41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 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. 43 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 44 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.”
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” 47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. (Luke 19:41–48 ESV)
Those last two verses say something powerful.
Jesus was compelling. He was not just praying for this doomed city, but he went in to the temple and he drove out “those who sold.” And he quotes the prophet Isaiah, who proclaims the word of God for all those who are not Israel — foreigners, eunuchs, others formerly refused membership in the camp of God’s people — “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (לְכָל־הָעַמִּֽים)
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8 ESV)
Those who having nothing, no promise from God and no way of begetting children, now are included the promise god made so long before to Abraham. Jesus is the fulfillment of that, of all these promises. And all those in the temple were “hanging on his words.” The words he spoke as he taught every day in the Temple, the house of God.
That gathering is beginning. Jesus is getting ready to call the world to himself. He began with the lost sheep of Israel, scattered some crumbs for those as were listening, saw great faith in some of the cohort of the military occupiers of his home. He knew this word of God — that God loves Israel, chose Israel, redeemed Israel, forgave Israel, called Israel to love God and love neighbor — was a powerful word to many who were not Israel. A word to hang upon. Truth. Met in the flesh that was and is Jesus.
But first, he must die. Maybe must is too strong a word. I do not like putting moral imperatives on acts of God, even as Jesus does. He will die. And he does die.
Only in dying and rising does that word begin to really sprout and grow and become something staggering. A church that captures an empire, changes it, and changes us.
And Jesus knows this. Or rather, he believes it might be true. Has faith in it. He doesn’t really know it until he dies, and rises, and ascends. He must face death first, and the deep and abiding uncertainty that may, just maybe, death really is all there is, a final answer, the end of things.