A note of sadness!
I have been preaching on Sunday mornings over the last month in Matthew 23. It is the chapter where the Lord Jesus is rebuking the religious leaders of His day. Jesus has the strongest words of rebuke and condemnation for these religious hypocrites. His strongest words of rebuke were not for the prostitutes or for the tax collectors or even for the Gentiles but it was for these religious phonies. In fact, in our message last Sunday we saw Jesus calling them dirty dishes and cups, whitewashed tombs of dead men’s bones, and finally snakes and a brood of vipers. When someone calls you a snake it is not a compliment. Jesus’ rebuke of the religious leaders helps us understand their sheer hatred for Him. But when He comes to the end of his condemnation we see a certain note of sadness. We read Jesus’s words beginning in verse 37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who killed 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, but you were not willing”, (Matt.23:37 NIV). When Jesus is pleading with Jerusalem he doesn’t mean the bricks and mortar that make up the city. Jesus is speaking about the center of the nation’s religious life where the tribes and individuals went up to give thanks unto God. Remember whole families came from all over the nation to be there for Passover. These events and words are recorded during Passover season. And here Jesus stands so burdened and broken by their sin.
We can see from these words that Jesus’ rebuke has not been out of hatred or rage. It has been out of a deep compassion for the people of the city. There continued and obstinate rebellion that would ultimately lead to the destruction of the old city is what was breaking Jesus’ heart and He uses an illustration from Psalm 91 which reads, “He will cover you with his wings, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart,” (Ps.91:4 NIV). This illustrates again the compassion that Jesus had for the people. There’s no position so near to the heart of God than under His protection and wings. The very heart of God is being poured out in this passage and Jesus is pleading with them to surrender their hearts to Him. It is also very clear that Jesus is stating that there is a judgment that is coming once they reject the only way of salvation. But His words are masked in deep sorrow because that was really not His heart’s desire. His heart’s desire was to gather the people together and to provide protection for them.
Jesus came to provide for them the way of salvation that He alone could provide. So we see that Jesus confronts these men in their sin to hopefully lead them to repentance. He also wants us to come to him with our brokenness and our sinfulness. Knowing that He is longing and desiring to make a difference for eternity in the lives of His people, that should be our desire as well. As children of God we should desire to see other members of the human race being brought into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The gospel message is not just for us but is to be shared and declared in the world of brokenness and darkness that we currently live in. Jesus desired to gather his people as a hen protects her chicks but they wouldn’t let Him. I believe the same Jesus is speaking into our situation today. He comes to us in tenderness and compassion inviting us to follow Him. But we are the ones that must respond to his gracious invitation. Jesus will force none to take up their cross and follow Him. It is a decision of the individual will and it should be our desire to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives so that He can use us to touch other people’s lives for the glory and honor of the Lord Jesus Christ.
All praise to our great Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo