The Doom of Jerusalem Lamented; The Doom of Jerusalem Foretold.
41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the
things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench
about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44
And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee;
and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest
not the time of thy visitation. 45 And he went into the temple, and began
to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46 Saying unto
them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made
it a den of thieves. 47 And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief
priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,
48 And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very
attentive to hear him.
The great Ambassador from heaven is here making his public entry into
Jerusalem, not to be respected there, but to be rejected; he knew what
a nest of vipers he was throwing himself into, and yet see here two instances
of his love to that place and his concern for it.
I. The tears he shed for the approaching ruin of the city (v. 41): When
he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it. Probably, it was
when he was coming down the descent of the hill from the mount of Olives,
where he had a full view of the city, the large extent of it, and the many
stately structures in it, and his eye affected his heart, and his heart
his eye again. See here,
1. What a tender spirit Christ was of; we never read that he laughed,
but we often find him in tears. In this very place his father David wept,
and those that were with him, though he and they were men of war. There
are cases in which it is no disparagement to the stoutest of men to melt
2. That Jesus Christ wept in the midst of his triumphs, wept when all
about him were rejoicing, to show how little he was elevated with the applause
and acclamation of the people. Thus he would teach us to rejoice with trembling,
and as though we rejoiced not. If Providence do not stain the beauty of
our triumphs, we may ourselves see cause to sully it with our sorrows.
3. That he wept over Jerusalem. Note, There are cities to be wept over,
and none to be more lamented than Jerusalem, that had been the holy city,
and the joy of the whole earth, if it be degenerated. But why did Christ
weep at the sight of Jerusalem? Was it because "Yonder is the city in which
I must be betrayed and bound, scourged and spit upon, condemned and crucified?"
No, he himself gives us the reason of his tears.
(1.) Jerusalem has not improved the day of her opportunities. He wept,
and said, If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day, if thou
wouldst but yet know, while the gospel is preached to thee, and salvation
offered thee by it; if thou wouldest at length bethink thyself, and understand
the things that belong to thy peace, the making of thy peace with God,
and the securing of thine own spiritual and eternal welfare--but thou dost
not know the day of thy visitation, v. 44. The manner of speaking is abrupt:
If thou hadst known! O that thou hadst, so some take it; like that O that
my people had hearkened unto me, Ps. lxxxi. 13; Isa. xlviii. 18. Or, If
thou hadst known, well; like that of the fig-tree, ch. xiii. 9. How happy
had it been for thee! Or, "If thou hadst known, thou wouldest have wept
for thyself, and I should have no occasion to weep for thee, but should
have rejoiced rather." What he says lays all the blame of Jerusalem's impending
ruin upon herself. Note, [1.] There are things which belong to our peace,
which we are all concerned to know and understand; the way how peace is
made, the offers made of peace, the terms on which we may have the benefit
of peace. The things that belong to our peace are those things that relate
to our present and future welfare; these we must know with application.
[2.] There is a time of visitation when those things which belong to our
peace may be known by us, and known to good purpose. When we enjoy the
means of grace in great plenty, and have the word of God powerfully preached
to us--when the Spirit strives with us, and our own consciences are startled
and awakened--then is the time of visitation, which we are concerned to
improve. [3.] With those that have long neglected the time of their visitation,
if at length, if at last, in this their day, their eyes be opened, and
they bethink themselves, all will be well yet. Those shall not be refused
that come into the vineyard at the eleventh hour. [4.] It is the amazing
folly of multitudes that enjoy the means of grace, and it will be of fatal
consequence to them, that they do not improve the day of their opportunities.
The things of their peace are revealed to them, but are not minded or regarded
by them; they hide their eyes from them, as if they were not worth taking
notice of. They are not aware of the accepted time and the day of salvation,
and to let it slip and perish through mere carelessness. None are so blind
as those that will not see; nor have any the things of their peace more
certainly hidden from their eyes than those that turn their back upon them.
