17th June 2023
Read (Matthew 23v37-39)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
As chapter twenty-three comes to a close, so too does the public ministry of Jesus and His final words to the people of Israel are ones of lament. Jesus said “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.’” (v37-39)
Christ's denunciation of the Pharisees was strong but in these short verses we see the Lord's unbridled compassion towards the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jerusalem was a central place in God's story of redemption and it was the city where God decreed His temple should be built. Nevertheless it was a city that all too often refused the testimony of God and killed the Lord's prophets.
Jesus spoke with tenderness as He said that He longed to gather the children of Israel under His wings like a hen would gather her chicks. This is a telling image - Jesus wished to offer His people both care and protection and yet they consistently refused His offer. What would become of Jerusalem? In the year 70 the Romans would come in power and lay waste to the great city of Jerusalem bringing utter desolation. How successful was the Roman attack? If you walk the streets of Jerusalem today then you will realise that the temple which stood proudly in Christ's day was destroyed by the Romans and two thousand years later has not been rebuilt.
If only the inhabitants of the city had realised that the God-man walked among them. If only the Pharisees had poured their energy into receiving Christ instead of opposing Him. If only the Herodian dynasty had understood that the king of kings stood in their midst. But the people were not willing and Jerusalem was made desolate.
Christ's final words to the city and its people were sombre, He said "you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Jesus quoted directly from Psalm 118v26 but when could the people expect to see Jesus again? These words point us not to Christ's resurrection but His second coming. When the Lord returns in judgement every eye will see Him and they will realise that Jesus was indeed the One who came in the name of the Lord.
Romans 11 teaches that we can hope for many ethnic Jews to turn to Christ in the time before the Lord's return. The Gentile believer has no grounds for arrogance because the rejection of the Jews has led to the inclusion of the Gentiles into the church of God. Today the church finds its origins clearly explained in Ephesians 2. Paul tells us that Jew and Gentile have been brought near by the blood of Christ. To be saved is to be someone who has said "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." May the Gospel ring in Jerusalem today and when Christ returns may a multitude of Jewish people be found ready.
Q75 What is forbidden in the eighth commandment? The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth, or outward estate.