Saturday, March 12
Reader: “How often I have wanted to gather your children together”
Response: “ but you wouldn’t let me.”
Scripture: Matthew 23:37-39
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
We have subtitled this Lenten season as “A Journey to the Cross.” One of the aspects of these weeks is to examine the days leading up to the crucifixion through the eyes and words of Jesus. Today’s pericope gives us a window into his passion and love for Israel even though they reject God’s love and care for them. In the previous chapter Jesus declares seven woes castigating the teachers of the law for leading the people astray by rejecting the words of the prophets, God’s messengers. Not only did they reject the prophet’s messages, they killed godly people. Judgment was coming.
Jesus begins his lament by repeating the name of the city twice―Jerusalem, Jerusalem. In Scripture when a word is repeated two times, it is done so for great emphasis. It is turning up to full volume and saying, ”Pay very close attention to what I am about to say.” Then he addresses the people, the Scribes and Pharisees, in the city charging them with killing and stoning those bringing God’s word to the people to repent of their wicked and bent ways. The implication was that the generation Jesus was addressing were likewise judged guilty of all the Old Testament murders of godly people from Abel to Zechariah, perhaps a contemporary of theirs. And thirdly, he speaks almost more individually with “your, you, your, you, you, and you.” We see in his words a heart-broken Jesus expressing an unrequited love for his children. How he longed to protect his own, but was flatly rejected. Yet he longed for them still to repent of their ways and receive God’s grace.
In reference to “your house being abandoned,” could refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and that God would withdraw his presence from the Temple and both would disappear. Jerusalem had been ransacked before in the exile to Babylon and would again be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, some thirty-five or so years after Jesus uttered these words.
While the last words of the passage remind us of the cries of joy as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, ultimately I think Jesus is referring to his Parousia, his Second Coming when this world comes to a close and he establishes his eternal Kingdom. Note his words uttered here, “I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” and a similar passage occurring later in this gospel during the Last Supper showing the same intensity in Jesus’ words, “Mark my words―I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it again with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” (Mt. 26:29) (Luke’s text is identical to Matthew’s, indicating both men used a common source. 13:34-35)
You may be wondering at this point, how does this passage relate to me? Or better yet, how do I relate to this passage? Do you see where we are located in these words? We come in right after “your house is abandoned and desolate.” While those words refer most directly to Jerusalem, Israel, and/or the Temple, they are reflective of our age as well. But most significantly, we come in right before the last sentence, which is yet to occur in history. We await the Lord’s return when all people will acknowledge him as a consuming Judge or as a welcomed King.
Music: “Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord” Paul Wilbur
O hidden Source of life, let me now meditate upon the great and gracious plan by which Thou hast brought it to pass that a mortal man like me should look up to Thee and call Thee Father. O hidden love of God, whose will it is that all created spirits should live everlastingly in pure and perfect fellowship with Thyself, grant that in my life today I may do nothing to defeat this Thy most gracious purpose. Let me keep in mind how Thy whole creation groans and travails, waiting for the perfect appearing of the sons of God; and let me welcome every influence of Thy Spirit upon my own that may the more speedily make for that end. When Thou dost knock at my heart’s door, let me not keep Thee standing without but welcome Thee with joy and thanksgiving. Let me harbor nothing in my heart that might embarrass Thy presence; let me keep no corner of it closed to Thine influence. Do what Thou wilt with me, O God; make of me what Thou wilt, and change me as Thou wilt, and use me as Thou wilt, both now and in the larger life beyond; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
―John Baillie, from A Diary of Private Prayer, p. 57