Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house is a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"
And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.
- Luke 19:41-48
Yesterday we read that after Jesus had taught the parable of the minas, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, 'Why are you loosing it?' thus you shall say to him, 'Because the Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, "Why are you loosing the colt?" And they said, "The Lord has need of him." Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: "'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!' Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes." My study bible says that Jerusalem means "foundation of peace." This is a peace that comes from faith in the truth He offers. Christ has come to gather all to Him, in a kind of unity that brings peace and strength, like stones that might cry out in faith (see yesterday's reading, above). This is the kind of peace that his hidden from a city that will soon reject Him, rebelling against its Savior, the Messiah who was sent to it.
"For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation." The destruction that came to Jerusalem about which Jesus speaks here occurred in AD 70. My study bible says that this also describes the spiritual end of every person who lacks faith. Quite literally, nearly all the stones of the buildings -- especially the great an holy temple -- were toppled one from another, as the Roman army sought the gold that was rumored to have been laid between the great stones. Only a retaining wall was left, now called the Western Wall, long referred to as the Wailing Wall. We notice again the theme of stones, voiced by Jesus in yesterday's reading. Here the stones being displaced from one another offer an entirely contrasting image to the stones that would cry out if the "children" welcoming Him were silenced. Here the image of the stones is one of chaos and disarray, the opposite of peace. That is the failure to be gathered to Him, and literally scattered instead.
Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house is a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" Jesus' first act is to go into the temple itself, which is the house of God, where God's presence is supposed to be. Jesus quotes from two prophecies: Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. Jesus quite literally scatters those who bought and sold in the temple. They are not "like Him." They are trading in live animals to be used in sacrifices, profiting from the people who come for the festival and wish to make a good prayer or sacrificial offering, whatever they can afford. It is a "worldly" pursuit in the midst of the house of prayer for all the nations.
And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him. There are those in the leadership who seek to destroy Christ, but the people know they are hearing what is truthful; they all want to have access to what He is offering them.
The images of scattering and gathering are very prominent in today's reading. They coincide with the image given of the stones that would cry out in yesterday's reading, and also the stones that form the structures of the city of Jerusalem, especially those of the temple, that will not be left with one laid atop another. Destruction is a prominent theme. The leaders of the people lead the people astray by seeking to destroy Christ. They bring upon the city that which they seek to bring upon Him. The image underlying all these things is a theme that is clear: He who gathers is being destroyed, and therefore destruction and scattering the result. The Siege of Jerusalem will be pure chaos, and violation of the sanctity of the temple (what is called "the abomination of desolation," from the prophecy of Daniel). But the temple is already being violated in certain ways under the auspices of the leadership, in the buying and selling and money exchanging going on around the sale of animals for sacrifice. We are reminded of Jesus' recent teaching: "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10), and from the same reading: "You cannot serve God and mammon." Faith asks us to be on a journey somewhere. It doesn't mean we don't falter. It doesn't mean we don't encounter obstacles and difficulties all along the way. But it does mean that we have an object of that faith, a door or gate we reach toward, the Person who is Truth whom we seek in relationship and from whom we gather our own true nature. If we seek Him in the small we will also be seeking in what is "much." This is our peace and our unity, even the true inner unity of faith and wholeness of body, soul, and spirit that constitutes true healing. He offers a choice, and we always have to answer the question for ourselves of what that will be.