These chapters finish up the story of Judah as many are carted off to Babylon because the leaders and the people had become increasingly unfaithful. Good kings Hezekiah and Josiah restore the temple and celebrate the Passover, but it’s too little, too late. Other kings come along and do evil, and everything is ruined. Just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in chapter 36 we read these prophetic words which apply to pre-exile Israel, but point forward to Christ:
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.
They mocked, despised, and scoffed the Lord’s Word, and 600 or so years later they would do this to the Lord himself. Jesus says the following and we can imagine he has these verses in mind when he says it. First in Matthew 23:
37 “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. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
Then in Luke 19:
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 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. 43 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. 44 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.”
If Jesus was thinking about the fall of Jerusalem and Israel’s exile to Babylon, he would seem to be connecting that to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 and the diaspora. The bottom line is God’s judgement. One day, whoever this refers to, will see Jesus again and proclaim him Messiah. The “Blessed is he” reference in Matthew comes from Psalm 118, a messianic Psalm, and everyone who heard him say that, the day he went into Jerusalem, would have known that. In Psalm 118:
22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
In Jesus’ triumphal entry his followers thought he came to be a king, but he came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Israel’s failure led to the world’s salvation.