Triumphal Tears - Luke 19:28-44

On June 16, 1996 the Chicago Bulls won the NBA finals.  I grew up outside of Chicago, and I rarely missed watching a Chicago Bulls game. The Bulls had cruised to the best record in the NBA and had dominated their opponents all the way through their finals victory against the Seattle Supersonics.  This was the first title for the Chicago Bulls since Michael Jordan had returned from his brief retirement from basketball.  Michael Jordan was the king of basketball and he triumphed that summer night in Chicago and was crowned MVP of the basketball world again. 

            Although he was crowned king that night, he received his coronation with tears.  I will never forget that sight, a young basketball fanatic, seeing his hero sprawled on the floor in tears.  June 16 was Father’s Day.  Michael Jordan’s father James Jordan was murdered a few years ago while he was napping at a rest area.  This was the first championship since this father’s death.  Jordan was incredibly close to this father so on that night even though he was crowned king of the basketball world, he was full of tears.  His tears flowed because someone he dearly loved was not able to experience his triumph with him.  Victory always tastes better when we are able to share it with those we deeply love. 

            Jesus has been making his way to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission as the true King of Israel.  The identity of Jesus Christ will no longer be hidden, but displayed to all. The King has come in the name of the Lord, yet this King’s triumph will be filled with tears.  Let us look first at our King’s triumph.

The King’s Triumph

            Jesus had just finished a parable about a nobleman who went to receive a kingdom and returned to judge his servants on their labors.  Jesus was always teaching, but his teaching was only part of his mission to the cross. Verse 28, “And when he had said these things, he went ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” Jesus always had his eye on Jerusalem where he would suffer and die for the sins of the world.  Jesus came to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament.  Zechariah 9:9,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

With that Scripture in mind, see how Jesus fulfills this promise.

Verse 29-35,

When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

Jesus demonstrates his control of this entire situation. Jesus knew where the animal was located, what the owner was going to ask, and that it had never been ridden.  Jesus is indeed the all-knowing King of glory. This is not any normal ride, but this was a triumphal procession of the King coming into the holy city, Jerusalem.

            Those who were there knew what was happening and they understood that Jesus was the one to fulfill the prophecy; He was the coming King.  Verse 36-38,

And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The crowd gave glory and honor to God for all the mighty works they had seen.  They had seen Jesus feed the 5,000, raise the dead, give sight to the blind, and make the deaf hear, cast out evil spirits and heal diseases.  Jesus was no ordinary man, but he was the blessed King who comes in the name of the Lord.  Verse 38 is a quote from Psalm 118. Psalm 118 was sung by the people during a festal procession as they entered Jerusalem after a great deliverance.  We do not know the exact cause that lead to the Psalm’s writing, but we do know it was commonly use as liturgy in the processional march of victory into Jerusalem.

            It is clear that the whole multitude knew this was a special occasion. There are some that
would say that Jesus never called himself God, but this does not fit the biblical narrative.  Notice how the Pharisees respond in verse 39, “And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher rebuke your disciples.” The Pharisees wanted Jesus to silence his disciples for calling him the coming King.  The Pharisees believed that the disciples were attributing praise to Jesus that was only fitting for God. And Jesus agrees with the Pharisees in that the praise he was receiving was only fitting for the one true God, for in verse 40, “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  All of creation was created for the praise of his glory. 

            Throughout Jesus’ ministry after healing or the casting out of demons, he asked those he healed to remain silent.  It was not yet his time to go to Jerusalem, but the time of waiting was over. His long journey is about to be complete. Luke 9:51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  He resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem towards the cross.  It was his time. And yet, many in the crowd still did not understand that before he could receive his kingdom he had to die.  They did not understand the complete picture of the Messiah. Even in Psalm 118, already mentioned,

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. (Psalm 118:22-26)

The Jews pleaded for salvation, but for true and final salvation, the King had to be rejected.  Death had to come before life.  So Peter stands before the high priest and the high priest’s family in Acts 4 and says,

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)

Salvation only comes through faith in that Jesus was rejected and was resurrected for us.

            If you are not a follower of Christ, have you ever considered why people need to be saved? You may be thinking, “What do I need to be saved from?”  The Bible explains that God made the world good, perfect without sin and suffering.  Our first parents Adam and Eve rejected God’s reign and rule over their lives bringing death and destruction into the world. Our world now is full of bitterness and strife.  The result of our fallen world is sin.  Sin has cursed this world, and we being part of the world are under its curse. Our sin separates us from God and puts us at war with Him.  So the answer to the question, “What do I need to be saved from?” is God. God is just and holy and therefore he has to punish sin.  The punishment for sin is to be cast eternally from God’s presence in a literal hell, experiencing conscious torment forever. 

            But God in his abundant mercy sent Jesus, the blessed King who came in the name of the Lord, to be rejected in our place. Jesus is the stone that has been rejected by the world and has become the cornerstone of salvation.  He lived a perfect life. He never disobeyed God. And yet, God placed our iniquity on him.  He took our punishment on the cross.  And after three days, God raised him from the dead accepting his sacrifice on our behalf so that now there is salvation in no one else, and there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  Jesus Christ is the King.  And, if you submit to Him as your King, he will save you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love is offered to you today and forever. 

            As I mentioned earlier, Jesus was entering Jerusalem as the King, but his triumph was full of tears.

The King’s Tears

            We would be wise to notice Jesus’s affection and compassion for the lost. Christians are too often known for being cold and harsh in speaking of the truth.  We need to follow the way of our master.  Luke 19:41-44,

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus drew near and saw the city and he wept. The word used for wept (klaio) is very strong, referring to intense sobbing.  The picture is like a father sobbing over the foolish decision of one of his children.[1] Jesus loved Israel. And his tears are magnified because of what their rejection has brought upon them.

