The following meditation was written by Doug Hood’s son,
Nathanael Hood, MA, New York University
“As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it.” Luke 19:41 (CEB)
Pause a moment, and consider the city of Jerusalem as Jesus once saw it. Jesus the man—the Nazarene rabbi—looked upon an already ancient city straining under the yoke of Roman imperialism. Centurions elbowed through marketplaces crowded with Samaritans and Sadducees; self-righteous Israelites prayed in the squares as scabrous lepers scurried through the outskirts. In a few hours, he would be welcomed as a savior by the oppressed masses who would lay their coats and palm branches before him, singing the Psalms of David in joyous delirium. In a few days, those same crowds would scream for his death, demanding his execution at the hands of Pontius Pilate.
There is a small Roman Catholic church on the spot believed to be where Jesus wept in the nineteenth chapter of Luke—shaped like a tear drop, it sits on the Mount of Olives east of the city. Not too far from it is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be situated on Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. Did he know, when he looked upon that city, that in a week’s time he would be seeing a nearly identical view, this time tortured, beaten, and nailed to a cross? Yes, Jesus looked upon the city that would be his doom and wept.
Now consider Jesus the Divine, the physical incarnation of the holy Godhead, the living Word that is and was and will be. See the city he saw, the city first inhabited 6000-7000 years ago by shepherds thirsty for freshwater springs. See the city ruled in turn by Canaanites, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Romans, dashed by waves of invaders and dynastic restorers. See the city whose legacy is warfare and carnage, as even God’s chosen king David took it by force from its Jebusite inhabitants. See the city that would be ravaged by emperor Vespasian less than a century after his death, the second temple reduced to ashes and a single wall while over a million civilians lay dead with another 97,000 enslaved. See the city conquered by Muslims in the seventh century, contested by crusaders in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth, controlled by Ottoman Turks until the nineteenth, and torn between Israelis and Palestinians to this very day. See the city originally named the “dwelling of peace” which would know none for countless generations.
How can we see this city and not weep? Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus had mourned the sacred city upon learning of Herod’s plot to murder him:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that.” (Luke 13:34 CEB)
Two thousand years later and the chicks have still not come home. We look out and see a world more bitterly divided than ever, edged on the brink of cataclysm. How similar it must have felt for first century Jews living under the thumb of Rome where a single order from the emperor could ravage their holiest of holies as was done in the time of Jeremiah. Yet let us not forget that it was out of this swirling void of chaos that God chose to unmake the world itself with a new covenant, one that transcended all the sorrow and brokenness of this life with the promise of a new one. These times are not the end, merely a transition from which to emerge like a certain lowly carpenter all those years ago towards a great glory.