Lamenting the Lion
It was on the first Palm Sunday, as Jesus was entering Jerusalem in the midst of the uninhibited adoration of a great multitude of admirers, that he did something that was totally unexpected—he began to weep.
Why would he weep now? This was the time of his greatest popularity and triumph! After all, do we not call this entrance of his into Jerusalem his “Triumphal Entry?”
As Jesus wept, he said these words:
“If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes.
“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will barricade you and surround you and hem you in on every side. They will level 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 your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:42-44)
It was not the first time that Jesus mourned the city of Jerusalem. On another occasion, he gave words to his musings when he said,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Look, your house is left to you desolate.” (Luke 13:34-35)
In his weeping over the city during his triumphal entry, Jesus was repeating a lament of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah when he wrote,
“Woe to you, O Ariel, the city of Ariel where David camped…I will constrain Ariel, and there will be mourning and lamentation…I will camp in a circle around you; I will besiege you with towers and set up siege works against you. You will be brought low.” (Isaiah 29:1-4)
“Ariel” was another name for Jerusalem. It was like calling New York City “The Big Apple,” or Paris “The City of Light.”
The name Ariel had a connotation of strength—more specifically, it had overtones of the strength of a lion.
But Isaiah predicted that this great and strong city, as strong as a lion, would one day be brought low.
Perhaps what brought Jesus to tears in the midst of that adoring crowd during his triumphal entry were some other words of Isaiah in the same lamentation: “These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”
In this year of the Coronavirus, we are also seeing many of our “strong things” fail us. Of course we all hope that the stock market and our 401k’s will rebound, but this crisis has demonstrated to us just how incredibly shaky they are.
Many jobs have been lost, some perhaps permanently. World economies have taken a great hit. Each one of us have our health in jeopardy.
Even the faith of some who before considered themselves Christian is in jeopardy. This crisis may be more than their faith can handle.
Why is that?
Isaiah gives us the reason as he prophetically speaks the words of God, “These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”
This Coronavirus Holy Week may be preventing us from many of our usual “Easter time” activities, but it is an ideal time to ask ourselves some sincere questions.
“Upon what do I depend for stability and well-being in my life?”
“What would I do if I suddenly found myself with no wealth and no health?”
“Is my relationship with Jesus merely external, or is it one that is abiding and real, and which endures despite changing circumstances?”
During these days of social distancing, there is no better time to draw close to Jesus.