The Son of Man entered Jerusalem as the One who had come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:1-10). On the back of a colt, he came as the Prince of Peace. The people saw this and proclaimed:
As he approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37-38 NET).
Peace in heaven. God has conquered contrary forces and brought peace. Now he will blanket the earth with peace. So they thought. Jesus says they know nothing of what brings peace. As the city lies beneath him in his descent to the gates, he says,
“If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).
The people shout peace, but have no idea of its true nature, nor the means by which peace is established. Like Israel in Jeremiah’s day, peace is on their lips, but far from their hearts.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, Peace, peace,
when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11).
In a few days they would take the Prince of Peace and crucify him as a political criminal. Instead of peace, they would commit great violence. Perhaps some of those who acclaimed Jesus as king would later remember another of Jeremiah’s words,
We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror (Jeremiah 8:15)
For Jesus now foresees terror and destruction for the city. Since they did not recognize the time of God’s “visitation” (v. 44) for the purpose of salvation, he would visit them for destruction. At the beginning of his gospel, Luke registers Zechariah the priest, John’s father, proclaiming the word of the Lord about his visitation: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68). But each visitation means the demonstration of both the goodness and the severity of God (see Romans 11:22).
Since the Lord derives no pleasure from the death of the wicked, Jesus cried over the city.