O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! (Lk 13. 34–35).
The repetition of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” signifies cry of mourning, painful lament, grief and great frustration. Jesus calls Jerusalem “that kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her!” The principle of killing and stoning God’s messengers continues to the present day because the devil cannot stand the holiness and the power of worshipping God in truth and Spirit. Today, prophets, evangelists and other God’s messengers are Satan’s target to kill them and destroy their ministry. The warning is, Jerusalem will die for killing prophets and stoning God’s messengers because there is no freedom without accountability. Today, prophets and God’s messengers suffers serious oppositions, persecutions, mental torture, and discrimination. Lent invites prophets and God’s messengers to persist in the face of adversity just as Jesus faced danger from Herod and religious leader, He remains faithful and undeterred. Are you beaten or imprisoned because of your stand for Jesus? Beyond the sin of intolerant in a politically correct world of Herod and even today, Jesus exposed their political threat with a command “Go and tell that fox…” The fox is Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. A fox is cunning, destructive, and crafty. Jesus dismissed Herod Antipas as insignificant in completing His God’s sent mission. In the face of different fox representations and oppositions, Lent calls us to remain faithful and determine as true prophets and God’s messengers.
The cry of mourning over Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness is a mark of a true prophet we need today. Jesus’ lament and grief over Jerusalem was with a broken heart over the leadership and peoples’ apostasy. Jesus knows the dangers that Herod and the Pharisees pose but He is undeterred. The Pharisees in their dishonesty and evil ploys even today are not relenting in attacking and reducing Christian missional profile. In the Gospel reading for the second Sunday in Lent, one of the problem of the Pharisees with their intimidation tactics was that they failed to know that Jesus is God in human flesh.
Jesus in His sermon against the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees lament over their hard-heartedness. Coupled with the revelation of Jesus’ grief over the peoples’ disobedience, He warned them of the impending judgement. Against God’s desire for the city, Jerusalem, “city of peace” where all the nations were to come to worship the Lord has become a city of violence against God’s prophets and followers of Jesus. The two verbs, “kills” (the prophets) and “stones” (those who are sent to her) was not just about the past but current situations in the church and world today. The church is in a season of unfaithfulness, killing prophets and stoning God’s messengers directly and indirectly. The world in general is in divisions and wars because of unfaithfulness. The reflection is that ‘it’s in the religious city, it’s the religious place that you are most likely to find the crucifixion of the truth of God.’ Cities as places power, government, family, friend, crime and evil always have missional and key impact on the heart of God because of the peoples’ great need. Like Jerusalem, cities can become places of rejection when it refuses Jesus. When Jesus is rejected, such city and people reject hope, promise, and future. What a sorrow indeed.
The question is what is the characteristics of our religious cities and places today? Jesus’ sermon was not only referring to Jerusalem as a “city of peace” but ‘to the leaders and governors of the nation down through the years, and particularly this present generation of leaders under the term, Jerusalem.’ Jesus’ sermon point to how the word of God was prevented with stiff opposition. Jesus said, “But woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you shut up the kingdom against men for ye neither go in yourselves nor permit them that are entering to go in” (v13). Jesus’ plan as evident in the conclusion of His sermon was a deep love for His people, longing for them to obey His word and thereby repent of their pride, and live in faith. Jesus’ usage of a hen imagery and simile is to warm and protect the people from danger of a hawk, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (37). Beyond the storm of Covid-19 and Ukraine war, ‘there is a storm coming, a storm of God’s wrath against unrighteousness, and the only shelter from that is in Jesus Christ.’
The unwillingness of the people was rejection of Jesus’ willingness to save. Jesus said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” People always imagine for themselves a kingdom or culture they want in contrast to the Kingdom culture of heaven offer by Jesus. Jerusalem’s problem resonates with the churches problem today with people wanting to live their lives their own way, and do not want God or anyone to tell them what the Scripture commands. Simply too proud to repent hence wallowing in their sins than taking Jesus’ offer of salvation (v 34). Beloved, are you willing to repent from your sin and embrace salvation and shelter in the tender wings of Jesus? When we reject Jesus’ offer, we reject His Kingdom, his culture and the end result is judgement, a desolate house, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate! (v38). To be desolate is to be forsaken, abandoned, and land devastated and laid waste. Spiritually, the warning is that many religious nations and places will become a wasteland.
Beyond the warning and certainty of God’s judgement, there is hope for the future. Jesus said “For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” (v 39). For shelter from the fox and the coming storms, we need to call upon Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. The sad new is that many today are surrendering and running off to the foxes. Just as Jesus weeps over the chicks, He chastises the fox, the devourer. Jesus gave His life in order to turn the hearts of the people back to Him. He did this in preparation for His Second Coming at the end of history by saying, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”