Matthew 23:37-39 (NIV) “O 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, but 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.’”
In this statement, Jesus is not only revealing His own heart, His own sorrow, over those who were bringing condemnation on themselves by refusing to receive Him. He was revealing the Father’s own heart and sorrow. The rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people and their leadership was not a new thing. It was merely the last page in a book of rebellion that had been in the making for 1500 years.
The Israelites rebelled in the wilderness a multitude of times in the very shadow of the pillar of cloud and fire that accompanied their every step. They continued in their rebellion once they entered the Promised Land, refusing to completely destroy the current inhabitants, and then entered the cycle of rebellion and (sometimes half-hearted) repentance that is documented in the book of Judges. Then came the rebellion of both the kings and the people that ultimately led to the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. And now they were rejecting God’s coming in the flesh by plotting to kill Jesus, even as he spoke to them.
At any one of those points, God would have gladly received those rebels into His good graces, if only they would have turned back to Him wholeheartedly. But, as Jesus pointed out here, they were unwilling. They had always liked their independence. They valued their autonomy. They enjoyed their sins and vices, and they believed that by making sacrifices they could placate God and hold off His judgment.
But by this last straw, these leaders were dooming Jerusalem to destruction. The clouds would gather over the next 40 years, and God was going to allow their sin, their bitterness, their rejection of the people that He had chosen to carry the banner of the kingdom forward, to grow until it reached its full measure. And then He would release the thunder clap of Rome to destroy the city, the people, and even the temple. Through their rebellion, and the persecution of God’s people that Jesus could see right on the horizon, they had already laid the foundation for the desolation, not only of Jerusalem, but of Judaism itself. And Jesus foretold that that desolation would continue until they were willing to acknowledge Jesus as “He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Father, from our vantage point, it seems incredible that these men would reject Jesus, ignore His warnings, defy His teaching, and bring this complete devastation on their beloved city and temple. But they had built and unassailable worldview that was impervious even to You. It is humbling to know that we can do the same thing today, and draw down the same judgment on ourselves if, in our arrogance, we start defying you and deifying ourselves. Help us to never do that, but to always stay open to Your voice and Your leading. Amen.