Matthew 23:37
These are among the most touching words ever uttered by our Lord. They reveal his strong patriotism, his deep human affection, the greatness of the salvation he brought, and at the same time the frustration of the hopes which these things naturally raise, owing to the stubborn self-will of the Jews. Here is a lesson for all time.


1. No city was more privileged. Jerusalem was the favoured city of a favoured land. David, the great singer, celebrated her praises; David, the great king, raised her fortunes. But better than royal fame was her religious glory. Great prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, taught in her streets. More than once signal Divine providences helped her in direst necessity. Here was the temple of the Divine Presence. Finally the city was honoured by the coming of Christ.

2. No city was more sinful. When account is taken of her privileges, Jerusalem excels in guilt as she excels in favour. The most favoured people prove to be the most ungrateful and rebellious. She murders her best friends. She crowns her guilt by delivering her Christ up to death.

II. THE PITYING SAVIOUR. Jesus is grieved and loth to think of the doom of the wicked city.

1. It was his own city. Not his native city, but the capital of his land, and the royal city, to which he came as King (ch. 21:4, 5). Jesus was a patriot.

2. It was the city of God. Its ruin was like the ruin of God's own daughter. They who have once known God touch the heart of Christ with peculiar compassion when they lose their happy privilege.

3. It was a doomed city. Already with prophetic eye Jesus saw the Roman legions compassing it about. It lay as the prey ready for the eagle. The heart of Jesus grieves over the sinner's doom.

III. THE WONDERFUL SALVATION. By a homely and yet most touching illustration Jesus tells what he has longed to do for the city in its peril.

1. He comes to save. This is his great mission, and his salvation begins with "the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24).

2. He is able to save. Jesus speaks with the utmost confidence. He can save a whole city; nay, we know he can save a whole world. No doubt, if Jerusalem had accepted Christ and his teaching, the mad revolt which called down the vengeance of Rome would have been prevented. But in his deeper work, as our Lord has redeemed many of the worst profligates, he has shown himself able to save all men.

3. He offers to save. The pathos of this wonderful utterance of Jesus lies in his own heartfelt desire and its disappointment. With long suffering patience he repeats his often-rejected offer. He stands at the door, and knocks.

IV. THE FINAL DOOM. The house is to be left desolate at last.

1. There is an end to the opportunity for escape. This has lasted long. Many were the occasions when Jesus would have welcomed the people of Jerusalem, and have extended to them his saving grace. But at last the end has come. The day of grace must be followed by the day of judgment.

2. Even Christ's desire to save may be frustrated. It is not enough to know that he yearns to save. Men may be lost now, as Jerusalem was lost.

3. Obstinate rejection of Christ will lead to ruin. Man's will may thus frustrate Christ's desire. Note: It was not for stoning the prophets, but for rejecting Christ's salvation, that Jerusalem was ultimately doomed. Christ can save from the worst sin; but none can be saved who wilfully reject him. - W.F.A.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets.
Consider some of the different modes in which the rejection of God's call has been made. Far, all do not reject Him alike.

I. Some will even rise up and say, "I Do NOT CONSIDER THAT I HAVE EVER YET BEEN CALLED."

1. Those who wish they could believe they had been called, but cannot think such good news true.

2. Those who are waiting for a louder, more irresistible call, saying, "Why does not God, if He would indeed save me, make some great interposition on my behalf?" Alas for the guilty unbelief of the one, and the awful, blasphemous presumption of the other!

II. Those who, although conscious of having been called, yet treat the matter with INDIFFERENCE. These are "men at ease in Zion"; familiarized with stifled convictions; of secular habit of mind; to whom invisible things carry no reality in daily life. Three classes of them depicted in Luke 14:18-20.

III. Those who recognize the importance of the Divine call, BUT WHO PUT OFF THE ACCEPTANCE OF IT. Satan decoys them by enticing pictures of their own future. They live in fancies of their own coming holiness, thinking that to-morrow's goodness will make up for to-day's worldliness. Oh the sin l As if they could command the sovereign working of the Holy Ghost! As if — having refused Him their attention now — they may recall Him when they please.

IV. Those who, at the time, receive," welcome, reciprocate the love of God; and then, when the excitement of the moment is past, THEIR FEELINGS EVAPORATE, and nothing remains. Their religion never becomes a principle.

