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! Matthew 23:37.
A reader asks: "Will you please re-explain this passage?" I am happy to do that because it is an important and interesting passage which has often been misinterpreted. Apparently, I explained the passage in an earlier issue, but that was long ago and it will not hurt to look at the passage once again. Note that a parallel passage is found in Luke 13:34.
* * * *
I have already called attention to the blatant Arminianism of those who argue for a well-meant offer of the gospel; and I have shown how these well-meant offer defenders misread this text to use it to prove their point.
I had turned to a positive treatment of the text so that we may know precisely what the text does teach.
It is clear from the text itself that the word "Jerusalem," which the Lord uses to address the city lying before Him, is used as the symbol of the nation of Judah, which was the church of the old dispensation.
I ended the last article on Mt. 23:37 with a reference to Galatians 4:21-27. I referred to this text because it speaks of Jerusalem with her children, and it is, therefore, important for an understanding of the passage in Mt. 23.
I want to quote the entire passage. "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband."
Several things about this passage are striking and worth our attention.
In the first place, Jesus was referring to what Paul calls "the Jerusalem which now is." That Jerusalem is compared, in the first place, with Hagar, Sarah's slave and with her son Ishmael. Of Ishmael it is said that he was born "after the flesh." That is, he was born in the purely natural way of procreation, as any child is born.
Both Hagar and Ishmael and the way Ishmael was born are also compared to Mt. Sinai, where the nation of Israel came under the law. So three things are compared here by Paul: Mt. Sinai, Hagar and Ishmael, and Jerusalem which now is with her children. That is, Jerusalem with her children are born according to the flesh under the law, and are, therefore, in bondage to the law, for "Mt. Sinai gendereth to bondage."
That is, briefly the idea here. Children born in a natural way are in bondage because they are under the law, and the law cannot save.
That was the Jerusalem of Jesus' day. It was in bondage to the law. It was forever attempting to gain salvation by keeping the works of the law. But such is forever impossible; and it was, in fact, in bondage.
It manifested the horror of its bondage by rejecting Christ, the One to whom the whole law pointed (Gal. 3:24).
But there is another Jerusalem, a Jerusalem which Paul says "is above." That Jerusalem also has children. It is the true Jerusalem of which the earthly Jerusalem is only a picture. It is the Jerusalem spoken of in the visions of the prophet John: "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2).
That Jerusalem also has children. But these children are like Isaac who are born, not according to the flesh, but "by promise." That is, they are born by the power of the promise of God, and through the power of that promise they are born as children of the heavenly Jerusalem; i.e., they are regenerated as sons and daughters of God Almighty. The barren who can only bring forth children dead in sins and trespasses now brings forth many more children than any with a husband.
This is a beautiful and striking passage of the apostle Paul!
Now we must return to the passage in Mt. 23:37.
Jesus is addressing that apostate Jerusalem which was from below. Their house is left unto them desolate. They killed the prophets and stoned them who were sent to them. They will presently fill the cup of iniquity by killing the Christ. They are ripe for judgment because they seek their salvation by their own works and are smug in the satisfaction of their own work-righteousness. Their sin is very great.
But we still have a few more things to say about this passage, and it would be good for you to keep handy the three we have thus far written so that you can refer to them next time.
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 19
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
Address725 Baldwin Dr. B-25
State or ProvinceMI