Unlocking The New Testament: The Last Week (2)

Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem  

So, by now we know why Jesus entered Jerusalem on a Sunday. We know from the book of Exodus that on the 10th of Nisan, the Passover lamb was chosen and set apart and preparations began for its slaughter. For this very reason, Jesus had to enter Jerusalem on that very day – the 10th of Nisan. Jesus was crucified on the fourteenth day of the month; four days before this, on Sunday, the tenth day of the month, He entered Jerusalem and began preparations for His sacrifice in order to become the Passover Lamb on 14th of Nisan: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month…  

Thus, the reports of the gospels correspond perfectly to the scenario laid out by God during the time of the Exodus – and we can only imagine the anguish of Jesus’ soul when He was going up to Jerusalem: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour”[1]. However, right before this entrance to Jerusalem, something very important happens to Jesus: something that definitely belongs to His suffering – to His agony, to His pain – and in this sense, also belongs to His Passion week. What are we referring to?

In Luke 19 we read that when Jesus approached Jerusalem: 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.” [2] Why is this scene so significant? It is important for us to understand that Jesus knew that He had come, not only for His own suffering but also for the suffering of His own people – for turning them into “enemies for your sake” – and therefore He wept openly over all the torment to be unleashed upon Israel in His name.

Jesus Weeps over Lazarus

Do you remember how many times Jesus weeps in the Gospels?  Years ago, my book about God’s tears over Israel’s suffering (“If you are the Son of God…”) started from the realization (revelation) of this simple fact: in the entire New Testament, Jesus weeps only twice – once here, over Jerusalem, and once over Lazarus (“Jesus wept”). There are no coincidences in the Word of God, therefore it is important to see these scenes alongside one another, and the lessons to be learned from this juxtaposition are immensely profound.

We all remember the story of Lazarus from John 11: Lazarus became ill, his sisters (and he himself) hoped that Jesus would come to heal him, however Jesus didn’t come in time, and Lazarus died. When Jesus finally came, both sisters say the same words to Him: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.[3] Upon seeing them weeping, He “groaned in the spirit and was troubled[4]; then He went with them to the grave and – “Jesus wept”.

For me, the most wonderful thing about these tears is their glorious inconsistency with what has happened, and will happen in the visible part of the story. They somehow do not fit with the events of Bethany up to this point, and appear almost excessive or unnecessary if we know the future  events  (why weep if Lazarus is just about to be raised from the dead anyway?) It seems that they are recorded here only for the purpose of showing us His inner feelings – His heart.

Essentially, this entire chapter of John presents a two-fold lesson on Israel. First of all, Lazarus’ story teaches us that everything that has been happening to Israel was planned by God from the very beginning, and that He Himself is the author of this story. Just as Lazarus was not abandoned by Jesus, but was chosen “for the glory of God,”[5] in the same way Israel is not rejected by God but chosen by Him for the greatest of miracles and to bring Him great glory. ‘I have created [you] for My glory.’[6] Israel’s path to this glory, like the path of Lazarus, is not an easy one – but it was His choice, His election, His plan. This is the objective side of His plan, so to speak; through the story of Lazarus we see also an inner, subjective (if one can say such a thing about God) side of this plan—we see how He groans inwardly together with Israel, we see how many tears and how much pain and sorrow Israel’s tears, pain and sorrow cause Him. The Lord who loves His people so infinitely suffers together with Israel, in spite of the fact that her suffering is part of His plan.

At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus cries over the pain through which He has had to take Lazarus during those days of sickness and failed expectations, over the torture of incomprehension that filled his final hours and over how it had already been… four days[7] since he was laid in the tomb. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem with the same tears of love and compassion that He wept over Lazarus. “See how He loves him” can be our only response. He cries for the suffering through which God would have to take His people, the torture of waiting for the Lord, and the inability to comprehend why He remains silent while their hearts would be broken during the pogroms, the Inquisition and the Holocaust. He weeps that such is His plan, and that with His own hand He Himself will, for long centuries, lead Israel into the darkness of sickness and rejection. Although Jesus knows that in a few moments time Lazarus will be raised, He weeps at the tomb of Lazarus over the pain of His beloved and over the path to this resurrection. He weeps over Jerusalem in exactly the same way. Though He knows that in just a few “moments” (with the Lord…a thousand years [is] as one day)[8] Jerusalem will burst forth from her captivity, He mourns all the suffering His beloved must endure on the path to resurrection.

Excerpts from my book “If you be the Son of God…”  are included in this article, so if you like the  article, you might enjoy also the  book,  you  can get  it from  my page:   https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/    Also, I would like to remind you that my new book “Unlocking the Scriptures” is published and is available in Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=unlocking+the+scriptures+by+julia+blum&crid=2IHYED6W7ZVYI&sprefix=julia+blum+%2Caps%2C689&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_4_11  

If the articles on this blog whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying  in depth Parashat Shavua, or learning more about New Testament’s background, I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding  eTeacher amazing courses[9] (juliab@eteachergroup.com) .

[1] John 12:2

[2] Luke 19:41-44

[3] John 11:21, 32

[4] John 11:33

[5] John 11:4

[6] Is. 43:7

[7] John 11:17

[8] 2 Pet. 3:8

[9] At this point, we offer WTP course only in English, while DHB and JBNT courses are offered also in Spanish and Portuguese.

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Dot Healy

    Indeed Nick, ‘All is foreknown’. Consider Zechariah 12:10 for example: “They will look upon me, whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him as for an only son.” And there are numerous Scriptures in the Tanach that tell us, often in a veiled way, that the Messiah would not be recognized at first – all this for the unfolding of God’s far reaching purposes and plans. Jesus knew this full well! I highly recommend Julia’s book, “If you be the Son of God”.

  2. Marge Schwartz

    I don’t think Israel’s suffering was God’s plan, however due to their unbelief they often lost His protection and ended up in captivity..

    1. Nick

      It has been said that “all is foreknown yet free will is given.” Both are true.

    2. Julia Blum

      Hi Marge, when Jesus was “late ” for Lazarus, was it part of His plan? Obviously , it was – and the point of my post (as well as the point of my book) is this juxtaposition – Jesus cries over Lazarus and Jesus cries over Jerusalem; it shows us clearly that Israel, in a sense, is Lazarus, that all this was “for the glory of God”, for the unfolding of His plan. I fully agree with Nick’s and Dot’s comments.