Summary: This message looks at the heart of Jesus and what’s at the heart of the gospel: love and compassion.
Heart for the City
Today is Palm Sunday which celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. More than 200,000 people descended on Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the most important Jewish holiday of the year. Passover celebrates when God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and rescued them from slavery. In the midst of this celebration comes Jesus, whom everyone has been talking about, because of his miracles and teaching, and fulfilling all sorts of prophecies about the promised Messiah. The people waved palm branches and shouted “Hosanna!” proclaiming Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. As he arrived, the city was going nuts. It was an electric atmosphere, so much so, that Jesus said if the people didn’t celebrate, the rocks would surely cry out. He even rode into the city on a colt, just like the prophet Zechariah said the Messiah would. The people went wild. They are ready to crown him as king right then and there.
Despite all of this, Jesus doesn’t seem to join in on the party. For Jesus, this isn’t just a journey to celebrate the Passover, it’s a journey to the cross. Instead of getting caught up in all of the hype and the people celebrating their long-awaited king, Jesus isn’t all that thrilled. That’s because Jesus sees something they don’t: the cross. But more than that, he recognizes that the crowds just don’t get it. In verse 42, Jesus says, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Even though these people are all fired up and excited about Jesus coming into the city, he knows they still don’t understand that in just a matter of days, their shouts of “Hosanna” will change to “crucify him!”
As he approached the city, Jesus speaks a message of warning and judgment over the city because they had failed to recognize their long awaited Messiah. The judgment he was talking about was the destruction of the temple that would come almost 40 years later in 70 AD when the Romans completely leveled it to the ground. In this Scripture passage, we see one of the most powerful and shocking acts of Jesus: Jesus is moved to tears. He is literally weeping over the city. In this moment we are seeing the heart of Jesus and what’s at the heart of the gospel: love and compassion. The judgment Jesus has just pronounced over the city isn’t coming from some stern cold justice; it’s coming from a heart of love and compassion. You can’t separate the tears from the message. Jesus is weeping over the city because his heart is broken. In this act, we understand the motivation behind Jesus’ journey toward the cross. It wasn’t wrath or anger. What drove Jesus toward the cross was love and compassion. We see in Jesus a God who doesn’t stand at a distance physically and emotionally removed from us, but in Jesus, we see a God who is incredibly involved and emotionally and personally invested in what happens here.
This brings to mind the only other occasion when the scriptures tell us Jesus was moved to tears. In John 11, Jesus receives news that his best friend had died. Jesus arrives three days later but Jesus knows how this would turn out. Jesus says at least five times that Lazarus’ sickness wouldn’t end in death. Jesus knew that everything was going to be okay, and yet, when he gets into town and sees how upset everyone is over the loss of their friend, Jesus is deeply moved and he weeps with them. God is all-powerful; yes, God knows everything, but God still feels our pain, and He hurts with us.
We experience God’s presence most in the middle of our pain and grief. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Some of you can relate. There is a deeper level of intimacy we experience with God when we are going through something really difficult. When we are hurting and grieving God is right there the entire time, closer than we thought. Our God doesn’t stand at a distance, but actually steps down into our story. God knows our pain, weeps with us and not only suffers with us, but on our behalf. When it comes to suffering and pain, the cross is God’s way of saying, “me too.” Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Gods knows our pain, he knows what a mess our lives are and he knows how much we need his grace and strength. It’s in cross that God provides what we need and lets us know he has experienced our pain and suffering and is with us in the midst of it.