What was the mission of Jesus?
As many scholars have pointed out, Jesus seemed acutely aware that his people were on a lethal collision course with Rome. If Israel did not repent, if Israel did not listen, she was going to revisit the catastrophe when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. It was all going to happen again, Jesus prophesied. History was repeating itself.
Only this time it would be Rome dropping the hammer.
Jesus saw it coming. And he tried to stop it. But he had failed. And it brought him to tears.
Luke 19.41-44Jesus's lament over Jerusalem helps us unpack how Jesus saw his mission, what he meant when he proclaimed "the kingdom of God."
And when Jesus 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.”
Specifically, why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem? It was because Jerusalem had failed to learn "the things that make for peace." And because Jerusalem had failed to respond to Jesus's kingdom proclamation, failed to learn the things that make for peace, that the kingdom of God was "in their midst" if they had the eyes to see it, Jerusalem had set herself on a path of destruction.
What I find important in these observations is how Jesus's teachings regarding salvation and judgment are rooted in the concrete and historical conflict between Jerusalem and Rome. Jesus's kingdom proclamation wasn't about a heaven in the clouds. The kingdom was about learning "the things that make for peace" in this world. Learning that the kingdom of God is, right now, "in our midst." The kingdom is here, but it's the treasure hidden in the field. It's the seed being sown.
Will that seed--the kingdom proclamation--find good soil in our hearts? Will we learn the things that make for peace?
Moreover, let's note that the judgment Jesus spoke of--that place of weeping and the gnashing of teeth--wasn't hell. This was the judgment that Jesus wept over: violent death in this world. The "coming judgment" was a personal and communal annihilation because a people had failed to learn "the things that make for peace."
And it seems to me that Jesus's message--his proclamation of the kingdom and judgment--is extraordinarily relevant to this day. Perhaps even more so.
With Jesus we continue to weep over a world that refuses to learn "the things that make for peace." Interpersonally, socially, economically, politically, ecologically.
We continue to proclaim Jesus's message, that the kingdom of God is in our midst, so that the world might be saved from self-destruction.