Jesus’ earthly ministry centers and culminates in Jerusalem, the holy city, dwelling and throne of God (Jeremiah 3:17ff.); the place which God chose for his name to dwell there (1Kings 11:13); and the holy mountain upon which God has set his king (Psalm 2). Jerusalem derives its name from the word “salem” which mean “peace”. The temple in Jerusalem was a constant reminder to the people of God’s presence with them. Why does Jesus weep and lament for this city?
All this moved Jesus to tears because he saw something which others did not see. He saw the coming destruction of the city. He knew that all of his efforts to avert the tragedy had been repulsed and rejected (Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 588). As prophesied by Jesus, it did happen. William Barclay describes the tragic event:
“Jerusalem fell to the Roman armies in A.D. 70 after a desperate siege in which the inhabitants were actually reduced to cannibalism and in which the city had to be taken literally stone by stone. Josephus says that an incredible number of 1,100,000 people perished in the siege and 97,000 were carried away into captivity. The Jewish nation was obliterated; and the Temple was fired and became a desolation.”
It was indeed a tragic moments of destruction, loss, and shame to the chosen people and nation of God. Only Jewish Christians who remembered and heeded God’s warning were spared on that unforgettable event in the life of the Jews and Israel. As James E. Talmage vividly writes:
“The warning to all to flee from Jerusalem and Judea to the mountains when the armies would begin to surround the city was so generally heeded by members of the Church, that according to the early Church writers not one Christian perished in the awful siege (see Eusebius, Eccles. Hist., book iii, ch. 5)…As to the unprecedented horrors of the siege, which culminated in the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, see Josephus, Wars vi, chaps. 3 and 4. That historian estimates the number slain in Jerusalem alone as 1,100,000 and in other cities and rural parts a third as many more. For details see Josephus, Wars ii, chaps. 18, 20; iii, 2, 7, 8, 9; iv, 1, 2, 7, 8, 9; vii, 6, 9, 11. Many tens of thousands were taken captive, to be afterward sold into slavery, or to be slain by wild beasts, or in gladiatorial combat in the arena for the amusement of Roman spectators.
“In the course of the siege, a wall was constructed about the entire city, thus fulfilling the Lord’s prediction (Luke 19:43), ‘thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee,’ in which, by the admittedly better translation, ‘bank,’ or ‘palisade’ should appear instead of ‘trench.’ In September A.D. 70 the city fell into the hands of the Romans; and its destruction was afterward made so thorough that its site was plowed up. Jerusalem was ‘trodden down of the Gentiles,’ and ever since has been under Gentile dominion, and so shall continue to be ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled’ (Luke 21:24) (Jesus the Christ, 545).
Why did this tragedy happen to the chosen people of God even in Jerusalem considered to be a holy city, a dwelling and throne of God? Because the Jews remain in their stubbornness of heart and in their unbelief. These great destruction, misery and humiliation would have been avoided if, and only if, the Jews had received the Son of God, hailed him as Lord and Savior of mankind, and led the campaign for all nations to accept his authority. If, and only if, the Jews had recognized the time and the visitation of your God in Christ Jesus they would have been converted, believed and followed Jesus who is Prince of peace and the source and model of that renewed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity, and a peaceful spirit…” (Vatican II).
What is the main message for all of us? If and when we also persist in our stubbornness of heart, arrogance, unbelief, sinfulness and wickedness we will also suffer the same fate. Let us, therefore, heed God’s call to repentance, conversion, and new life in Christ. Today, if we hear the voice of God harden not our hearts. Let us repent and believe in Jesus and his Gospel while it is not too late! Ask God for a new heart and a new mind. Ask God that He will take away our stubborn heart of stone and give us an obedient heart (see Ez 36:26).