As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it …
LUKE 19:41

A GIRL AND A BOY—SCRUFFY, DIRTY, LOWER CLASS CHILDREN whose parents had little concern for their whereabouts—dodged and twisted through the throng at one side of the road. The boy shot through a gap in front of a man on a donkey and stopped so quickly the girl almost fell on top of him. She lifted her hand to cuff him in playful vexation, but the sight that had mesmerized him stayed her hand. She, too, stared upward in awe.

It was the man on the donkey, riding beneath palm branches held over him like a royal arch. His smile, which had first riveted the boy, was now cast upon the girl. He focused his entire attention upon them both with a gaze of such presence that a silence of instinctive untroubled yearning covered them. So powerful was his smile that years later in occasional quiet moments the memory of it would soothe their souls with a caress as certain as a physical touch.

Followers behind the colt surged forward, and the moment passed as the crowd swept in front of the boy and girl, blocking their view of the man on the colt. Without exchanging words or glances, each turned to follow, trying to squeeze around the legs of the chanting adults. They stayed with the crowd as the road turned slightly downward, dipping out of sight of the corner of Jerusalem. The road rose again shortly, bringing the Holy city into full view for the first time.

What the children could not see, the man on the colt did.

Here, from the east, it seemed the city rose from a deep abyss—the valleys of Kedron and Hinnom. The temple tower dominated the skyline, the vast temple courts spreading beneath. The monstrous temple walls on the eastern edge of the plateau seemed like cliffs—unassailable and as fixed as eternity. The upper palaces, brilliant white in the sunshine, now threw shadows across the garden terraces and the city below, giving an impression of unearthly splendor and an ache of beauty that could never fully be captured by memory or description.

What the children could not see, the man on the donkey did, as if in that single moment time’s curtain rippled just enough to give him a ghastly vision …

* of earth heaped into ramps reaching the city walls,
* of legions of soldiers swarming triumphant,
* of a city outline marred by the smoke of destruction,
* of proud temple walls shattered into piles of rubble,
* of hundreds of rebels dying on crosses too numerous to comprehend,
* of wailing mothers searching the ruins for bodies of torn children—and then with another ripple of time, a new vision …
* of dust swirling in an eerie dance to a dirge sung by the desolation of centuries—the rejection by God himself in horrible, cold punishment for a city about to butcher his son.

What the children could not see, the man on the donkey did—the beauty ofthe city and the inexorable tragedy ahead. The force of the contrast tore loose from him a wrenching sob so loud it startled those beside him. His sorrow deepened into heaving lamentation, spreading a pall of uneasy silence over his followers.
Palm Sunday

It was as if he spoke to the city when the agonized words left his mouth. “If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.”

He closed his eyes, but could not shut out the vision overwhelming him. “They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

His weeping did not stop.

The boy and girl crept forward. Unlike the adults, the terrible sorrow of the man on the donkey did not frighten them. It filled them with a longing to comfort him, as though he were a child in need of them. His sorrow drew them slowly to the colt where each shyly rested a hand on the hide of its flank.

For as long as he wept they walked wordlessly and shared his grief.

From The Carpenter’s Cloth: Christ’s Journey to the Cross and Beyond by Sigmund Brouwer

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