“If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes...”. Luke 19:42
As Jesus rides into Jerusalem on that fateful weekend, He weeps with regret and grief that Israel “did not recognize the day of her visitation.” Jesus would bear the brunt of this shortcoming as He would be placed on the altar as a result of Israel’s failure. But what if Israel had not failed? Jesus says “if you had known...” what if the story was different? Would Jesus still be crucified? Suppose the majority of people in Jerusalem were like the disciples, believing that Jesus was the Messiah and being devoted to him to the very end? Would this have changed God’s plan? If Jesus NEEDED to be sacrificed because of our sin, then didn’t He also NEED to be rejected? So I say again if Jesus was not rejected by the Israelite leadership, would that have destroyed God’s plan?
The answer is that there was no chance that this would have ever happened. Had Jesus been received gladly, there would have never been a need for Him to come at all. The leadership in Israel did, in fact, reject Jesus for the most part. They conspired to assassinate Him and they succeeded. One of Jesus’ own disciples helped form the conspiracy. But the disciples also betrayed Jesus, even Peter, the one who said he was ready to die with Jesus. Peter did not actively pursue Jesus’ assassination as the Chief Priests did. Peter did not plot a betrayal as Judas did. But Peter was shocked at Jesus’ submissiveness to being arrested and he denied and abandon Jesus as a result. In fact, ALL the disciples abandoned Jesus more or less. Jesus’ mother and a disciple were found at the cross at the end but they could not see God’s victory in the events taking place. All they could see was a violent and sudden end to their Messianic hopes they had in Jesus. To be sure, there are varying levels of disloyalty but they can all be chalked up to not “recognizing the day of (God’s) visitation.” When Jesus rode into Jerusalem weeping, it was a weeping for Israel who represented the whole of the human race. In John’s Gospel, we are told to “Behold, the man” when Pilate mocks Jesus with a rob of royalty after a savage scourging. And John wants us to see in this suffering servant, what mankind is supposed to be like. This suffering servant is what true humanity is, and it is an image that the whole of the human race has rejected as an image to be emulated. We have denied the one in whose image we have been made. Instead of being self-giving servants of God, one another, and the creation, we try to usurp God’s throne and make the world revolve around ourselves. Jesus has come to turn that around. And that is why He weeps and why, when He cries out in the Garden for “another way” if that be possible, He gets no reply. There was no other way and there was no possibility that the human race in its rebellious and broken condition could recognize the face of God in this suffering servant. It was and is the image that we have already rejected. Jesus wept because Jerusalem, specifically, rejected Him but so did the whole human race who did not, and often still does not, recognize suffering servitude as the very heart and nature of God. If we had known this from the beginning, we would have had peace. But instead, we have had desolation. Jesus has come to take that desolation upon Himself and in that great act of self-giving love, and in the resurrection that followed, Jesus has brought regenerating power to the image-of-God-bearing human race. In the resurrection of Jesus, we have a second chance to recognize the day of God’s visitation. And in recognizing it, we will be changed into the true image-of-God-bearing human beings that we were meant to be. Our desolation will be turned into resurrection. The world is full of selfishness, arrogance, self-righteousness, cruelty, greed, and brutality. The only way of salvation is through the cross. We need somebody to turn the world and ourselves right-side-up, and someone did. But will we allow ourselves to recognize God in the face of this crucified Jew?