Just prior to his final week of ministry and suffering, Jesus of Nazareth had apparently spent a few days at the home of his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. The Bible tells us they lived in Bethany, about two miles east of Jerusalem on the side of the Mount of Olives. It was a place he visited often. It must have been a place of comfort and peace for him; a place away from the crowds and demands he faced as he traveled from town to town, from village to village.
A few days before his death, Jesus approached Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives. We've seen the movies. We've read the books (and The Book). And still we really have no idea what it must have been like on that morning when Jesus of Nazareth and his followers topped the hill and looked full on at the beautiful City on a Hill -- Jerusalem.
Picture him stopping to look west at the city. It must have been a marvelous sight. The massive Temple compound gleaming in the sunlight above the city; the huge, ornately carved gates; the crowds amassing for their festivals.
Yet, with all of that breathtaking beauty laid out in front of him, the Bible tells us that Jesus wept for the holy city. But why did he weep?
As Jesus looked out over the great city that represented the people of Israel, he knew that most of those people would reject him. He knew the city would be destroyed and the Temple taken apart stone by stone. He wept for their hardness of heart prevalent among the people and their leaders. He knew many people would be killed. He wept for their loss. He wept for the children who would also die as a result of the hardness of hearts of their parents.
As he drew near, through his tears he said, "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."
Moments later he would be surrounded by throngs of people shouting loud hosannas to his name and calling him the Messiah and the King of Kings and the Holy One of Israel, and laying their cloaks and palm branches down before him.
We call it the Triumphal Entry.
I wonder how triumphant Jesus might have felt at that moment in time. I wonder how kingly he felt riding on that colt of a donkey knowing what he would face in the coming week. I wonder if it bothered him to know these same people -- those who were praising him in this moment -- would curse him and hate him and call for his death on a cruel Roman cross of crucifixion.
I wonder if the beauty of Zion, that great City On a Hill, faded as he contemplated the darkness of the sin of mankind that had brought him to this place at this time in history.