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Taking a longer look at the shortest verse in the bible

Columbia Biblical Studies: Friday, May 16
Columbia Biblical Studies: Friday, May 16
George Hodan

Today’s bible study is from the Gospel of Luke 19:41-44: As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is 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 on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.

In this scripture passage, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. The scene is not merely objective reporting, but written from Luke’s own perspective. Luke looks back on the terrible war between the Palestinian Jews and the Romans, in which Jerusalem was destroyed after a long siege. Jesus does not celebrate the destruction of those who reject him, but weeps for them and prays for them.

In Luke’s view, their rejection of Christ is a matter of ignorance, of not seeing and not knowing what is really happening before their eyes. From one point of view, they are responsible; from another point of view, such ignorance and misunderstanding is an aspect of the divine mystery of life in the present fallen world, ignorance and misunderstanding to which all, including the disciples, are subject. It is not an incurable ignorance, but the cure is repentance rather than education.

The scene is filled with echoes and allusions to the Scripture. What is about to happen in and to Jerusalem is not random evil, but is taken up into the larger purpose of God as revealed in Scripture. Jesus cries over the fate of Jerusalem, as did the prophet Jeremiah. Jesus’ lament is reminiscent of the numerous laments in the Psalms, one of which also includes the terrible picture of the siege in which the city walls are finally torn down and children are dashed into the ground.

It is no wonder that Jesus wept. Would we not also weep at such destruction and harm? When Jesus was in the form of mortal man, he displayed all of the human characteristics that we all have, including sorrow and tears. We probably all remember the shortest Scripture verse as, 'Jesus wept.' Now, with this bit of historical context, we may add new understanding to the reasons for which he wept.

May we weep with our Lord and Savior at harm and destruction wherever it may be. May we practice shalom, peace to our Christian brothers and sisters and also to our enemies. May we, with the grace of God, reach out in peace and become builders, never agents of destruction. We ask this all in Jesus name and for His sake.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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