Sunday, April 1, 2012

Why Did Jesus Weep?

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things [that make] for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19: 41-42 NKJV

One of my favorite memories of when I was an intern at a church in Southern California in the 70's was getting together with friends who were attending seminary and come up with a list of questions we would use in a game we called bible trivia. One of the questions we came up with was "how often does the bible say Jesus wept?". Of course, though most wanted to say once, it was obvious that by asking the question there must be a different answer.

Today is the day Christians around the world celebrate what is known as Palm Sunday. It is the day that Jesus of Nazareth rode a donkey into Jerusalem to present Himself as the coming Messiah promised by the prophets of the Old Testament. But although virtually every Christian knows that, many don't know the circumstances surrounding it, and the fact that those circumstances caused our Savior to weep.

If you look at the passage in Luke you will find that as Jesus approached the city from the direction of the Mount of Olives, "He saw the city and wept over it". Why would Jesus weep at the sight of the city of Jerusalem on the very day He came to proclaim Himself as the Messiah? That question is answered in the following verses where we see Jesus say that the people did not know the "time of your visitation". In other words, Jesus was holding the people accountable for not knowing the day that He was to appear.

"For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, "and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
Luke 19: 43-44 NKJV

Now this obviously leads one to ask how they were supposed to know the exact day the Messiah was to appear in their presence if God had never told them? The trouble with that is what I have come to call "The Forgotten Prophecy". You see, God had told them when the Messiah would come but the religious leaders of the day, the Sadducees and Pharasees, and the people themselves had totally forgotten it.

If you recall we looked last week at a passage in the book of Daniel that reveals the seventy week scope of Israels' future. What many fail to realize from this prophecy is the reason it is broken up into two parts, sixty nine weeks and the seventieth week. You see, what Daniel and the nation of Israel discover is that this prophecy predicts the exact day that the Messiah would appear.

"Know therefore and understand, [That] from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, [There shall be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.
Daniel 9:25 NKJV

In these verses Daniel is told that there will be 69 weeks from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah would appear. The word here for "weeks" is "shabua" which is what is called a "heptad", meaning it stands for a group of seven. In this particular case, it stands for a period of seven years, so what Daniel is being told is that there would be a period of 69 "weeks of years" or exactly 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the day the Messiah appeared. (69 x 7 x 360 days/year)

The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 b.c. You can find that referred to in Nehemiah 2. If you add the period of time Daniel was given, 173,880 days, you arrive at Sunday, April 6, 32 a.d. which we now call Palm Sunday, the week before Easter and the very day Jesus wept when He saw the city. Why did He cry? Because even though God had gone to such great lengths to predict the exact day His Son would arrive as the Messiah, everyone had forgotten it. We know from history that the nation of Israel paid a terrible price for this forgetfulness as in 70 AD Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and the period of wandering known as the diaspora began. This was also prophesied in the passage from Daniel;

"And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it [shall be] with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
Daniel 9:26 NKJV

So today we begin the same week that saw the passion of our Lord so many years ago. Every year many watch to see if God has something planned for us on the anniversary of the first appearing, especially as we have plenty of evidence from history that God does in fact choose to use the same dates on the Jewish calendar to allow events to occur that have biblical significance. I personally find it interesting to note that a tradition in Israel is to pour a cup of wine for the prophet Elijah at the end of the Passover meal and to open the door to let him in. Since many believe that Elijah is one of the two witnesses that return at the beginning of the tribulation period, or the seventieth week of Daniel, I can't help but wonder if this is a clue to the timing God has in mind?

Another development that could possibly add fuel to the fire is the discovery by rabbis in Israel researching bible codes in the Torah that the words “Passover” and “2012” are encoded in a passage of scripture. Amazingly this discovery has even been reported in the mainline news here, resulting in a lot of speculation of what it might mean, and what might occur. Those who study these codes are quick to point out that they are not predictive of particular events, and should not be used as such, but the past has shown them to be accurate in revealing that something will occur at the times indicated.

So what does this all mean for us? Speaking only for myself, I can't forget the fact that Israel paid a terrible price for not “watching” for the appearance of their Messiah. The truth as well is that the diaspora was only the beginning of their troubles because the seventieth week of Daniel, which we know as the tribulation, is still in their future. That being the case, how can I not ask myself if God has something planned for those who are not watching for Jesus' return for His church as He commanded us to do in the New Testament? Just as the people were unaware of the time of Jesus' first appearing, how many believers today ignore the signs which Jesus' told us to watch for and are even now happening all around us?

The first three of the seven feasts of Israel occur in the next week, and the one most of the world will celebrate is the Feast of Firstfruits which we know as Easter. It's the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb where He was laid after His crucifixion. Jesus has told us, His followers, to watch for His return. He went to even greater lengths to tell us what to watch for so we would recognize the time of His appearing. My question to you is this: "Are you watching?" At this most holy of weeks when we celebrate the Resurrection, let us not forget the promise of Jesus' return, and the responsibility that goes along with the command to actively "watch" for it. It's coming soon.

Keep watching.