way and let them go as quickly as possible"; and I brand all such cries, no matter in what tones of complacent hopelessness they may utter themselves, as treason against God and slander against humanity. Faithlessness like this is a denial of God, and of goodness as well. And as such, it is an atheism with which no terms are to be made nor any truce to be kept. For, high above our blinded vision there sits One who, as He once wept over Jerusalem and then died for it, now lives for Jerusalem and for all His wayward children, and who bids us watch and strive with Him for those for whom once He shed His blood! And if He is still watching, even as once He wept over His creatures, God forbid that of any human soul you and I should quite despair! And therefore least of all our own souls. And so, while we weep, whether it be over the evil that is in others or in ourselves, our tears will be rainbows, bright with the promise of an immortal hope. Aye, far above the sorrows and the sins of the city that now is, we shall see the splendours of the New Jerusalem that is yet to be.
(Bishop H. C. Potter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,