By Herb Montgomery
“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”—Jesus, Luke 19.41-44
Let’s look at prophecy number six in our eight-prophecy lineup. For me, this one is the most gut wrenching. Jesus is fully aware that Jerusalem is rejecting her only chance at life. In rejecting Jesus – this prophet of nonviolent, enemy-embracing love – she is sealing her fate. Her feet are sternly set on the path of retaliation, eye-for-an-eye, and violence toward her enemy, Rome; and this path will not end well.
Jesus sees where their violent path will end, and he weeps:
“Your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another.”
Yet even now, it was still not too late. Follow closely. Let’s begin with Jeremiah, who also warned of a coming destruction on Jerusalem.
“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.” (Jeremiah 18.7, 8)
Jeremiah had promised that God would change his mind if there were a change of path by those who had been warned.
We see this over and over again in the narratives of the Old Testament:
From the history of Isaiah and King Hezekiah:
“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, this is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.’” (Isaiah 38.1-6)
To Jonah’s angry rant after the repentance of Nineveh:
“When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” (Jonah 3.10-4.4)
What Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Jonah present to us is the picture of a God who actually does change his mind, a God who repents and changes what He has foretold if we choose a different path. A great example within the Gospels is in Jesus’ dialogue with Peter, just hours before Peter’s denial.
But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Luke 22.34)
Once Jesus prophesied this outcome of events for Peter, was Peter’s future now set? Was Peter trapped within a fate beyond changing, or was Peter on a path with a certain and definite end? What if Peter had heeded Jesus’ forewarning and changed the path upon which he was traveling? Perhaps the denial would also have been avoided.
Jesus words in Luke 22.31 make the point clearly:
“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail.”
Jesus was praying that Peter would change paths and not end up in the fate of thrice denial. Jesus was actually prophesying toward Peter, in the hope that Peter would change paths, and what Jesus had prophesied would never come to pass. Much like when the Lord told David that the men of Keilah would turn him over to Saul, so David fled and that which the Lord foretold never came to pass.
What all of this indicates is that the intended purpose of threatening prophecy is fulfilled most profoundly when its threats do NOT come to pass, rather than when they do come to pass. For if the destruction takes place that has been foretold, in this, the prophecy has failed even though it’s predication came true, for the purpose of the prophecy was that paths would be changed and the predicted destruction would never take place.
Take a moment and reread Jesus’ words in Luke 19.41-44 with all of this in mind. As final as Jesus’ words sound, they were not beyond hope. Jerusalem could still, like David, Hezekiah, and Nineveh, change paths, repent of their violence, and embrace the way of nonviolent, enemy-embracing love, and live.
Today, the most conservative experts once placed their hope in being able to deter global violence escalating into a potential global annihilation. Today, they are saying that ever since the mid-’80s, humanity today has reached, through political structures coupled with technological achievement, a point of no return; guaranteeing that at some point soon in the future the human race will cease to exist.
The political structures to which I’m referring to include monopolies on resources that cause those who are hungry and oppressed around the globe to rapidly grow desperate, thus producing, to the same degree, various forms of terrorist threats around the globe.
By technological achievements I am referring to the rapidly advancing, daily scientific breakthroughs that allow violence to be used so massively, so efficiently and effortlessly. The mere creation of such technology simultaneously brings into being the risk of it being hijacked and potentially used by the desperately hungry and oppressed, against their oppressors.
The most conservative experts, once again, are now expressing that the fears of the Cold War are miniscule compared to what will (note, not “could”, but “will”) happen once terrorism is combined with nuclear warfare.
Yet, I refuse to change “could” to “will.” A future annihilation of the human race is still simply a possibility, not a definite. I still hold out hope that Jesus and His Kingdom of nonviolent, enemy-embracing love will win in the end.
Jesus is, today more than ever, the last great hope of this world. Just like with Jerusalem of old, our turning from violence and injustice would fulfill the purpose of every Biblical and Secular prophecy regarding global annihilation.
Remember, prophecy is not intended to simply predict the future, but to warn of a possible future that we will definitely meet if our choices are not altered today. Are we beyond hope? I do not believe so. But I will say we have one – and only one – hope left: we can embrace the nonviolent, enemy love of the God revealed in the person of Jesus the Savior of the World.
Again, the condition for us is the same as that which Jesus presented to pre-70 A.D. Jerusalem of old: “To know the things that make for peace”, to recognize the “time of our visitation from God” in the invitation to join Christ’s nonviolent Kingdom.
For most of us, we don’t have the resources at our disposal to make global change. But we do have within our power, the ability to create local change. We can start today, wherever this finds you. Within your family, within your circle of friends, even if it is simply choosing to immediately forgive the driver in front of you who will cut you off on the way home from work after an exhausting day. One person at a time, we can change the world. The revolution starts right now, with you, with me, with each of us in our daily lives.
Jesus said it best:
“God did not send his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to heal the world through him.” (John 3.17)
In Luke 9.2, Jesus tells us our first job in proclaiming the arrival of this new nonviolent Kingdom is to be a conduit of healing! “Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
Certainly our world is sick, infected with the disease of retribution, retaliation, demanding eye for an eye, punitive justice rather than the Godlike healing of restorative justice. As Gandhi solemnly admonished us, “We must be the change, the change we long to see in the world.”
I close this week with a statement regarding Einstein’s theory of relativity I found recently from Gandhi’s secretary:
“Einstein has given us his well-known equation setting forth the relationship between matter and energy which states that when even an INFINITESIMAL PARTICLE of matter attains the velocity of light, the maximum velocity attainable in the physical world, it acquires A MASS WHICH IS INFINITE.”—Pyarelel (Gandhii's secretary, emphasis added.)
Reminds me of Jesus words in Matthew’s gospel:
“For AS THE LIGHTNING comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Bar Enasha, the new Humanity, the nonviolent Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.”—Jesus (Matthew 24.27, personal paraphrase)
Who said one "infinitesimal" person empowered by nonviolent enemy love, can't "infinitely" change the world?
Wherever this finds you this week, keep living in love toward one person, one heart at a time, putting on display the Father’s character of love as seen in Jesus, until, like lightning that shines in the east and can be seen, all the way as far as the west, the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.
Thanks for the hope, Einstein!