"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37).
Many reckon that Christ uttered these words with love and tender pity, but the context reveals that He is denouncing the scribes and Pharisees. Seven times He curses them, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). He calls them "blind" "fools" (16, 17, 19, 24, 26). He asks, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (33). He designates them murderers (34, 35, 37). Our text is a "warning" (Thomas Manton) and an "upbraiding" (Augustine) uttered in "indignation" (Calvin) against the wicked religious guides. The emphatic repetition, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem" (37), was uttered in righteous displeasure against the corrupt leaders who had perverted the law (2-30) and were ripe for judgment (31-39). Thus He adds, immediately after our text, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (38).
Some teach that Christ’s words, "how often would I have gathered thy children ... and ye would not," imply that Christ’s will to gather Jerusalem’s children was frustrated. However, "how often" simply tells us that the religious leaders ("Jerusalem") opposed Christ’s gathering His elect ("Jerusalem’s children") many times. They did this for several years, right through His public ministry. They opposed Him in his miracles (attributing them to Beelzebub); they opposed Him in His teaching. They opposed Him with the tradition of the elders; they opposed Him with their erroneous interpretation of Moses. They opposed Him in the countryside; they opposed Him in Jerusalem; they opposed Him in the temple precincts; they opposed Him at His trial. They opposed Him by hiring Judas to betray Him; by whipping up the crowd to cry out, "Crucify him;" and by putting pressure on Pilate to have Him executed. How often they opposed Him, and yet He gathered blind Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus and all the rest!
The wicked leaders so strongly opposed Christ’s gathering His people that they had Him executed on trumped-up charges as a criminal. Yet the cross was the very means God ordained to save His elect! O Jehovah, even the wrath of man shall praise thee! Psalm 2 is similar. The kings and rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Christ (1-3). They nail Him to the tree. But God laughs at them (4), for this is the very way in which He brings His Son to His universal dominion: "Yet have I set my king upon my holy mount of Zion" (6).
Thus Matthew 23:37, instead of teaching the well-meant offer (a frustrated desire of God to save the reprobate), is Christ’s indignant upbraiding of wicked religious leaders who tried to stop him from saving His people. How this Word needs to be heard! Liberal ministers and Roman priests try to prevent their church members from hearing the true gospel. They slander the Reformed faith. Many unbelieving husbands, wives and family members oppose believers attending church services. Yet Christ the king gathers all Jerusalem’s children by his irresistible grace!
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 19
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851