My Message About Christ Last Week
to the Thousands in Times Square
Imagine this: You’re standing on a stage erected on the plaza in Times Square in the heart of New York City. Evening is falling. Lights dazzle from all directions. Thousands of people, many from other nations, have come to investigate one of the most famous spots on planet earth. Their minds are processing all the sights and sounds when suddenly…
There you are! You’re at a microphone with a sound system that will carry your voice three blocks in all directions. Multitudes will be “forced” to hear what you have to say. This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to proclaim the “glories of Christ” to a host of unbelievers, all at one time.
What would you say?
That’s precisely the position I found myself in last week. Here’s what I decided to share.
“Did you know the Bible is focused on cities?”
Those were my opening words. But first, here is a little background:
The rally last weekend was the culmination of several weeks during which churches worked together to spread the gospel throughout NYC, utilizing many initiatives that made up what we called “Jesus Summer.”
In other words, hundreds of us already had been focused on a single city for many days. But then, this choice should not seem a strange thing! This is what Christians are called to do, whatever community they are part of.
The fact is, Scripture may open with a garden in Genesis, but it closes sixty-six books later in the final chapter of the book of Revelation with a city.
There we’re shown a metropolis descending from heaven—a city constructed by God; a city where he intends to dwell forever; a city that will be the home of all the saints of all the ages; a city that will dominate a whole new heaven and earth. It’s a community God has prepared for you—and for all of us. He wants us to share it with him forever. In fact, he inhabits it before we do.
Before that unveiling, however, many earthly cities have become God’s immediate concern. We see this all through the Bible. Sometimes it entails his judgments upon the citizens, sometimes his deliverance of them.
But according to Jeremiah 33, God’s desire for any city—including New York City—is that the dwelling becomes “a joy and praise and renown for my glory in all the earth” (vs. 9).
So, what does God want for New York City right now—and for every one of us who lives here?
More importantly, what does he want for your city or community and for you and those who live around you?
Here’s what I told my audience next:
“Over the decades, I’ve shared about Christ and his great work of salvation in some of the major cities of the world—like Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Cape Town, Lagos, Amsterdam, San Palau—as well as cities across our nation. But I’ve concluded that there’s no city quite like NYC in terms of dynamics and diversity and drama—and in terms of its impact on the globe by media, education, healthcare, the arts, finances, and innovations.”
Then I announced to people walking around Times Square that I’d come that night to share with them how the risen, reigning Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, sees our city and, even more, what he wants for our city at this very moment.
Moreover, I declared to every ear that his concerns for New York don’t even begin to compare to his love and concern for each person who could hear me!
“Did you know Jesus once wept over a city?
Why was that?”
Next, I led with that curious question. I went on to observe:
“People worldwide know about Palm Sunday and Jesus’ ‘triumphal entry.’ Muslims do. Hindus do. Buddhists do. Most of you do, as well.
“It was the moment when Jesus offered himself to the most important city in the Bible—the city of Jerusalem—to become their Savior, their Redeemer, the fulfillment of all the promises God had made to them over the generations. He had come to be their King, to bring them victory over sin and death and judgment. He wanted to transform Jerusalem into “a joy and praise and renown for God’s glory in all the earth.
“At first, they enthusiastically welcomed him as he rode into the city on a humble donkey, shouting to him, ‘Hosanna! Hosanna!’ That is Hebrew for ‘Lord, save us now!’ Clearly, they wanted him to take charge.”
Then, looking out over a sea of faces, I said to the crowds: “Why don’t we all try that right here and now. Join me! Let’s say three times together: Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” Many actually joined in.
So, I remarked: “Look what WE just did: Together, we invited God’s Son to become our Deliverer!”
I paused to let that thought sink in. After the silence, I continued:
“But what most people don’t know is that a few hours after his ‘triumphal entry,’ the polar opposite happened. We might call it his ‘tragic agony.’ Standing on Olivet Mountain just outside the city walls, Jesus was weeping over the bustling scene before him.
“Weeping! How could that be? Why was that?” Another pause. Then I brought it down to my audience: “Could it be that the same risen, reigning Jesus is weeping over our city—as well as over each one of us who calls it home?
“Jesus did not hold back. As the tears fell, he groaned these words out loud (see Matthew 23:37-39):
Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . .
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.’”
What do YOU think? Why did he end up so broken-hearted such a short time after the glorious, celebratory parade he had led—shedding tears over the same crowd?
(1) Jesus knew that deep down in their hearts, they did not really want him to be anything more for them than their “rescue plan” for getting out from underneath the Roman Empire’s thumb (the way Afghanis are desperate for deliverance from the Taliban today). He knew they would never allow him to gather them to himself, under his redeeming reign and into his kingdom purposes—and above all, into the fullness of eternal life with God that he had come to bring them.
(2) Also, he knew that as a result of their rejection of him, their city and their very lives would end up in “desolation” (that’s the word he used). Physically speaking, that happened literally 40 years later when the Roman army sacked Zion and sent all its citizens into captivity.
Jesus knew there were only two options for the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants: (a) Come to him as God’s Messiah and allow him to gather them into all of his saving power and life-giving miracles, or (b) end up with nothing but desolation—both physical and spiritual desolation. There was no middle ground. There were no other roads for them to take.
“Guess what? Right now, Jesus is weeping over our city
and each one of us in it for the very same reason.”
