Each year, the week before Easter, we find ourselves perched, if you will, on the Mount of Olives looking toward the Holy City of Jerusalem, trying to imagine the view back then. More than 2,000 years have passed, but the view is still there. Oh, generations have come and gone, a modern city rises around temple mount where Herod’s Temple once stood, but it’s still there … the Holy city.
Luke captures the moment best I think, “When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” (from Jericho headed westward, from a depth of 1,412 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth, headed literally up to 2,532 feet above sea level to Jerusalem). Pardon the interruption Dr. Luke, please continue. “And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.””
So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
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. 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.” You see, Jesus was coming and they weren’t ready. The stones Jesus spoke of would fall at the hands of Roman General Titus and his army in 70AD. The stones are still there, piled around the sides of the old temple walls, I’ve seen them.
In his commentary on Luke, Darrell L. Bock writes, “The nation is missing its moment. Peace with God is not possible for those who reject Jesus. Though this rejection produces Jesus’ tragic death, the national consequences of the people’s blindness are even more tragic and staggering. What follows is a “searing oracle of doom.” National sin will pay its price in judgment on covenant unfaithfulness. Israel’s house will be desolate. A first-century Auschwitz awaits it. Unlike the 20th-century version, where repulsive ethnic hatred brought death, the Jewish nation of the first century brought catastrophe on itself. By rejecting him, Israel has chosen the way of judgment. It has missed the day and the moment.”
You see, as one writer said, you can see Jesus and yet never see Him. The truth is, you can hear Jesus and not hear what He says. And in the case of many in Jerusalem, you can walk close with Jesus and yet not even know Him. Biblical and historically we can have a really good idea what those observing this moment in time thought they knew. But what about Jesus? Have you ever considered just what Jesus thought? He gazed upon the most religious place on earth, yet He knew religion is not enough. Have you ever considered just what Jesus saw? The multitudes of people — their hearts, their souls — Jesus saw those who would miss Him. But quickly, with me, give some thought to just what Jesus knew: He knew this was why He came.
They may not have known, but we here and now know exactly why the Father let His Son hang on the cross and why Jesus chose not to escape it. It’s almost as if Jesus could hear the tearful praises of future believers singing: My sin, O, the bliss of this glorious tho’t, My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.
You see, you were always on His mind.
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.