Jerusalem, Jerusalem Luke 13:31-34

A sermon at St. John's Anglican Church, Portsmouth, Kingston on March 11, 2001

by Robert Brow

I want to pick out one verse that puts in a nutshell the concern and love of the Messiah Son of God for the city of Jerusalem. It is not that the city of Jerusalem is better than any other city of the world, or this city of Kingston. You can see that Jerusalem has constantly behaved very badly.

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34). Why then should Jesus say "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" with such anguish and love?

The city is one of the most ancient cities in human history. Its recorded history goes back 3800 years. That is a long time. The recorded history of Kingston goes back only 400 years, though of course Indian tribes roamed over this area of Cataraqui for thousands of years before that.

The Bible gives us a record of the continuing interventions of the Messiah Son of God in and around the city of Jerusalem. The recorded history begins with the Lord telling Abraham to move from Ur of the Chaldees at the eastern end of present day Iraq. God took him to a tiny piece of land around the city of Jerusalem which was at that time occupied by a very decadent race of Canaanites. After winning a great battle against four invading armies to deliver his nephew Lot, Abraham was met by Melchizedek the priest-king of Salem. On the exact mount where the temple was later built , and the present Dome of the Rock that overlooks the city, Melchizedek shared bread and wine with Abraham (Genesis 14:14, 18-19). Obviously the bread and wine of our communion service this morning has a long history.

Four hundred years later the Messiah Son of God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, and gave him the task of bringing two or three million slaves out of Egypt to the promised land around Jerusalem. Moses did not actually live to see the city. But another four hundred years later David and Solomon built the first Jewish temple there.

A whole line of kings of Jerusalem reigned for another four hundred years. Some of the them were good, but most of them were a disaster. Most nations try to paper over the faults of their national history, but the prophets recorded all the warts and faults and injustices of their national history. Finally things got so bad that the Messiah Son of God allowed the people of Jerusalem be marched off into exile 2000 kilometers away. Imagine the whole city of Kingston being marched off and dumped in Manitoba for seventy years. But at the end of those seventy years, as the prophets had predicted, Babylon and its empire was toppled, and the Messiah freed the people of Jerusalem to return to their own city.

A second reason why Jerusalem is still important is because the eternal Son of God decided to take birth there. The actual birth was in Bethlehem, but that is a suburb only ten kilometers to the south, about as far as Barriefield is from here. Every year Jesus' family would go up to the Passover in Jerusalem. And at the age of thirty he began preaching there. And it was in Jerusalem that the Messiah was crucified, rose from the dead , first appeared to his disciples, and poured out the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost..

During his preaching he told the people of Jerusalem that their temple was meant to be a house of prayer for all nations, but it had become a den of thieves. He warned them that their city would be destroyed in their lifetime (Matthew 23:34-36, 24:1-2, 34), and that happened in AD 70. They could have listened to him, and the city would have been spared (as in Jonah 3:3-10). But the Jewish inhabitants of the city were all killed or scattered. Whereas the first exile from Jerusalem lasted 70 years, the second lasted for 1900 years till our own day in 1948.

And of course Jews and Arabs are still fighting about that temple mount where Mechizedek met with Abraham. The reason is that the Jewish and Arab children of Abraham have both forgotten the promise that they were meant to be a blessing to all nations. As the Messiah Son of God had said, "In you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). I imagine the only solution for the 3800 years of hostility between the Jewish and Arab children of Abraham would be for both to gather in the huge area around the mosque which overlooks the city and make it a house of prayer for all nations.

Thirdly, we are ready to ask how this long history of Jerusalem relates to us? Throughout the Bible the Messiah Son of God cares about nations. As Paul said "From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him" (Acts 17:26-27).

Jerusalem has a special history recorded in the Bible, but all other cities of the world are equally important to the Messiah Son of God. His heart yearns for every city of the world. "How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!" (13:34). Notice the astonishing simile he uses. He compares himself to a mother hen clucking to call her chicks back into safety under her wings. That is a contrast to what Jesus called the foxy King Herod. "Some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." Jesus' answer was "Go and tell that fox" that he has no power to kill me. There is no way the Messiah can die till he has finished his work in Jerusalem (13:31-32). The humor is obvious. Foxes love to kill and eat little chicks, but little chicks are safe if they gather under the wings of their mother.

In addition to nations and cities, the Messiah also cares about churches. His congregations of the Holy Spirit have taken the place of the house of prayer for all nations in Jerusalem. And you are a congregation of the Spirit here in Kingston. As long as you perform your function as a house of prayer, you are safe under the protection of his wings. I have been very impressed by how you have done that this morning.

Finally let me focus on each one of our families. Many people these days try to trace their family genealogy back three or four generations. But your family has a long history going way back before you were born. As in the history of Jerusalem, some good things have happened, and some bad things, but the Messiah has kept loving you. If you could go back over his dealings with your family, you would find times when he was able to take birth in the life of one or another. And as a result of that there was great blessing.

As you have come here to worship and pray and give thanks this morning, some of you are facing terrible situations. Things have gone wrong, as they often did in the history of Jerusalem. But the Messiah Son of God still loves you, and calls for you to come in out of the danger under the shelter of his wings. There you will be safe, and the Holy Spirit will teach you to pray for each situation that you face. In time your prayers will reach out to be a blessing to people all over the world.

Jesus said "How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!" And that is still the Messiah's longing this morning.

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