Passion Week II

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.  For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44 NASB)

Why would God hide “the things that would make for peace” from His own people, from the ones living in the city where His name dwells?  She did not recognize the day of her “visitation”.  Essentially, Jerusalem didn’t recognize Jesus.  But in what way?  They’re partying now, with Passover and tons of pilgrims everywhere, and now Jesus coming, it’s on.  And yet there was something that was missed; a massive “oversight”.

Only Luke has this prediction with specifics of the demise of Jerusalem.  “Scholars” are often quick to point out that this indicates that Luke was written late (after the destruction of Jerusalem). But this can’t be proof, as a record of Jesus’ words would have been in existence before the destruction.  The whole “let the reader understand” comment in Matthew and Mark doesn’t seem to indicate that, and yet stems from the same sort of prediction.  At least that’s how the church in Jerusalem took it, and disappeared once the Romans broke through into the Temple.

Yet Jesus is specific about both the way Jerusalem falls, and the reason.  She fails to recognize Jesus; specifically, who He is has been hidden from her.  In other contexts it’s clear that God Himself hides this sort of information.  But here it could be the culture or religious leaders, or political climate, or any number of things not mentioned.  In any case, Luke still points out she’s been “duped”, something was hidden from her, she’s a victim; of sorts.

Jesus refers to what was missed in two ways.  First He refers to “the things toward peace” in verse 42.  But then in verse 44 He says, “against which you did not know the opportune time of your oversight.”  That last word is the Greek word from which we get “episcopal”, yet it is nearly universally translated as “visitation” here.  So how does “overseer” or “bishop” get translated as “visitation”, and everyone’s okay with this?  The two aren’t even related…are they?

Back in the day, when the church I was pastoring was clamoring about me not “visiting” enough, I did a word study on church leadership.  I was fine until I included the Hebrew Scriptures in my study.  At that point, my argument that “visiting” was their job not mine fell to pieces.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word for the office and practice of those in religious leadership was a very familiar word to me.  It sounded like pa-KAD, but it meant “to visit”.  It was used in Hebrew class to teach both the declension of nouns and the parsing of verbs because it had both forms.

It was disturbing for me because it has such an enormous range of meaning.  It refers to the “visitation of God” which should terrify His people.  And it also refers to the exercising of leadership (specifically in a religious or prophetic office) over His people.  It wasn’t always a positive thing, it more often tied to “judgement” than consolation.  On the other hand it was also often tied to consolation.  So, both things were a part of why it was used to refer to the activity and title of the leadership office.

When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, in cases where “to visit” was related to the leadership office, it was translated as “episcopal” in Greek, even when it was a verb.  So, we have this very consistent extension of meaning for the word from Hebrew usage and tradition.  It is an extension because typical Greek usage saw it as a leadership office and wouldn’t tie it to a “visit” necessarily.

Okay, as my wife will say so often, “so what?”  Well, here it is: Jesus’ visitation wasn’t just to die on the cross.  There existed the possibility that the nation of Israel could have rallied around Him, recognizing Him as the Messiah they had been looking for.  I believe that, in that case, Jesus would have still died on the cross, just not out of the betrayal of His people.  There existed the possibility of the redemption of Israel right there at that Passover feast.

This is not a “slam” on the Jews, then or now.  It’s a lesson I must learn.  What am I in danger of missing for some of the same reasons they did?  What distracts me today that perhaps distracted them then?  What am I in danger of missing from God?  Is He “visiting” me and I’m missing His presence?  This is the question that brings me to my knees, and leads me deeper into my Master’s presence.  This is where He has more of me and I have less of me.  If I focus on them and refuse to learn from them, then I have let pride and arrogance cloud my vision, and the things toward peace are hidden from me.

That is my view through the fence.  What does your knothole reveal to you?

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Matt Brumage

Educated for Christian ministry, but currently working in the business world.

One thought on “Passion Week II”

  1. Perfect illustration happened in my kitchen this morning. My teenage daughter was upset that people keep trying to “help” her with warnings and advice about college. She doesn’t realize that those around her see what she can’t. They know what she can’t possibly know. But like Jerusalem, she is unwilling to learn, completely oblivious to the problems she is heading into. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, but is unwilling to accept that and learn from those God has put in her life for that very reason. I’m hoping she sees the opportune “visitation”, and learns from it before total destruction.

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