Decisions have consequences.  Jesus prophesied of a day when an enemy would come and surround and siege Jerusalem.  The temple would be destroyed and the people and their children would be stuck down, because they did not recognize the time of their visitation by the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  This prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman army under Titus surrounded and sieged Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Decisions have consequences.  Their decision to reject Jesus brought divine judgment on the nation. 

During great catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the 2004 Tsunami, or the earthquake in Haiti, people often ask, “Was this divine judgment?” We may fully know the intent of all God’s actions, but God is active in our world and does bring divine judgment. Natural disasters could simply be the consequences of living in fallen world, but God is sovereign. He will show mercy on whom he shows mercy and compassion on whom he shows compassion (Exodus 33:19). The Lord is in control of the world, and whenever one starts to talk of divine judgment, it often makes the Lord look cold and harsh. People accuse the Lord with questions like, “How could a good God do that?” or they say things like “I could never love a God that would do that.” What do we say to those people? First, we say is that Jesus sobbed over their decision to reject him.

Jesus could not enjoy this triumphal entry into Jerusalem, because the people he loved rejected him.  He was a man of sorrows, stricken with grief.  I have only experienced glimpses of being rejected by those I love.  I have only experienced glimpses rejection and therefore have only felt the beginning pains of rejection. Some of you have experienced being abandoned by a spouse or rejected by a daughter or son-in-law that keeps you from your grandchildren. Your experience is far greater than mine so your pain is more intense. Rejection hurts. 

Jesus Christ was rejected by those he came to save, but the depth of his pain is not for himself.  The depth of his pain is because of what the  people are missing. Verse 42, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” His pain is not focused on his own hurt (which is real), but it is focused on pain that his people are bringing upon themselves. His pain is driven by their pain.

It is natural to experience the world with an eye on how things affect me.  We have to retrain our eyes to see not how this world affects me, but how it affects others.  When I am hurting, I focus on my own hurt. I focus on my own pain. I start asking questions like, “Does anyone know how I feel? Does anyone care about me? Why doesn’t anyone understand my pain?” The questions we should be training our minds to ask is, “How are my actions affecting others? How is this person feeling? What are they going through? How can I serve them?” Jesus was not focused on his own pain, but that of others. This focus would be good for us to model in our own lives.

The second thing we have to help people see about divine judgment is the offense of sin.  Most people who are offended by the idea of hell are people who do not understand how offensive sin is to God or how holy God is.  People accuse God for the severity of his judgment, but Theology Professor Jonathan Bowers writes,

What if eternal torment is actually a fitting response to our sin? What if, instead of seeing hell as an overreaction to our misdeeds, we looked at it instead as God’s commentary on the gravity of our rebellion? In other words, what if it’s not God’s view of sin that needs adjusting, but our own?[2]

The problem is not with the punishment, but our understanding of the punishment. Jesus understood the punishment and wept.  He wept because he offered Himself so they could avoid divine judgment.  Bowers goes on to write,

Similarly, we will only see the justice of hell when we see the awful weight of our sin. And we will only see the awful weight of our sin when we see the God who says of himself, “I am the Lᴏʀᴅ; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8). When we see this God, we will understand why Jonathan Edwards could say that “Men do not hate misery more than God hates sin.” So sin, in the final analysis, is worse than hell. We should not marvel that God burns with wrath against his enemies. Let us marvel, instead, that while we were still enemies, Christ died for us.

When we magnify the awful weight of our sin and the awesome majesty of God, we see something absolutely profound: the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We deserve Hell, but God saves us. 

            How do you view sin? Do you think sin deserves divine judgment? Or do you think God’s punishment may be too severe? We can only understand God’s divine judgment against sin when we understand the holy and righteous character of God. If we want to change our view of sin and justice, we have to start with God.  We have to understand who God is, for it is only in properly understanding God that we will rightly view the world. The fear of the Lord is beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). All good theology begins with God. How do you expect to live well if you do not understand God?  Our life decisions flow from our view of God. 

            How you treat you spouse, raise your children, choose your vocation, and pick your friends are the fruit of your understanding of God’s character.  Whether you choose to engage or not engage in sin, or choose to offer forgiveness or persevere in a difficult relationship all flow from one’s view of God.  

People often come to church because they want help with their lives, but they do not realize what will truly help them.  Six tips for a better marriage may improve one’s marriage, but knowing the character and heart of God will transform one’s entire life.  It will not only change what you do, but why you do it.  Our problems are not rooted merely in our actions, but in our hearts’ desires that lead to our actions.

            So, for example, how do we change our willingness to share Christ’s peace with the lost? We must change our heart’s desire.  We must learn to sob over the lost like Jesus because we realize the full and just wrath of God that awaits sinners who reject Him as Savior and Lord.  Our actions will change only when our hearts’ desires change and they change when we focus on the glory and majesty of God. When we learn to probably fear the Lord, we then will begin to live differently.

Jesus understood divine judgment.  He knew it better than anyone else, because he faced it on the cross. He knew the pain that awaited those who rejected Him, so he wept. He did not focus on his own pain, but on the pain of others. Likewise, we cannot focus on our own pain of rejection, but we must learn to weep for those who are perishing. It is in our weeping that will lead us to seek to share the peace of Christ. And we only can learn to weep for the lost by properly looking to our King Jesus and his triumphal tears.  Do you weep for those who do not have salvation? Christ did.  He knew God’s love and he knew God’s wrath.  And only in knowing both will we weep for those who know neither.

[1] Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke: 9:51–24:53 (Vol. 2). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Commentary on 19:41
[2] accessed 10.24.14
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