"The Lament over Jerusalem"
37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
38 "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!
39 "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"
The Timing of These Words
The timing with which Jesus uttered these three short sentences is very significant.
He said them right after an enormous diatribe against the Pharisees (Matthew 21-23), proclaiming their condemnation ... and right before His longest explanation of the coming judgment of the End Times (Matthew 24-25). What's more, He condemned the Pharisees for murdering the prophets (23:34-35), and explained that the same will be committed against Christians during the Tribulation (24:9) - the exact same thing he accuses the residents of Jerusalem of in this passage.
So, far beyond serving only as a segue into talk of the End Times, this passage serves another function: It demonstrates God's incredible love, and His desire for everyone to come to repentance so He does not have to punish them, in the middle of two condemnation passages.
Jerusalem, Who Kills ...
The prophets God sent to the Israelites were for their own sake, to bring the Jews back into God's blessing - and they still killed them. It communicates an incomprehensible amount of love that God would want to forgive them despite that evil sin.
But I'd like to put out there that it goes even deeper than that - that God is yearning for them to come back to Him because of that evil sin. That is, I believe that our sin, and our misery that results from it, makes God so sad that the more sinful you become, the more God wants you to come to Him.
"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."
- Luke 15:7
Hen and Chicks
Have you ever actually seen a hen gathering a chick under her wings? It totally changes how to read this passage. I couldn't find an image free for the public domain or with a usage release to post here, but I think it's important that you guys see what it actually looks like, so click this link to take you to a results page for a Google Images search for "hen chicks under wing" to see what I mean.
What's important about this is that you see that the chicken is blocking the chicks from harm with her own body. Whatever is trying to eat the chicks will attack her, and she will bear all the suffering and pain. She may die protecting her chicks. Sound like Jesus?
But the Jews refused to accept His love. So, He let their nation have what they wanted - knowing that one day, at the end of the world, they would finally learn from their suffering and see that they need Him.
... which brings us to the part about leaving their house desolate.
The "house" referred to is the Temple. God would no longer manifest Himself in the Temple, but would indwell believers instead (Mark 15:37-38, Ezekiel 36:27, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 6:19). On top of that, the Temple would be destroyed by the Romans 40 years later, and has not been rebuilt since.
But, here's the thing: The time when
coincides - at the very end.
Which is a topic we'll dive into with a lot more depth the next few weeks. :-)