The Gospel St. Luke Ch 19 V.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 with 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.
We are familiar with the two themes in today’s Gospel; Jesus lamenting the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem and his eviction of the merchants and money changers from the Temple. However, we do not often make the connection between the two. But when we step back and read them again as a whole, we see the source of Our Lord’s frustration and sorrow; and that source is the sin that always leads to our downfall; our pride.
The Gospel lesson for today begins as Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem. He and his followers have come to the Mount of Olives, from where they can see the entire city laid out before them. We can imagine that this sight was somewhat spectacular for the faithful Jews who had become disciples of Our Lord; here was the Holy City – the Temple an obvious and glorious focal point. And while the country had been under Roman occupation for many years, it would have been hard to believe that anything disastrous would ever happen to this place.
But as he gazes upon the city, Jesus doesn’t speak about the grandeur of the view. He doesn’t talk about the holiness of the city, nor does he make any mention of the coming Passover. No, as soon as he views this sight, Jesus begins to weep. He begins to mourn. He begins to speak about Jerusalem as if the city’s destruction is assured.
Now this must have been a bit confusing to his disciples, who had not yet fully understood all that Our Lord had taught them. Following his gaze, they would have seen this vibrant city filling with pilgrims from all over the country; all of them coming for the Passover. They would have thought about all the commerce and the religious activities taking place there.
Perhaps the more astute among them might even have given some thought to the political importance of Jerusalem to the Roman Empire. They certainly would have looked at the Great Temple as a holy and indestructible building; who would dare bring ruin to God’s House?
Of course we know that Jerusalem was indeed doomed and that its destruction would happen very soon. But the mere fact of this was not what truly troubled Our Lord. What caused Jesus to weep was that this ultimate destruction was so unnecessary.
Jerusalem had lost its way. Instead of being a haven for God’s chosen people, it had become a place governed by arrogance. The Temple was ruled by those whose interests were focused on personal profit and prestige. The Jewish Law had been perverted to be a means of control, rather than a path to salvation. Heavy taxes were levied on the populace to “support” the Temple.
Additionally, faithful Jews were required to make regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to offer a sacrifice in the Temple. And for this privilege, they were then charged exorbitant prices to ensure that their sacrifices were “properly” pure. For the most part, the people complied; but underneath it all, there was a spirit of rebellion; a violent rebellion that would cause the Roman Empire to strike back with devastating results.
And none of it had to happen. It did not have to happen because the people had forgotten how to submit to God. They had failed to learn from their ancestors who had so often challenged God during the Exodus. They had failed to learn from their ancestors who had been carried off into exile in Babylon. They had failed to learn from all the prophets of God who had warned them that the true path to glory lay not in violent rebellion or the building of strong armies or in the making of great kingdoms. They failed to understand that the true path to glory lies in submitting to God’s Will and accepting His Love.
This is what happens when man tries to take things into his own hands. This is what happens when man seeks personal glory rather than seeking God. This is what happens when man twists God’s Word to fit his own ambitions and desires. This is what happens when man starts to believe that he knows better than God. This is pride. This is destruction.
Such pride and arrogance we see even today. We see it in the world around us when people and politicians advocate the murder of innocent children and call it “choice”. We see it when church bodies already in turmoil are torn further asunder by those preaching heresy; calling it “tolerance”. We see it in the efforts of people who would legislate against those who speak God’s Truth by calling it “hate speech”.
This is what Jesus wept for. He wept because, in spite of all that God has done, man has been so blinded by his pride that he cannot see that all the answers to what he seeks are right there in front of him. Do not think for a minute that Jesus lamented the destruction of a few buildings in Jerusalem. He wept for the souls lost because of pride.
Is it any wonder then that Jesus later became angry in the Temple? Having looked down upon this city of God, this holy place, and seen its ultimate and unnecessary destruction, how should the Son of God reacted when confronted by those whose pride and arrogance were directly responsible? St. Luke tends to minimize this scene, but St. Matthew’s Gospel tells of Our Lord overturning tables and chairs and we can imagine him all but shouting at these thieves to GET OUT! Jesus Christ shows us the very definition of righteous indignation; and it is all in response to our pride.
But of course we must remember that this is not intended to be a bleak lesson; nothing about the Gospel is bleak. Our hope lies in the last verse of today’s Gospel; And he taught daily in the temple. As indignant as he was, as angry as he was, as frustrated as he was, Jesus continued to teach; he continued to show us the way back to God. In spite of everything, God Incarnate didn’t give up on us; and HE NEVER WILL.
For some reason, God still sees us as a people worth saving. In His Infinite Love for us, He has refused to quit on us, even as we have consistently quit on Him. He continues to teach us through His Holy Gospel; and He continues to give His Grace to us through His One Perfect Sacrifice. Think about that for a moment; If God had the humility to suffer and die for us, then how can we allow our pride, our ambition, our desire, to prevent us from submitting to Him?
Remember the fate of Jerusalem. Because of arrogance, because of ambition, because of the desire for personal comfort and prestige, because of pride, the priests and scribes and Pharisees and people refused to submit to God’s Will and to acknowledge His Love. And as a result, the city was destroyed and souls were lost. The question must therefore be asked; when we allow our own ambition and desire to keep us from submitting to God, what do we loose? “My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves“. What do we destroy? Whom do we doom?
Jesus wept at the impending fate of Jerusalem and at the fact that it was all so unnecessary. But by the Grace of God, by the Sacrifice of Our Lord, it is also unnecessary for us to suffer through even the smallest occurrence of human distress. It is unnecessary for us to be unhappy or concerned at the things of this world. It is unnecessary for us to endure suffering, pain, mourning, and conflict, thinking that we must do it alone.
It becomes unnecessary when we stop trying to do it on our own; when we stop thinking that we know better than God. He has given us His Gospel. He has given us His Son. It is now up to us to give ourselves back to Him; setting aside once and for all, our pride and placing ourselves in His hands.