When Jesus weeps – Luke 19:28-48

It’s always a powerful moment in the New Testament when Jesus weeps. There’s always something profound to be said about him, and about his concern for you in the world you’re in.

In this passage, we’ll see great rejoicing, righteous anger, and tears. Those are emotions.  If you leave here thinking, “I understand that” then we’ve achieved something. But it will be better to leave thinking, “I feel that” – or, at least, “I want to feel those emotions about Jesus.”

Because when Jesus weeps over something, that ought to be something you grieve over too.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered at Bromborough Evangelical Church Wirral in September 2023. You can find more in the series in our sermon index.

Rejoice in Jesus (28-40)

We begin with a strange level of detail about a minor thing: Read Luke 19:28-35.

Why all that detail about the colt (young donkey)? You’re meant to bring Zechariah’s prophecy to mind (John’s gospel refers to it explicitly in John 12). Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; he is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Make no mistake: Jesus is going public over being the Messiah. He chose to ride that colt, and he made preparations to be sure one would be ready for him to ride.

Remember: At no point in his unjust trials or his brutal execution is Jesus any kind of ‘victim’. It was all God’s plan.

We read in Ephesians 1:4 that God chose his people in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him

  • Before anything existed, God planned all of creation, knew all of our actions (good and bad), and determined to extend grace to some sinners.
  • He determined to save a people for himself.
  • God will dwell on the earth with his people, and the Bible gives us a glimpse into his huge, overarching plan for all humanity.

But get this: That massive plan involves us all. And it’s worked out day by day, person by person.

Big Plan, Small Details (us)

God’s massive plan has small details – like untying a colt for Jesus to ride on, to fulfil Scripture written centuries before. Or the details of your life.

Jesus was in control then, and he’s in control now. Be encouraged that God plans and knows the details of your life too. Have confidence in him, that he plans for your good in love.

And be fearful too; he is God, and you’re not.

Jesus our Passover Lamb

So, Jesus was heading up the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. It the march to Jerusalem for Passover.

As he and all the pilgrim travellers reach the brow of the hill, they can see Jerusalem, and begin to go down into the valley, and back up to Jerusalem.

Read Luke 19:36-38.

  • They’re singing part of Psalm 118 – a Passover psalm, with images of the king entering Jerusalem to offer sacrifice for God’s deliverance.
  • The words “the king” aren’t in the psalm, so it’s especially interesting that they added it.
  • And the “peace in heaven and glory in highest heaven” isn’t part of the psalm either, but reminds us of the angels’ song at Jesus birth back in Luke 2.

Jesus is our king and our Passover lamb. He is the king who came to die, to take the punishment of the sins of his people. It is a moment of high destiny – right before their eyes. When you come to this king, and ask him for forgiveness of your sin, that’s a moment of high destiny too. In that moment, God forgives all your sin forever. You step off the path to hell, and are as safely a citizen of the kingdom of God for all eternity.

To see and know Christ as king – as your king – is a moment with eternal consequences. In particular, it’s a time of joy!

But: Read Luke 19:39-40.

  • The Pharisees could see what was going on, but they rejected Jesus as Messiah king.
  • So Jesus says that if they disciples go quite, the rocks themselves will cry out!
  • Our Creator has come into the world to save us! He is worthy of praise and worship – joyously so.

Why praise God?

Why should you praise him? Does he need it?

  • Sometimes, you see something really beautiful. It might be a sunset, a magnificent valley, or a moment of kindness.
  • You’re blessed to have seen it; anyone who didn’t see it has missed out.
  • But God is the most admirable, most glorious, most praiseworthy object of your attention imaginable.
  • He is light, and joy, and peace, and beauty. God is creativity, humour, music, delight, radiance, glory.
  • To see him is to glimpse a beauty beyond reach, beyond imagination. You can see him in Jesus.
  • And if you don’t, you miss out.

It is entirely appropriate to look to Jesus, the radiance of the Father’s glory, and burst out in praise. If you won’t, the very rocks beneath us will!

If church feels dull or lifeless to you, you’re looking at us instead of Jesus. We’re not going to manufacture a warm fuzzy feeling for you with lighting, or music, or robes – or even good coffee. True delight is found in Christ alone, and we will point you to him.

So, rejoice in Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God.

Honour Jesus (45-48)

We’re going to skip a few verses and see what Jesus did immediately on entering Jerusalem: He went to the temple. Read Luke 19:45-48.

Why did he go to the temple, and why was he so angry?

The overarching theme of the Bible is that God will dwell on the earth with his people.

  • We were separated from God by sin in Genesis 3, but will be ultimately restored at Jesus’ return with a new heaven and new earth at the end of Revelation.

In between, God has dwelt on the earth among his people in different ways.

