Scripture: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, 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.'” Matthew 23:37-39 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Friday’s Daily Focus, Jesus continued his reproach of the hypocritical religious leaders, calling them a brood of vipers. He rhetorically questions how they will escape eternal damnation (v.33). Then, with an eye on the future, Jesus predicts that these supposed guardians of the faith will kill the Lord’s messengers, following in the footsteps of their murderous forefathers, from the bloodshed of Cain to Zechariah (spanning the extent of biblical history as recorded in the Hebrew Bible). Jesus concludes with a warning that his prophecy applies to the present generation.
In today’s devotion, Jesus, having prophecied of Jerusalem’s demise, understandably laments over this historic city of religious significance. With words that reveal deep sadness, Jesus recounts its dubious reputation as the city that kills God’s messengers. He then expresses his heartfelt desire to gather and comfort its people like a hen with its chicks. But Jerusalem’s unwilling citizens will find their house (temple) desolate. And they will not see him again until they say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” quoting Psalm 118:26.
Of note, Luke presents a near-exact account earlier in Jesus’ ministry (Luke 13:34-35). And he also records a similar lament before Christ’s Triumphal Entry (Luke 19:41-44). Still, Matthew’s placement fits as a marker for the Son of God’s anticipated consummation at his second coming. So we can reasonably conclude that the Son of God’s burden for Jerusalem sparked multiple occasions to lament for this capital city and its people prayerfully.
Takeaway: Despite the preceding woes of judgment against Israel’s leadership and the prophecy of Jerusalem’s desolation in our text (fulfilled in 70 CE, see the link to Friday’s Daily Focus above for further comment), Jesus expresses sincere compassion here as evidence of the Father and Son’s love for their people. In other words, God’s divine judgment is not vindictive but loving as it expresses and implements consequences to bring Israel back into a righteous relationship with its Creator. And Jesus’ first-person prayer that he would gather the city’s people under his care demonstrates that he is much more than a prophet. He’s Israel’s Savior and will gather those (his disciples, his support team of women, and other converted Israelites) in and around this city of kings whose hearts are for him to find rest for their weary souls (11:29) under his wings.
Our takeaway? We will do well when facing the consequence of our making, or that of another’s, to remember that under our New Covenant of Grace, our Triune God is always working for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). In other words, there is always the opportunity to see redemption and restoration—whether in this life or the next. But we must never lose sight of our Father and his Son’s goodness and lovingkindness as expressed in divine justice. And one day, when Christ returns, he and the Father will dwell with us in our new Jerusalem, no longer marred by sin (Revelation 21:1-7). And we will gloriously shout, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Prayer: Father God, we praise you and your Son, for you are lovingly compassionate, just, and merciful. We confess, though, that embracing these truths about your character is challenging when sludging through trials and suffering. We tend to distance ourselves and lose hope. So would you please draw near us and turn our hearts back to you that we might recall your goodness and praise your name with the saints of old who declare, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord?” Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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