When I declared those words, I’m sure there were more than a few listeners who were initially taken aback. But that’s precisely what I told my hearers. I said: “For cities, for people, for you—for the whole creation—there are only two options ultimately: desolation or transformation.” Next, I expanded on that claim for them.
“Here in New York City, we know a little bit about desolation due to our intense battle with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past 19 months. This community was so overwhelmed by the impact of the disease that many predicted NYC would never recover from it—that the “desolation” of our health, our businesses, our lifestyles, and our friendships would remain a permanent curse upon us.
“But the desolation Jesus was talking about—that caused him to grieve so profoundly as he looked over the city—went much deeper. Consider some of the synonyms for desolate:
“In fact, one of the terms the dictionary suggests is ‘godforsaken.’
“Have you ever felt “desolate” the way these words picture it—even forsaken by God? Are you feeling that way right now?
“You know, there is a far more deadly virus—an everlasting pandemic—that Jesus was talking about when he predicted their city and their lives would be ‘left to you desolate.’”
Then, I really got down to business with the crowd: “The Bible calls it sin—which, at its core, is a refusal to enter into the relationship with the living God for which he created us. Fundamentally, however, it comes down to a refusal to come to Jesus Christ himself because, as he so plainly said in so many different ways, he and he alone is the way, the truth and the life, and ‘no one can come to the Father except through me.’”
Then, with all my strength, I lifted my voice for people blocks away to hear and said: “We are doomed to desolation unless we come to Christ. Christ alone—by his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension—can change a life that has become ‘God-forsaken’ into a life that is ‘God-retaken.’”
As the shadows fell, I proclaimed: “Christ wants to bring every one of us—and even our cities and communities with us—out of desolation into transformation.”
From desolation to transformation:
for cities and for sinners!
The fact is, as I spelled out that night, if we do allow God’s Son to “gather us” to himself, the way a “hen gathers chicks under her wings,” what does this transformation entail? Consider these antonyms of “desolate”:
And we might add this to the list: It means to be overflowing with the fruits of the Spirit, including love, joy, peace; to be abounding in hope in God’s promises.
We’re told that all the promises of God are “YES” to us in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1). This means that with hundreds of promises regarding God’s purposes for your life and for all creation waiting to be fulfilled for you in Christ Jesus, there will never be a moment of “desolation” for all who belong to him—for all ages to come!
“Therefore,” I concluded from the stage, “this means that for you and for me, the true opposite of desolation comes down to a person. It comes down to CHRIST HIMSELF! All the transformation we will ever need or want, beginning with our being reconciled to the living God, waits for us—for YOU!—if we will come to Christ.
“The Bible claims a principle in Romans 6 that has equal application to individuals or to whole societies:
The wages of sin is death!
[That is, sin leads to permanent desolation.]
But the free gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord!
[Christ brings us into everlasting transformation.]”
Then, I waited a moment before asking the final question:
“How much does Jesus love you? Enough to weep over you! The Bible says in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. He wept over a city 2000 years ago. He weeps again over this city of New York. But really, in the end, he is weeping over YOU. That’s how much he loves you. That’s how strongly he desires for you to come to him. That’s how desperate he is to deliver you from desolation! That’s how deeply he longs to bring you into his life-giving transformation.
“He came for you. He died for you. He rose again for you. He reigns for you. He also weeps for you.”
I ended my talk with this glorious truth:
“The Lamb is the Lamp of the city.”
“In Revelation 21, describing the city I mentioned earlier—descending out of heaven, glowing with the glory of God, more dazzling than a million Times Squares—the writer makes an interesting observation.
“John writes that this transformed Jerusalem would never need the light of the sun by day or the reflection of the moon by night because—as John puts it—‘the Lamb is the lamp of the city.’ What does he mean by that phrase?”
And I pointed out to them:
“Just like Times Square tonight is flooded with light that penetrates every corner and crevice—all at the same time, everywhere at once, engulfing everyone standing here—even so throughout eternity, those who belong to Christ will be living in the manifest presence of God’s Son. Countless millions of us. From every tongue and tribe and race and nation and ethnicity. Redeemed out of eternal desolation. Brought into the everlasting transformation of such a great salvation.
“And all of us who belong to Christ and take up residence in that majestic city will be ‘saturated’ by the power and love and reign of our Savior, the way lights all around us encompass us here tonight.”
What I said to everyone at that moment, I now share with all of you who are reading this report:
“But you do not need to wait for that heavenly dwelling to come forth upon the earth to experience this. The Lamb of God, who has taken away the sin—the desolation—of the world, can do so for your own heart and life. He has conquered and is ready right now to become the ‘lamp’ in your life—filling you with his life.
“As the Bible promises you in the opening of John’s account of Jesus:
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…. Out of his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.
“Paris, France, may be the ‘City of Lights.’ But our city could become the ‘City of THE Light.’ And it could begin with you, here and now. Come! Gather to Christ today, without delay.”
I sat down, exhausted but also thrilled. I could see the thousands who had heard, many for the very first time, about the greatness and glory and supremacy and love—and tears—of God’s Son! I knew there was no limit on where the Holy Spirit could take it from there.
Let David share this vision more fully with you on his podcast episode 263,
“Wonder of Wonders: How Christ Delivers From Desolation.” Listen here.