The recent killings in Charleston together with the daily reports of evil and injustice in our cities make the lament of Jesus personal. Luke records in 19.41ff. “As Jesus drew near [Jerusalem] and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (ESV). Perhaps you, too long for peace, yet it eludes us. Looking the other way when people are afflicted does not work. We need peace, but do we know what makes for peace?
No doubt, Jesus prayed for the peace of Jerusalem just as David had exhorted in Psalm 122 – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” This was evidently in Jesus’ heart as he looked upon the city that would crucify him within days. In this moment, his tears flowed and he lamented Jerusalem’s ignorance -“Would that you, even you, had known…” Jerusalem of all cities should have known. Her name means “possession of peace” or “foundation of peace.” But they knew nothing of it. Worse, they had no clue what would make it possible. How could this people fail to recognize the significance of unfolding events for the peace of the city? Clearly, though they thought they could see, they were blind.
Perhaps they confused unity with peace. In many respects, the view of Jerusalem from a lofty position must have been magnificent. This was no ordinary week. Thousands upon thousands of people had come from many nations to celebrate the Passover. The view of David’s city so alive as young and old anticipated a holy celebration must have evoked awe and wonder. Surely, the best of what God was doing in the world was found here! It wasn’t perfect. Roman occupiers invited a measure of distress. Yet peace appeared to prevail. Ironically, man’s greatest evil was about to be committed within her walls. Her unity would prove to be a unity of evil.
Jesus wept because Jerusalem did not even know what makes for peace. Luke’s account is brief. The larger context of Jesus’ teaching and life is essential. Yet even within these few verses, one can readily grasp what evoked his weeping. First, it is because of the consequences of ignorance. The city’s future would not be pretty nor end happily. In fact, great suffering would culminate in total destruction. This was because “you did not know the time of your visitation.” That word “visitation” is the second reason for great sorrow and tears. Jesus refers to the very significant events leading up to his own crucifixion. It is his presence in Jerusalem that is the time of visitation. Though he should have been welcomed, he was opposed and killed.
So then, what does make for peace? What do we need for our communities to know true peace? It is this – the reception and welcoming of Jesus is the only basis for true peace. When he visits (though the preaching of the gospel) he is to be received with love and honored as Lord. When he is rejected, people should rightly expect the manifestation of his wrath and judgment.
Now I am fully aware of how radical that sounds in today’s world. I hope you recognize that it is radical. But, peace is not about the happy coexistence of good and evil. Tolerance of wickedness and injustice does not make for peace. That simply cannot be and the truth of this is self-evident. King Jesus is the prince of peace who upholds righteousness and destroys wickedness. Here, we pause and tremble a bit. What is the future for every city and community in the world? When Peter preached Jesus crucified as both Lord and Christ (Acts 2.36ff.) he called upon his hearers to repent. That is where peace begins. We must own our culpability, our wickedness, our sin and forsake it through repentance and faith if we are to ever know what makes for peace. That reality gives real meaningful hope in our day of division and conflict. No one can rightly claim superiority over another! No one should exalt themselves. We all must come with repentance and embrace of the one who delivers from sin and evil. We must come humbly by faith to Jesus who makes for peace. Pray for the peace of Byram and Jackson! Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!