Theme: From Tears to Joy
In this week’s lessons, we look at a moving event in the life of Jesus just before his arrest and crucifixion, when he weeps for the city of Jerusalem over its rejection of Him.
Scripture: Luke 19:41, 42
There must have been many times during the three-year teaching ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ that there was weeping, even though we’re not told about it. But whatever the case may have been earlier, there was certainly a great deal of weeping during the final week of ministry that began on what we call “Palm Sunday.”
Not long before this, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was seen weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. And later in the week, prior to His arrest, He is weeping in the garden of Gethsemane. The author of Hebrews writes about that moment, saying that during the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries to one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.
At the time of the arrest of Christ, Peter weeps because of his three-fold denial. As Jesus is being led out to Golgotha, where He’s to be crucified, the women are weeping, and Jesus speaks to them to tell them not to weep for Him, but rather for themselves and for their children. And then, finally, at the climax of this great week there in the garden, Mary Magdalene is found weeping, and Jesus appears to her in order to transform her deep grief into an eternal joy.
That’s where the tears lead, after all. We live in a world that is filled with tears. Christianity particularly recognizes that. It’s a world of sin, death, misery, suffering, oppression, and many other things that bring sorrow into our lives and tears to our eyes; but Jesus is the one who is able to heal those ills and bring transformation. And it’s to Jesus that I want to point you today.
It says in the Old Testament that there is a time to weep. That is true. But it also says—and here is the text I leave with you—”Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Are you weeping now? Have you lost a loved one? Or perhaps someone who is close to you may be destroying himself or herself through sin and rebellion. You may have lost a job. Your position at work or in your home may be impossible. There are many causes of grief, but Jesus is able to overcome the grief, heal the ills, and bring rejoicing.
What a place we begin: Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It’s a joyful occasion. The people who had followed Him during the three years of his ministry hear that he’s coming, and they come out of the city to greet Him. He’s entering upon a donkey, and they begin to cry out praises from the Old Testament, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” The disciples are happy. This is the closest thing to a celebration that the disciples have experienced during the three-year ministry.
Most of the ministry was characterized by hard times. There were misunderstandings and all sorts of problems. There was hostility and danger. Even coming up to Jerusalem on this occasion was a time of danger for them. But here at last, it seems that their dream for Jesus is being fulfilled. They want Him to be a king, and now Jesus, the King, is entering into Zion. It might even be—I’m sure they were thinking this—that He’s going to ascend the throne of David and bring back the times of refreshing and renewal that were prophesied so vigorously in the Old Testament.
Yet, as the procession makes its way over the ridge of rock, which enables them for the very first time to look down upon the city of Jerusalem, the Master slows the pace of the animal. The disciples, recognizing that something has happened, turn away from the city, upon which they’ve been looking on the crowds, and they look to Jesus. And instead of seeing on His face the smiles of satisfaction and anticipation that they had hoped to find there, they discovered that He’s crying. Tears are running down their Master’s face, and He’s crying for the city.
They must have been puzzled at first, but His words make clear what He had in mind. Jesus said, looking at Jerusalem, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it’s 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 upon another because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Look up the passages that speak of Jesus’ weeping. What is the setting for each occasion, and what does it reveal about Jesus?
Review the number of times crying is observed during the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry before his arrest. What causes the weeping in each case?
Reflection: What circumstances in your life have brought you to tears? How did Jesus help you in your great anguish?
Application: If you are going through troubling times now, and it feels as if the Lord is far away, keep trusting and asking him for strength, healing, and help.
For Further Study: To help you in your own thinking and reflecting during this week, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “You Will Weep Now, But Your Grief Will Turn to Joy.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)