“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Psalm 118:26
The time had finally come.
It was Passover week, and it was time for Jesus to enter Jerusalem to prepare for His crucifixion. Though He knew His death and resurrection were the reasons why He came to the Earth, He was not necessarily looking forward to it. Yet, here He was.
In fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, Jesus’ disciples had secured a white donkey, and they had thrown their clothes onto its back. And now, Jesus was riding into town.
The people gathered in “multitudes,” and they spread their clothes on the road as a symbol of honor to Jesus. They waved tree branches at Him and joyfully cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The Pharisees demanded Jesus to tell the people to stop. But Jesus smiled and quipped, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out (Luke 19:40).”
It was a seemingly happy scene. But as He drew closer to Jerusalem’s gates, Jesus stopped to weep.
Why was Jesus weeping? Wasn’t this supposed to be a happy moment? Just a short time ago, He was smiling broadly as the people madly waved at Him like He was in a parade. But now, He was crying.
Many of us know of Jesus’ Last Supper, His last teachings, and His final hours leading to His death. Surely, these final days on Earth were anxious ones for our Lord. But that is not why He was weeping.
Hosanna in the Highest
To fully understand why the Lord wept, we must look back and remember previous events in His ministry. First, we must consider the crowd ecstatically welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem.
The people had become increasingly enamored with Jesus over the past three years. They regularly gathered in huge crowds to hear Him speak and followed Him wherever He went like a rock star. They witnessed His miracles and marveled at His knowledge of the Scriptures. And now, as He entered Jerusalem that final Passover week, they cried out to Him and threw their clothes to the ground, honoring Him like royalty.
“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father, David, that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Mark 11:9-10
This was a red-carpet moment for Jesus. But He knew the people still did not truly understand or believe that He is the Son of God. And yet, they cried out, “Hosanna!”
In Hebrew, hosanna means “save now.” A transliteration indicates it means “save now, I pray.” It was initially an appeal for deliverance from foreign oppression taken from Psalm 113-118. Later, however, it became an expression of joy and praise for the expected deliverance that would come one day. This is the kind of praise the people were shouting at Jesus as He rode into the city. In doing so, and without realizing it, the people fulfilled a prophecy found in Psalm 118:25-26.
“Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
The psalmist prophesied that the Lord would come one day to redeem His people, and the people would bless Him. Hundreds of years later, the prophecy was fulfilled. Jesus the Messiah finally came, and the crowd called out Psalm 118:25-26. Matthew 23 tells us that Jesus later reminded the Pharisees of this prophecy.
The Big Walk-Out
“See! Your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 23:39)
The house is the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Matthew 21 tells us how the people abused God’s house, enraging Jesus and causing Him to “cleanse” it.
“My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:13
Declaring the temple a “den of thieves” was also the fulfillment of two ancient prophecies.
Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Jeremiah 7:11, “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes?”
The way the people were treating the holy temple infuriated Jesus so much that He overturned the tables of the money changers and dove sellers and scattered the dozens of people crowding the area.
It was at this point Jesus decided enough was enough. It was time for another prophecy to be fulfilled. This prophecy would have a more devastating effect on the Jewish nation than any other. And all He had to do was walk out of the temple (Matthew 24:1).
Why was that so devastating? Why would leaving the temple be such a big deal? It is because as He walked out, He took the blessing and glory of the Lord with Him.
By simply walking out of the temple, Jesus not only removed God’s glory from the temple and its Holy Seat but also took away His blessing on the entire nation of Israel. And He did it all at the same time, in one fell swoop.
Jesus then went up to the Mount of Olives in Matthew 24:3, which fulfilled Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 11:23.
“And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain.”
Jesus Mourns the Temple
Without God’s blessing, Israel suddenly became unprotected. Struggles and strife would (and will) plague it until the nation recognizes Jesus as the promised Messiah. Jesus even laments about it to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:37-39.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
The Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about. And neither did His disciples.
As the disciples followed Jesus out of the temple, the first thing they did was point out its beauty to Jesus. “How could it be left desolate?” they wondered. It was the most magnificent and enormous structure of its time! But Jesus cryptically answered,
“Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)
Jesus was referring to the coming destruction of the Temple by the Roman general Titus just a little over six decades later in 70 A.D.
We cannot assume Jesus was happy to take away Israel’s blessing. Of course not! He loved (and still loves) them absolutely, so much that He is willing to wait for them to accept that He is, indeed, the Messiah.
But He assured them, He would not come again until they declare Psalm 118 again, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Unfortunately, that day has not yet come.
Jesus’ Prophecy Fulfilled
And so, Jesus wept.
He rode into Jerusalem that spring morning knowing the devastating events yet to come. He looked around and saw everyone’s happy faces as they cried, “Hosanna!” But His heart was filled with sorrow, knowing what they were about to endure.
Luke 19:42 records Jesus’ words about the coming attack.
“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.”
The Jewish people refused to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah and the Son of God. So, He removed His blessing and glory from them. And seventy years later, His prophecy was fulfilled precisely as He said it would.
Throughout the summer of 70 A.D., the Romans would close off the roads to the city so no supplies could get inside. Then, they would surround the city on every side with wooden scaffolding piled high with flammable materials and set them ablaze, trapping the people inside, melting the precious gold plates on the walls, and crumbling all the stone underneath. The temple’s marble walls also succumbed to the intense heat of the fires, destroying everything inside the temple, including the holy altars.
Just as Jesus had said, the temple was desolate. Not one stone was left upon another. And any stones that did not contain any gold or silver were “thrown down” into the Kidron Valley below. Thousands of people died brutally during the attack. Anyone who survived either ran away frantically or were enslaved by the Romans.
The destruction was not confined only to the temple. The entire city of Jerusalem was laid bare, and the nation of Israel was again scattered. And it would remain that way for almost 1,500 years until 1947 when the United Nations finally recognized Israel as its own sovereign country.
The Waiting Game
Jesus had a lot of reasons to be anxious that final week in Jerusalem.
He knew Judas Iscariot would betray him. He knew His disciples would run away, leaving Him alone to face the Romans guards. And He knew He would be brutally tortured, humiliated, and nailed to a cross where He would endure its sinister, lingering death for six arduous hours.
Yet, despite what was to come, it was the temple’s destruction and the assault on the Israelites that concerned Him most.
It was not about what was going to happen to Him. Jesus’ concern was for the people. They refused to recognize Him for who He is—the promised Messiah. He knew the destruction headed their way because of their refusal and the long road to becoming a nation again. Worst of all, He knew (and wants) to save them, but they would not allow it.
That broke His heart. That is why He wept.
Today, the temple still has not been rebuilt. And though there is a strong Messianic ministry moving throughout the country, the nation of Israel still has not proclaimed, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Until then, we all wait for His return.
Until then, Jesus weeps for His children.