[5.] The sin and folly of those that persist in a contempt of gospel grace
are a great grief to the Lord Jesus, and should be so to us. He looks with
weeping eyes upon lost souls, that continue impenitent, and run headlong
upon their own ruin; he had rather that they would turn and live than go
on and die, for he is not willing that any should perish.
(2.) Jerusalem cannot escape the day of her desolation. The things of
her peace are now in a manner hidden from her eyes; they will be shortly.
Not but that after this the gospel was preached to them by the apostles;
all the house of Israel were called to know assuredly that Christ was their
peace (Acts ii. 36), and multitudes were convinced and converted. But as
to the body of the nation, and the leading part of it, they were sealed
up under unbelief; God had given them the spirit of slumber, Rom. xi. 8.
They were so prejudiced and enraged against the gospel, and those few that
did embrace it then, that nothing less than a miracle of divine grace (like
that which converted Paul) would work upon them; and it could not be expected
that such a miracle should be wrought, and so they were justly given up
to judicial blindness and hardness. The peaceful things are not hidden
from the eyes of particular persons; but it is too late to think now of
the nation of the Jews, as such, becoming a Christian nation, by embracing
Christ. And therefore they are marked for ruin, which Christ here foresees
and foretels, as the certain consequence of their rejecting Christ. Note,
Neglecting the great salvation of ten brings temporal judgments upon a
people; it did so upon Jerusalem in less than forty years after this, when
all that Christ here foretold was exactly fulfilled. [1.] The Romans besieged
the city, cast a trench about it, compassed it round, and kept their inhabitants
in on every side. Josephus relates that Titus ran up a wall in a very short
time, which surrounded the city, and cut off all hopes of escaping. [2.]
They laid it even with the ground. Titus commanded his soldiers to dig
up the city, and the whole compass of it was levelled, except three towers;
see Josephus's history of the wars of the Jews, 5. 356-360; 7. 1. Not only
the city, but the citizens were laid even with the ground (thy children
within thee), by the cruel slaughters that were made of them: and there
was scarcely one stone left upon another. This was for their crucifying
Christ; this was because they knew not the day of their visitation. Let
other cities and nations take warning.
II. The zeal he showed for the present purification of the temple. Though
it must be destroyed ere long, it does not therefore follow that no care
must be taken of it in the mean time.
1. Christ cleared it of those who profaned it. He went straight to the
temple, and began to cast out the buyers and sellers, v. 45. Hereby (though
he was represented as an enemy to the temple, and that was the crime laid
to his charge before the high priest) he made it to appear that he had
a truer love for the temple than they had who had such a veneration for
its corban, its treasury, as a sacred thing; for its purity was more its
glory than its wealth was. Christ gave reason for his dislodging the temple-merchants,
v. 46. The temple is a house of prayer, set apart for communion with God:
the buyers and sellers made it a den of thieves by the fraudulent bargains
they made there, which was by no means to be suffered, for it would be
a distraction to those who came there to pray.
2. He put it to the best use that ever it was put to, for he taught
daily in the temple, v. 47. Note, It is not enough that the corruptions
of a church be purged out, but the preaching of the gospel must be encouraged.
Now, when Christ preached in the temple, observe here, (1.) How spiteful
the church-rulers were against him; how industrious to seek an opportunity,
or pretence rather, to do him a mischief (v. 47): The chief priests and
scribes, and the chief of the people, the great Sanhedrim, that should
have attended him, and summoned the people too to attend him, sought to
destroy him, and put him to death. (2.) How respectful the common people
were to him. They were very attentive to hear him. He spent most of his
time in the country, and did not then preach in the temple, but, when he
did, the people paid him great respect, attended on his preaching with
diligence, and let no opportunity slip of hearing him, attended to it with
care, and would not lose a word. Some read it, All the people as they heard
him, took his part; and so it comes in very properly as a reason why his
enemies could not find what they might do against him; they saw the people
ready to fly in their faces if they offered him any violence. Till his
hour was come his interest in the common people protected him; but, when
his hour was come, the chief priests' influence upon the common people
delivered him up.