Jesus was nearing Jerusalem on his final journey and as he came up over a sudden rise the famous city stretched out before him. Luke writes that Jesus “broke into tears” (19:41) and adds that the Lord’s sorrow for the city was that those who lived there didn’t know what made for peace. It was a classic “if only this, then that” situation. Had they known the way of peace there would have been no destruction. But in the year 79 AD the Romans sacked the city and desecrated the holy temple. Jesus wept for the city because of what would happen in a few years but didn’t need to. He broke into tears moved by the realization that the coming fall of Jerusalem wasn’t necessary.
That which catches my attention is Jesus’ reaction to an avoidable tragedy. It is enough that the city would be destroyed but what made it worse was the fact that it didn’t need to happen. When we see human suffering that is unnecessary, how do we react? “Serves them right; they had it coming,” or “How sad because it didn’t have to happen?” Jesus wept not simply because of what in time would take place but because it was not inevitable.
So I ask, How can this perspective be integrated into the mindset of today’s Christian believer? If we would be more like Jesus one thing is that we would give increasing attention to the why of tragedy. While it is helpful to take part in restoration of the damage, a more important need is to discover why and make the change there. Getting to the root of the problem is a more efficient way to expend energy than in taking care of its damage.
In one of his beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are those who understand the sorrow of this world, for God himself will comfort and encourage them” (Matthew 5:4 from Jesus, In His Own Words.) To understand that all suffering and heartache of every sort in our world is the result of sin gives us the starting point for renewal. We will spend less time taking care of results and more on prevention. Wherever God is honored and his teaching is adopted the climate for a meaningful and happy life is increased. Looking out over our Jerusalem, may we join the Master and be moved to tears at the devastation that doesn’t need to happen. Then, of course, we redouble our efforts to discover the why and take the action necessary.