  • From Moses onwards, Israel had the tabernacle.
  • It was a mobile temple – a ‘tent temple’.
  • Sinful people could offer sacrifice for sin, and our holy God placed his presence (his glory) in the most holy place in the tabernacle.
  • So, when the tabernacle was replaced by a permanent temple in Jerusalem, God’s glory filled that temple. He was dwelling on the earth among his people.
  • (Now, we don’t have a physical temple. Every Christian is a temple, since the Holy Spirit of God dwells on the earth within you. And when we meet, we are a temple too.)

Jesus visits the temple

So Jesus headed to the temple as the place where God meets with his people and dwells among them.

  • God’s glory was in the most holy place in the temple, behind a massive curtain.
  • The holy place was just outside that, where only priests could go.
  • There was then a courtyard outside, where only ceremonially clean members of Israel could go.
  • Gentiles (non-Jews) weren’t allowed. Nor were maimed Jews, like eunuchs.
  • They had their own courtyard further away from the temple, and there was a dividing wall that kept them out.
  • And here’s the problem in Jesus’ day: The Jews were using that outer courtyard for trade, for buying and selling. 
  • Gentiles who wanted to come to God were actually excluded from coming by the Jews and their money.

But that isn’t how it was meant to be.

Isaiah 56:6-7

As for the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to become his servants— all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold firmly to my covenant— I will bring them to my holy mountain and let them rejoice in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

That’s good news for you and me. It was always God’s plan that his presence would be “a house of prayer for all nations.” But the Jews of Jesus’ day were set up to keep Gentiles out.

Well, maybe at least their worship was vibrant and true?

Adding sin to sin

No, Jesus says they’ve made it a den of thieves.

  • He’s quoting Jeremiah 7 – the temple sermon, 605 BC.
  • That was a day when Jeremiah stood in the temple and condemned Israel for their idolatry.
  • They were going through the motions of worship, but their hearts were as far from God as can be.
  • What is a thieves’ den? It’s a safe house, where thieves go after all their dirty work.
  • God accused his people of sinning against him all day long and treating the temple as some kind of ‘safe house’.

God was angry in Jeremiah’s day. And Jesus is God. He was angry.

The Jews had abandoned God, and replaced true worship with ritual, religion, and trade. Worse, they had set up God’s own temple in a way that excluded the very people God had said would be welcome. People like you and me.

Woe betide a church that does the same! There are many! Churches that have lost their first love a long time ago. They have drifted from Christ, from his word, from truth, love and grace. 

All ritual, religion, and trade. Sometimes they even have great music and coffee. A reputation for being alive, but they’re dead. Such places are as repulsive to the God of grace today as they ever were.

You need to ask yourself where your love is.

One way to think about it is to examine your own feelings about when Jesus weeps.

Weep with Jesus (41-44)

Before Jesus went in to Jerusalem, and as he approached with his rejoicing disciples, he paused: Read Luke 19:41-44. The language he uses to describe what’s going to happen is just what happened 600 years earlier, in Jeremiah’s day, when the Babylonians came and smashed the city down.

It was dreadful. But it was also a judgment from God.

Judgment from God isn’t an abstract idea. It is a painful, physical, and terrifying reality. And it is a judgment. It’s God’s punishment for the bad things you have done.

Top of the list for Jerusalem was their rejection of Christ.

It’s “because you did not recognise the time when God visited you” (lit. “the time of your visitation”).

  • Jesus is the Son of God. God visited them to save them.
  • He is our Passover lamb, who gave his life to atone for your sins.
  • You turn to God in repentance of your sin, and ask him to forgive you in faith that he’ll count your sin against Jesus, and you will discover a God ready to forgive.
  • Jesus came to earth to seek and to save the lost.
  • He calls you. This is your moment of visitation from God.

Will you be like those people of Jerusalem who came so close to Jesus, and yet in the end just rejected him? Judgment awaits you for that.

But know this: God takes delight in the death of no-one.

His holy justice demands your punishment, but that brings him no pleasure.

Jesus wept

“As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it.”

  • Ἔκλαυσεν – “To weep, wail, lament, implying not only the shedding of tears, but also every external expression of grief.” (Word Study Dictionary, Spiros Zodhates)
  • You who have lost someone very close to you. Don’t you just know what it is to weep, to mourn, to wail?
    • You know what it is to cry until you’re spent crying.
  • Jesus didn’t just shed a tear and have a bit of a sniff. He mourned and grieved over the judgment that was coming on that city.
  • When Jesus weeps, God’s own heart is on display. The visible image of the invisible God, grieving over your sin.

You might ask, “Couldn’t he just save everyone in Jerusalem?” Yes, and he was willing to save everyone who would come to him.  But they rejected him, and prevented others from coming to him too.


  1. Rejoice in Jesus.
    1. Worship him, celebrate him. He came to save you, and your appropriate response is joyful delight in him.
  2. Honour Jesus
    1. Don’t just go through empty ritual and routine – know Christ and worship him truly.
    2. Don’t make his church a place where sinners feel unwelcome or excluded. He came to seek and save the lost, and you must do likewise.
  3. Weep with Jesus
    1. Mourn, wail, lament over the lost. Judgment is coming to them. Then pray, and witness.