“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.’”
(Matthew 23:37-39 ESV)
Today’s passage constitutes Jesus’ final publicly spoken words. In two days He will be dead. He will be spend His remaining time in the company of His disciples, teaching them some final things that they need to know.
These words of Jesus were spoken after He had severely rebuked Israel for their rejection of God, His prophets, and His Son. Jesus then made it clear that He had always been willing to offer mercy to Israel despite their sin, but Israel was not willing to turn to Him. As a result, they would face serious consequences for their sin.
When we sin we have only two possible things that can happen. We can face the consequences or we can seek and accept God’s forgiveness and thereby avoid the consequences. Eternal separation from God (we call that hell) is the ultimate, and permanent, consequence of unforgiven sin. But there are certainly earthly consequences as well.
The earthly consequence for Israel’s rejection of Jesus would be that Jerusalem, and their beloved Temple, would be destroyed by the Romans just 40 years after Jesus spoke these words, leaving them desolate. Notice that in the prophetic words Jesus calls the Temple “your house”. Earlier He had referred to it as “my” house or the “house of God” [Matthew 12:4, 21:13]. But God was no longer at home in Israel. He had departed, leaving them to the consequences of their sin, much like He leaves individual people to the consequences of their sin when He denies them entry into heaven.
This would not be the first time God had brought judgment upon the Jews in the form of a foreign enemy. Hundreds of years earlier the northern region of Israel was conquered by Assyria and the southern region was conquered by Babylon. Allowing sinful nations to be destroyed is a common tactic God uses to bring judgment upon those nations. Therefore, there can be little doubt that a similar judgment awaits the United States, which has been rejecting God for decades and whose rejection has blatantly picked up speed in recent years.
Note that there is hope for Israel. As we’ve learned, God doesn’t pronounce judgement without also extending an offer of grace. While Jesus would depart from them soon (He’d be crucified in about 48 hours) they would see Him again – but not until they say ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’. These were the same words the people cheered when Jesus entered Jerusalem three days earlier. But those words were hollow. These same fickle people will call for His crucifixion in two days.
But one day Israel will, as a nation, truly acknowledge that Jesus is God’s messiah. Notice Jesus didn’t say “unless”, which is conditional. He said “until” which implies certainty. Jesus words tell us two things. First, that He will return. And second, that at that time Israel will turn to Him and be saved [Romans 11:26].
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