21 Aug 2022
The Gospel. St. Luke xix. 41.
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, 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. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple.
Many years ago, a church was built on the Mt. of Olives to commemorate our text for this Sunday. It is called Dominus Flevit, the Latin for "Jesus wept." It reveals a great mystery: His weeping shows His humanity; His exact knowledge of the future proves His divinity.
Did you know that the Jews have set aside a day that commemorates what Jesus was weeping about? It is called the "The Fast of the Fifth Month." The Fast of the Fifth Month commemorates what are among the most tragic events in Jewish history. It was on this day that the Babylonians destroyed Solomon's Temple in 586 B.C., and it was on this day in A.D. 70, the Romans leveled the Second Temple with fire.
In both cases divine judgment could no longer be delayed. In the first case, as prophesied in Isaiah, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem to crush a new rebellion. Jerusalem fell after a one and a half year’s siege. After all the executions and deportations were carried out, the commander of the Babylonian army followed orders and set his soldiers on a burning rampage. Every section of Jerusalem's walls was battered and toppled to the ground. For four days the Babylonians torched the palaces of the royal family and the mansions of the rich. They stripped the Temple of all its gold, silver, and brass and then burned the building to the ground.
The second destruction of Jerusalem happened in 70 A.D. Josephus, the Jewish historian, describes it in his book called The Wars. The Jews had always been the most rebellious people in the Roman Empire. They had been warned never again to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem or to fortify their city. But during the 60's of the first century, while Rome experienced internal troubles, the Jews rebuilt their walls and fortified the city. In the year 66, the Emperor Nero sent Gessius Florus and his legions to subdue the city. The Jews killed him and 5,000 of his men. The angry Romans then sent Titus with another army. At this time of the Passover in the year 70 about 1,000,000 Jews had gathered in Jerusalem. During the next five months Jerusalem would be totally overcome. Regretfully, we should note that the Jews were largely responsible for destroying themselves. There were three rival parties in the city who were jealous and did not trust each other. They destroyed each others' food, supplies, and homes. Jerusalem was circled by its own three strong city walls. With great effort and expense the Romans broke through wall after wall. The Temple was burned to the ground on August 10, 70 A.D. Then, 900,000 Jews were killed, starved, or sold as slaves. Only about 100,000 survived. Thus, Jerusalem was destroyed just as our Lord had repeatedly foretold it. He Himself had wept over the city because of its unbelief and rejection of God, His Son, and the Covenant. Again and again, God had sent prophets with the Word, but the Jews had rejected it just as they rejected the Son of God. We should heed Jesus' warning. It could happen to us too. Since Christ came and took sin away, sin no longer damns us. But our unbelief can still damn us. Unbelief comes to many people gradually, like the slow leak of a tire. Look around us today. Satan is pulling people away from the Lord very gradually until it is too late.
Of course, in prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus was also thinking of another judgment that is far more terrifying, a judgment that is foreshadowed or prefigured in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This judgment we know as the Final Judgment. In talking about this, the Bible uses language that is still a deep mystery to us.
Verses 45-46 tell us about Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. The turning of a place of worship into a hideout for robbers shows us how far Israel had departed from the Lord. Think about it. We know that in the long process in which a holy place, the church, is profaned there is much sinfulness that is quite crude and overt, but also much that may be very subtle and go unnoticed. In the case of the Temple, it had been turned into a bargain counter where peace of mind, health of body, and heaven itself had been marked down at cut rates. Over years it is possible for any minor distortion to become a terrible perversion of the true purpose for which the Church exists. Over time, sacred things can become secularized and lose respect; the emphasis on the “bottom line” of business can do great damage to our faith as a nation. False leadership in the Church can also manipulate the message of the Good News and the ministry so that it meets someone else’s agenda. Mankind can easily turn “the truth of God into a lie,” and we end up worshiping and serving “the creature more than the Creator.” We see it in so many forms today.
Jesus drove the merchants out of the Temple twice in His career. They hated and detested Him for this. At St. Luke 20:2, they ask Him: "By what authority do you do this? Who gave you this authority?" Clearly, their questions imply that they did not receive Him as the Son of God. So, our text today warns us about the terrible danger of unbelief, for the unbeliever finally destroys himself by his denial.
We know that, just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, so He weeps over every lost, exiled soul. He weeps that people continue to be ignorant of what makes for peace. He weeps that people still do not recognize the time of His coming. Let us be firm in our faith so that Christ will not have to weep over us like He wept over Jerusalem!
Sources: The Sermon Notes of Harold Buls and Sermon on Luke 19:41 By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
Bishop Edwin Tompkins