V. Those who listen to the heavenly call, draw nigh, taste the heavenly gift; and then the old, carnal nature asserts its sway, and they draw back again.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Oh that "how often"! Do not let it be a mere impassioned exclamation. Make it what it is, a distinct, definite question put to you this day — "how often?" And what arithmetic can write the answer? I never yet visited a man upon a sick-bed — I never talked with a single person in any of those moments which unlock the breast, and set it free to speak its secrets — that I did not receive this confession: "I have been greatly conscious all my life of the inward striving, and the oft-repeated calls of God in my soul." Sometimes, doubtless, those calls fall louder and deeper upon the spiritual ear than they fall at other times. They lie thickest, I believe, in early life. There are states of mind we can scarcely say how, and there are providential scenes we can scarcely say why, which give an intensity to those many voices, when a verse of Scripture will sometimes roll its meaning like thunder, or when a whisper of the soul will carry an accent tenfold with it. But the call is not confined to those specialities. There is a "finger of a man's hand" which is always waking the strings of thought. It is when we lie down; it is when we rise up; it is when we sit in the house; it is when we are walking by the way. We can see it on the little face of early childhood, before the date when our utmost memories reach; we can trace it in ourselves back to the utmost dawn of rising reason. Perhaps not a room in which we have ever laid down to sleep; perhaps not a church into which we have ever entered, even with careless foot; perhaps not a sin which we ever deliberately went and did; perhaps not an incident for weal or woe that lies on the chequered path of life, but there was something there which swelled that "how often?"

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Of all the refusals of God's grace, the real secret is the same. They may cover themselves with various pretexts — just as persons, having made up their mind to decline an invitation, begin to look out for some convenient excuse — but the cause is one. It is not in any outward circumstances; it is not in any particular temperament; it is not in the want of power; it is not in the straitenings of Divine grace: but the Saviour points to it at once with His omniscient mind — "ye would not." It is the absence of the will; it is the want of that setting of the mind to God's mind; that conformity of the affections to God's promises; that appreciation of unseen things; that spiritual sense, which is the essence and the beginning of a new life. Therefore they cannot come.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Scripture is full of the sublime and pathetic. It opens to us the very heart of the Redeemer. Observe here —

I. THE CRUELTY AND WICKEDNESS OF THE JEWS. They paid no regard to the character and Divine commission of God s prophets.

1. An act of great injustice and ingratitude.

2. An act of rebellion against God.

II. CHRIST'S TENDERNESS AND CARE. The hen an affectionate creature to her young. When justice pursues, Satan assaults, and hosts of enemies compass us round about; if we can but get under the shadow of Christ's wings we are safe, and, being safe, may be content. The wings of Christ are so large, they are sufficient to cover the whole Church. They are also strong and impenetrable, and ever stretched out to screen us from danger.

III. CHRIST'S EARNESTNESS AND IMPORTUNITY. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem." "How often."

IV. STUBBORNNESS AND PERVERSENESS OF THOSE SO TENDERLY REGARDED. "Ye would not." Not a want of power, but of will.

1. None continue the slaves of Satan and sin but with their own consent.

2. Every man may be saved if he wilt.

3. Divine influence necessary to overcome the sinner's enmity.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

I have been raising chickens this year, and have devoted a part of my pear-orchard to the chicken-coops; and I have been accustomed to go out mornings and evenings to see that the boy took care of the chickens. I think I have now about ten or fiften broods. The old hen, when watching them, would cluck; and it was to them a warning of danger, I suppose. They understand it to mean that they are to come in. I could not understand that language; but these little things that had never been to school understood instantly just what she said. She gave her whole self to them; and their instinct was to run under her; and when there to lift themselves close up to her body, and get their warmth from her. I have watched them as they did this again and again. What an idea of the intimate and endearing relationship between the soul and the Lord Jesus Christ is conveyed in that figure.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I remember some few years ago meeting a young woman at a mission, who said that for two years she had been trying to make herself feel her sins, and could not. This was to her a great grief. I had been preaching on the words of Christ in this verse; so I said to her, "Suppose a little chick were half frozen in a barn-yard, and could scarcely feel itself alive from numbness, what would be the best thing for it to do? Would it not be to flee at once to the warmth of the hen's wing?" I think she saw her mistake. I think she learnt that those who would learn more of their sin, and who desire a more contrite spirit, can find it nowhere so surely and fully as in nearness to Jesus, trusting only in His grace, and finding their shelter beneath His merciful wings.

(G. Everard, M. A.)


1. God's sovereignty of Israel. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem." Why should Jerusalem be singled out from all other nations. He had a right to select the depositaries of His truth.

2. God's grace in the messages which He sent to this people. "Them which are sent unto thee."

3. God's mercy manifested in His dealings towards them.

4. God's love.

5. God's unchangeableness — "How often."

6. God's justice" Behold your house is left unto you desolate."

7. God's faithulness in the final issue of His dealings with Israel.

II. THE SPECIAL INSTRUCTION TO OURSELVES. Learn what we have to do with the purposes, messages, salvation of God. Like Christ, Christians should desire and seek the salvation of men.

(W. Cadman, M. A.)

In this invective two things are to be considered, the rebellion of Jerusalem, in ver. 37; the punishment of this sin, ver. 38. Touching the rebellion itself, three things are set down —(1) the place and persons;(2) the degree and practice of rebellion;(3) the manner and form of their rebellion. In this example of Jerusalem's rebellion we learn many things.(a) The vileness of man's nature, and our violent proneness to sin.(b) To exercise ourselves in the duties of goodness, meekness, peace to all men.(c) Not to oppose ourselves against the ministers of God.

