As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.”
When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “’My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
Luke 19: 41-48
As the procession made its noisy and joyful way, a deep shadow lay over the King’s heart and when the city came fully into view Jesus wept.
What was it that provoked such strong reaction? These weren’t tears of joy at finally reaching Jerusalem. Nor were his tears for himself as he considered what he was to suffer at the hands of this city. Jesus wept over the city, which in its self-imposed blindness was about to reject its true King. Despite all that the prophets had said, despite all the pictures in advance that God had given them, they failed to recognise the King when he came. How deeply it saddens the Lord’s heart when there are those who listen to the words of the Bible, who like to talk aboutGod and yet who never grasp that God’s delight is in drawing near personally to them if only they would repent.
There is no hint of bitterness in Jesus words, nor any threat of revenge, as he foretold the awful destruction of the city at the hands of its enemies. Jerusalem was no different from any mother whose deepest instinct is to protect her own children and provide peace. But the course she would choose in pursuit of peace and safety – the rejection of her true King – would be the very thing that would hasten her destruction.
If only she had known. Why was the city so blind? Why did she not recognise the true King? Luke brings us directly to the temple in Jerusalem, for it was there that the heart of the problem lay. Instead of being a house of prayer it had become overrun with robbers. The worship of God had turned into the worship of money. Instead of the priests helping the people encounter God, they made God out to be a little money-grubbing deity; they had turned worship into a money-making racket in which spiritual need was exploited for financial gain.
Of course, someone had to supply the practical necessities that the people needed to support them in their service. But what they had allowed to develop was nothing short of daylight robbery. These robbers made people think that salvation had to be bought. They robbed the people of the grace of God, and they robbed God of the honour and fellowship of his people. Jesus rightly drove them out.
Before we are too quick to judge others, perhaps we should just check to see if we might have allowed robbers into the temple of our own life.
Have I allowed the worship of God to become corrupted to the point where it is little more than the worship of myself, my feelings, my comfort and the fulfilment of my expectations? What might Jesus have to throw down in my heart to get my attention? For when I lose my grip on spiritual reality, I will easily turn to other things.
Battle lines were now drawn.Despite their rage, the authorities could do nothing to Jesus, because the people whose spiritual hunger had remained unsatisfied for many years, clung on to every word he spoke.So they bided their time, waiting for the right opportunity to move in.For they weren’t about to give up their power and acknowledge Jesus as the rightful king. And they were street wise: there were ways of winning back the crowd.