But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry. "I wish that even today you would find the way of peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you. They will crush you to the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you have rejected the opportunity God offered you." Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants from their stalls. He told them, "The Scriptures declare, `My Temple will be a place of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves." After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.
All during his ministry, Jesus challenged the people to repent and adopt a new way of thinking. Jesus challenged their thinking in two ways. The first way he challenged typical Jewish thinking was by insisting that merely being physical descendants of Abraham was enough. Jesus wanted them to know that physical heritage was of little value and what mattered the most was a person’s faith. The second way that Jesus challenged the belief of the Jews was by teaching that the Messiah was not an earthly king. The purpose of the Messiah was not to save Israel from the Romans, but to save all of humanity from sin. The Jews wanted to renew the kingdom of David, but Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God.
The fact is that the majority of the Jews did not listen to what Jesus was saying, because it went against what their religion had established. This fact caused Jesus great emotional pain, because he loved these people, but they would not turn from their evil ways. These first Century Jews were very comfortable with the religion that had been established for them, and not all of them were willing to take the step of faith and follow Jesus.
In this passage we see two different incidents that show the distress Jesus experienced. The first incident took place as Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem. Jesus looked down on the city and began to cry. The reason for Jesus’ tears came from His knowledge of what was going to happen to Jerusalem. In 70 A.D. the Romans brought siege against the city. The result of the siege was that the majority of the population died of hunger, and the rest died when the Romans demolished what was left of the city. This was the punishment God delivered because the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus looked down on Jerusalem, and knowing the tragedy of the future, cried over the city full of people whom he loved, but refused to accept Him as their Savior.
The second incident is Jesus clearing the temple. To some this is a very difficult passage, because Jesus seems to act out of character. We talk so often of the loving and compassionate Jesus, that reading about Jesus being angry and chasing men and animals just seems out of place for the Jesus we think we know so well.
Taking time to look at the context this incident makes more sense. Jesus was disturbed because the Jews did not recognize who he was, and the main reason is because of the Jewish religious leaders. These leaders had corrupted the Law and the prophets by adding to them and making the Law impossible to bear. The focal point of this corruption was the Temple, a place that was to be set aside for worship God. With the emphasis placed on sacrifices, the proper sacrifices, the religious leaders took advantage of people and made the outer courtyards a marketplace. Money was exchanged and animals we sold. The leaders made a profit, the common people were able to sacrifice, but real spiritual help was not offered. The sacrifices were meaningless to a God who desired daily obedience over countless animal sacrifices. Jesus was distressed because the Jewish leaders were more interested in making a profit than they were in being the Spiritual leaders Israel needed.
Is Jesus distressed with you? Does Jesus cry over your future, or does He rejoice because of your continued obedience? These are important questions to ponder.