(W. Perkins.)

I. God has desired to gather you to Himself. Have you not had gathering mercies, invitations, appeals, providences, seasons?

II. But you have often rejected the overtures of Divine mercy. Your unwillingness is the result of your ignorance of your real state, unbelief, love of the world, dislike to Christ's terms.

III. The obstinate rejection of the Divine mercy must involve the sinner in irreparable ruin. Application: In order to salvation your will must harmonize with the will of God. The entire responsibility is with you.

(J. Burns, LL. D.)

I. Jerusalem's PRIVILEGES. The natural advantages of Jerusalem were very great. Typical of higher spiritual privileges — the goodly fellowship of the prophets; the extraordinary ministrations of special men, raised up and qualified by God, and sent to warn people from their sins, and to bid them repent and live; the personal ministry of the Son of God. The mind involuntarily turns to the privileges of England, and of London.

II. Jerusalem's SINS. Ingratitude and cruelty. Illustrates the lengths which those will go in sin who cherish affection for forbidden sins, and who harden their hearts against Divine things.

III. Jerusalem's DOOM. Warn against hardness of heart and contempt of the word and doctrine.

(J. J. Sargent.)I. Men, while they are in a state of nature, are exposed to imminent danger. As transgressors of the law of God they are liable to its penalty. They overlook this danger, but it is real, and it is terrific.

II. Our Lord Jesus Christ offers Himself as a shelter against this danger. If He had been a mere man He could not have been the Saviour.

III. He fulfils this function with condescending tenderness.

IV. He delivers His people by the substitution of His own life for theirs.

V. The immediate result of application to Him is safety.

VI. Men are responsible in the matter of their own salvation.

(President Davies.)

Such is the affecting apostrophe in which our Lord's faithful denunciations of "Woe, woe!" terminate. Like the thunder-cloud, which, having discharged its bolt at the earth, weeps itself away — exhausts itself in a healing shower, which closes the rent it had made — so His pity commiserates, and pours itself forth over those whom, in the same breath, He had felt Himself called to rebuke.

(Dr. J. Harris)

As much as to say, as the parent bird, when she sees some bird of prey hovering over her helpless young, gives them the signal, which nature teaches them to understand, and spreads her wings to protect them, resolved to become a prey herself rather than her tender brood; or, as she shelters them from the rain and cold, and cherishes them under her friendly feathers, — so, says the compassionate Redeemer, so, O Jerusalem! I see thy children, like heedless chickens, in the most imminent danger; I see the judgments of God hovering over them; I see the Roman eagle ready to seize them as its prey; I see storms of vengeance ready to fall upon them; and how often have I invited them to fly to me for shelter, and gave them the signal of their danger I how often have I spread the wings of My protection to cover them, and keep them warm and safe as in My bosom! but, O lamentable I O astonishing I ye would not! I was willing, but ye would not! The silly chickens, taught by nature, understand the signal of approaching danger, and immediately fly for shelter; but ye, more silly and presumptuous, would not regard My warnings; would not believe your danger, nor fly to Me for protection, though often — oh, how often — warned and invited!

(President Davies.)

I. WHAT IT IS CHRIST PROPOSED TO CONFER UPON HIS PEOPLE. Christ not only willing but tenderly anxious to confer the various privileges of light and grace.

1. When our Saviour declares He would have collected them, He means He would bless them with all the privileges common to that Church, of which He was the head, and which He came to construct.

2. The moral state of the people when our Saviour stated His willingness to receive them to Himself. The readiness of Christ to receive any class of sinners. The haughty Pharisee. The infidel Sadducee. They had rejected the ministry of Christ. Divine love goes out towards these.

3. Their danger.

II. THE DECLARATION of Christ respecting the means employed for our salvation — "I would have gathered you."

1. Tenderness.

2. Long-suffering.

3. A time will come when He will leave us to our sins if we continue to spurn Him from us.

(J. Dixon, D. D.)

The reasons of this special sympathy.

I. Christ as our Redeemer knows the dreadfulness of sin, and therefore pities those to whom it clings.

II. He pities the sinner, knowing all that is involved in his final doom.

III. Christ is the exponent of God's infinite love to man.

IV. There is a ground for this compassion of Christ, growing out of His knowledge of the completeness of His salvation and the security of those who accept it.

V. The Saviour's compassion is founded upon His knowledge of what the gospel cost Him to achieve. But if Christ's power is boundless and His pity so great, why does He not interfere to save us anyhow? God deals with man as a free agent.

1. The loss of the soul is self-caused.

2. How great the sin of refusing the gospel.

(B. F. Palmer, D. D,)

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