Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem was indescribably poignant. He gazed toward the city with deep emotion. It was where he would be sentenced to the death of a criminal. It would be a death of excruciating suffering. His enemies would carry out the evil work they had plotted for some time. Now they would have their way. This thought must have been profoundly disturbing to the Savior.

But in spite of the awaiting horror, the tears that Jesus shed on his sad journey were not for himself and all the pain and shame he was destined to undergo. He wept for Jerusalem, the city of his persecutors and the place of intense anguish. The city he looked upon was facing a fearful fate due to its loss of opportunity in not recognizing Jesus for who he was and thereby forfeiting the peace he came to give. It was the most desperate of human situations – to miss the time of divine visitation. Jesus laments over Jerusalem: “You did not recognize the time of God’s coming.”

The Lord sets his own times of approach to humankind. We do not decide his comings – or his goings. He moves in sovereign freedom. His moments of self-revelation are such as we are always to be awaiting in readiness. Whenever he is present we are to be aware and suitably attentive to him. When he passes it may be to our woe. Who knows whether he shall return and if the day of his mercy will ever dawn again? There is great regret in the missed opportunity for salvation. Jesus grieves at the prospect: “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace.”

Callousness toward the lost and the perishing was not in Jesus’ nature. His tears were proof of that fact. The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. It was said of Charles Spurgeon that “He thundered out the message of the wrath of God, but in an intimate moment he ventured to say, ‘While I believe in eternal punishment, and must, or throw away my Bible, I also believe that God will give to the lost every consideration, consistent with his love. There is nothing vindictive in him, nor can there be in his punishment of the ungodly.’ (Y.W. Fullerton, pages 151-2, his biography subtitled London’s Most Popular Preacher).

The tragedy is that men and women resist the Spirit of God and his appeals in the Gospel and with carelessness or with hostility reject Christ – as did the leaders of Jerusalem. Judgment becomes a necessity and the way of peace is hidden from the eyes of those who refuse the Lord Jesus. So adamant are many folk to the mercy of God that vengeance is the only just alternative.

The future kingdom of God – if it is to exemplify and enjoy perfection and harmony of righteousness and love among its members, and render affection, adoration, and obedience to God as King – this kingdom must exercise exclusion of the ungodly to realize the sublime bliss of perpetual life in his presence. The awful fact is that it will be the Lord Jesus who will pass sentence on the evildoer and administer punishment. They will cry for deliverance from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6: 16-17). We must grasp him while there is still opportunity. His crucified hands are still reached out toward the world… but for how long!