During the Triumphal entry, this scene occurs when Jesus sees the city.
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only 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. 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.” – Luke 19:41-44
Here Jesus prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the Romans in 70 AD after the Jews had revolted against Roman rule. In other places He also predicts the destruction of the temple at the same time (Matthew 24).
Jesus weeps for Jerusalem, knowing they are about to reject Him as Messiah and eventually look to establish their own kingdom. He knows the suffering they will experience and knows they are lost, looking for peace where they will not find it.
In Matthew’s account of the gospel sometime after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus makes this statement.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” – Matthew 23:37-39
His statement that they will not see him again until they say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” is interesting because back in Matthew 21 there were people saying that as He entered Jerusalem. Here He is speaking of His second coming which He goes on to teach more about in Matthew 24.
Similar to the passage in Luke, we can see the compassion Jesus has for Jerusalem in spite of their coming rejection of Himself as well those who had been sent to Jerusalem by God. When Jesus says, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” He is not just talking about His earthly life. He is speaking as the son of God looking back at Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all of the other prophets. He is speaking of a desire that He has had for centuries. Throughout Israel’s history the Lord sent His messengers to her and time and again they were ignored or worse. At times they were brought back to the Lord, but then they would quickly fall away again. Other times so few heeded the call of the Lord that His prophets felt utterly alone (1 Kings 19). He is also looking forward to when they will stone Stephen as He proclaims the gospel (Acts 7) and persecute the believers.
As Jesus weeps looking at Jerusalem, He is mourning what is to come. He knows that though He is the source of all peace, peace with God and peace with man, they will reject Him and look for it from somewhere else. Up to this point and afterwards, the majority of the people of Jerusalem “did not recognize the time of God’s coming”. Jesus, God in the flesh, had come bringing the good news of peace, but they did not believe it.
Many places in scripture God is referred to as the “God of peace” (Romans 15:33, 16:20 2 Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 4:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 13:20). It is His presence and work that brings peace. The gospel is the “gospel of peace”.
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” – Acts 10:36
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” – Romans 5:1
“For he himself is our peace” – Ephesians 2:14
“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” – Ephesians 2:17
When Jerusalem did not recognize who Jesus was, they missed out on the peace that was available through Him and sought it through other means, eventually leading to revolt and destruction. If they “had only known on this day what would bring [them] peace”, but it was hidden from them. They sought peace in an independent earthly kingdom by revolting against Rome, but nothing outside of Christ can bring true peace.
Historically, the majority of Christians did not participate in the revolt. From Christianity Today,
Where were the Christians? Out of town, basically. Many had been driven out of Jerusalem by persecution decades earlier. Eusebius wrote that when the revolt began, in A.D. 66, some of the remaining Jewish Christians fled to Pella, a city across the Jordan River.
It could be said that these events threw the young church’s balance of power toward the Gentiles. Missionaries like Paul had originally dealt with a strong (and conservative) Jewish church, based in Jerusalem. But the Christian Jews’ non-involvement in the revolt drove an obvious wedge between them and their traditional counterparts. After A.D. 70, Christians were not permitted in the synagogues.
It seems to me that the Christians did not participate in the revolt because of the directives of scripture “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” and “submit to the governing authorities” (Mark 12:17, Romans 13:1), as well as the difference in belief they had in regards to God’s kingdom and peace.
The Christians had found peace in Christ, a peace that could not be taken from them even by an oppressive Roman government. They also knew that the kingdom of Jesus was “not of this world” (John 18:36) and they did not need to take matters into their own hands to establish an earthly kingdom. They looked forward to when Jesus Himself would return to impose His heavenly rule visibly on the earth and they knew that it would be obvious that He had returned.
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.
So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. – Matthew 24:23-27
Seeking peace outside of Christ will always eventually lead to destruction. Christ is our true peace and solid hope. Governments will come and go, leaders will rise and fall, but the peace of Christ will never falter. His kingdom is always advancing and His victory is sure.