LENTEN DEVOTION: Immanuel’s Tears by Johann Ernst von Holst
Morning and Evening Devotions for the Holy Season of Lent
From The Crucified Is My Love
And when he drew near 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. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
When the Lord had reached the top of the Mount of Olives, the royal city with the gleaming gold of the temple lay in all its glory before his eyes. But in the midst of the disciples and rejoicing throngs around him, a deep sadness filled his holy soul at this sight, and his eyes overflowed with tears.
If a child weeps, we feel pity; if a hero weeps, our hearts are unnerved. But when Jesus weeps, Jesus the Son of God and of man, the lion of the tribe of Judah, it brings us to our knees, and we fearfully have to ask, “What is the cause of such tears?” The Lord himself answers us in words of deep emotion. He is not weeping for himself. He is not weeping because of his own approaching suffering. He represses these feelings. They are tears of love and sorrow that he sheds for his unhappy Jerusalem. He knows that there is still a time of grace for Jerusalem, that she may still be saved and raised to her true glory if at the last moment she turns with her whole heart to the Messiah who is just entering her. But he also sees Jerusalem’s hardness of heart. He sees how she rejects her only helper and savior, and that because of this the storm clouds of God’s judgment gather ever more darkly over the beloved city. He sees her at last, broken and ruined by the iron military power of pagan Romans, sinking in smoke and rubble.
Jesus’s tears also have significance for us. He weeps for us, too, as long as we rush unrepentant along the broad way that leads to destruction. The tears of a mother for her morally corrupt child ought to wake him out of his sleep of sin. The tears of Immanuel ought to fall into our sinful hearts like drops of smelted gold, burning, startling, and shaking us up.
How many nations are still blinded like Jerusalem of old! They build their houses and palaces and set up their governments without fear of God and without prayer, obstinately relying on their own strength. They do not see God’s approaching judgment; they do not feel the quaking of the Earth under their feet; they reject all admonitions to repent and turn around. How many people who call themselves Christians, even the old and infirm, do not see their death coming! They do not make use of the time of grace still given them; they do not lay hold of the one who alone can save them and make them blessed. Oh, that the tears of Jesus’s love may still move us all, before it is too late, to consider what gives true peace.
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