At some point in my academic history I was required to read Jonathan Edwards’ (in)famous sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. All that remains of it in my memory is the title and a somewhat cartoonish image of a large hand holding a thin thread at the end of which dangles a human being over raging red-orange flames. (Probably not the exact image Edwards employed, but I believe the implied sentiment is accurate.) These two things came ironically to my mind as I recently read about Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem. Perhaps you see the irony?
Luke tells us that Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem for the last time before his crucifixion. As he approached the city, Jesus was overcome with deep sorrow for what was happening and what was soon to happen. What was happening was the long awaited return of God to his people and his Temple. This was supposed to be a joyous occasion the likes of which had not been known, but it wasn’t. Israel wasn’t prepared. They had not accepted the testimony of John, the one who came before the Lord. And now, they would not accept the Lord. Not only had they not accepted him to this point, they would soon have him killed, yet this was not why Jesus was weeping as he neared Jerusalem. He was weeping for the destruction that was going to come upon Jerusalem and God’s people as a result of rejecting him. “Yes, the days are coming when your enemies will surround you…”
The thought of this brought no joy to Jesus. He did not gloat over the city even though he knew that God was going to vindicate him first by raising him from the dead and second by bringing the destruction that Jesus predicted. He did not rage at the wickedness of Israel, but rather he wept over it. He longed to save them…but they were not willing. He ached for them but they despised him. And when the destruction of Jerusalem came as Jesus said it would, he was not angry. He was grieved.
That’s how it is with all of us. We’re sinners . Certainly. But we’re not in the hands of an angry god. We’re in the hands of a grieving god. But his grief is not like ours. We grieve for what we have lost. He doesn’t grieve for what he has lost. He grieves for what we have lost, for what would have brought us peace.