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The Tenth Sunday after Trinity
By the Rev. John A. Matheson
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist 
Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, Canada. (p. 120-122)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.  Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
“When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.” (Luke 19.41)
Can those of you who are adults ever remember your parents crying? When I was a child, it was always a traumatic thing to see my father or mother, or for that matter, any adult cry. When it did occur, the first thing that struck my mind was that there must be something really important and terrible going on if someone who was normally so stoic, so in control of his emotions, was so overcome that he cried.

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Remember that when Jesus arrived at the place where Lazarus had been buried, he wept. The Jews who stood by watching were surprised by this show of grief, and said, “Behold, how he loved him.” (John 11.36) It was obvious to them that Lazarus had been a special friend and that Jesus truly loved him.

So it is in the case which the Gospel for today puts before us, where we see Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. This was the city which Almighty God had instructed David, Jesus’ ancestor according to the flesh, to found as the capital of his holy nation Israel. It was to Jerusalem that the Tabernacle, wherein the presence of God

especially dwelt, was taken by David. In this city of peace, Solomon, David’s son, built the magnificent temple that contained the holy of holies. It was Jerusalem, the scene of so much of Israel’s history, into which Jesus rode on the donkey, coming before residents who not long afterwards were eager to condemn him to a cruel death on the Cross.

But before the procession began, Jesus paused on the top of Mount Olivet to survey Jerusalem, its buildings gleaming in the sun and its temple clearly visible. We are told that he wept over the city, saying

Would that even today you knew the things that would make for peace. But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children with you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.
Jesus wept over his beloved city because it did not know what made for its peace. Now we must understand what, in the Hebrew way of understanding things, this word “peace” meant. It was not simply the absence of warfare or struggle but meant living in a state of happiness or plenty. It was a positive rather than a negative definition. Remember, for instance, when God promised to give Abraham a land, and later when Moses and the children of Israel were returning to that land after their sojourn in Egypt. The Israelites were promised a “land of plenty” where there is no scarceness, a land flowing with milk and honey.” That is peace in the Hebrew sense: having all that is necessary for the living of a good life.

So when we are told that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we must realize that he weeps because her residents did not know what made for a good life, for their peace. They did not know the time of their visitation by the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Had they recognized him as their Saviour, had they received him as their Lord and Master, they would have experienced a peace such as they had never before known. It would have been like the description of heaven in the Book of Revelation:

Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them . . . and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain anymore. . . (Rev. 21.3-4)
Instead, by killing him upon the Cross, they murdered the one person who could have given them true and everlasting peace.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and just as a child takes the tears of his parents seriously, so must we take seriously the tears of God Almighty, for that is who Jesus was: God come down to earth. Nor must the seriousness with which we regard God’s tears simply lead to a condemnation of those who were immediately responsible for Jesus’ death. We must take our Lord’s tears seriously because they were also for us.

The tears are for us because we are part of a city, not an earthly city, but God’s city, the Church. Speaking of the Church of Christ, St. Peter says in his first epistle: “. . . you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. . . Once you were no people; but now you are God’s people,...” (1 Peter 2.9-10) You are part of the new Jerusalem, a vision of which St. John shares with us in his Revelation, that city “set on a hill, that cannot be hid,” (Matthew 5.14) and whose lights are meant to shine to the ends of the earth, to the glory of God the Father. Each one of us who has been baptized is a citizen of that city, and from his heavenly throne our King watches over us.

Now, this King of ours draws near to us, hour by hour, just as he drew near to the earthly Jerusalem. He knows by his observations whether or not we are faithful to him. He knows by what we say whether or not we have accepted him as our Lord and Saviour. He knows whether we heed him as he comes to us in prayer and worship, through his written Word and in the sacraments. Are we a source of pride and satisfaction to him, or are we the cause of fresh tears as he mourns our disobedience and contemplates our future punishment? Are you, or are you not, a responsible citizen of the new Jerusalem? Are you, or are you not, taking advantage of those things which make for your peace, that is to say, your happiness and well being? What appeals to you more: the transitory pleasure which sin provides, or the lasting peace that comes from following the Law of God? If we want to escape the condemnation and destruction of the Day of Judgement, we should, this very day, make afresh resolve to repent of our sins, as a people, as a Church, and as individuals.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55.6-7)