Jesus began His earthly ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, stating that God had sent Him to set people free and to proclaim the good news of the gospel (Luke 4:16–21). His work among the Jews was characterized by His preaching repentance so that the people would be ready for the coming of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15). In other words, in and through Jesus Christ, our Creator extended to His people yet another chance for their forgiveness.
Many Jews responded to Jesus’ preaching by placing their faith in Him, including disciples such as Peter, James, and John (Luke 5:1–11). Others, however, did not, including most Pharisees and other Jewish leaders (e.g., see 19:39–40). Jerusalem was the seat of this opposition, for that is where the Jewish authorities gathered to govern the people and their religious life, which was centered on the temple.
Our Lord well understood this opposition and its association with the city of Jerusalem, and He knew that in opposing Him, the Jewish authorities were opposing God. Nothing good can come of resisting our Creator, so our Savior could foresee the judgment that would fall on the city and its people for their rejection of Him. This moved Him to weep over the fate of the impenitent city (vv. 41–44), as we see in today’s passage.
We read in Luke 19:43–44 of the time of destruction coming upon the city. Jesus spoke of barricades being formed around the city, a reference to siege warfare in which an enemy would surround a city, blocking access to resources and forcing the citizens within the city’s walls into a state of hunger and desperation (v. 43). Then the army would move in, tearing down the walls and other buildings, a practice to which Jesus refers in Luke 19:44. Christ was anticipating the end of the Jewish revolt in AD 70 when, after the Jews had been rebelling against Rome for several years, the army of the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem and finally entered the city and destroyed it and its temple.
In addition to being a prediction of a historical event that would happen some decades later, today’s passage gives us insight into God’s disposition toward impenitent people. The people of Jerusalem were going to get what they deserved for rejecting the Messiah, but instead of taking great joy in this, Jesus wept. Our Creator takes “no pleasure in the death of anyone,” even those deserving of His righteous wrath (Ezek. 18:32).