A Capital With No King

37 “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! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 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


After pronouncing His seven woes on the Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel, Jesus turned His attention to the city of Jerusalem. And He spoke over it as if addressing an individual. The city of Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Israel, was representative of all the people. It was the city of David, the great king, and contained the temple built by his son, Solomon. But the city and its inhabitants were guilty of unfaithfulness to God. Like their ancestors, who had rejected the prophets of God, the people of Jerusalem were going to end up rejecting the Messiah of God and the men whom He had chosen to take the good news of His kingdom to the world. Jesus had made it clear that this generation of Jews was just as guilty as those who had come before them.

Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” – Matthew 23:31 ESV

The rejection of God’s prophets was a serious matter – one He does not take lightly. And to think that the people of Israel were guilty of murdering those whom God had sent to them is difficult to comprehend. But the people of Israel had made a habit of it. And their refusal to accept God’s messengers and their message had eventually led to their fall and deportation to Babylon. God had brought judgment on them for their unfaithfulness and rebellion against Him. And Jesus warned His audience that they would be no different than their predecessors.

“Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town.” – Matthew 23:34 ESV

Not only would they reject Jesus as their Messiah and demand His crucifixion, but they would also continue to reject His apostles long after His resurrection and ascension. The Jews would deny His claim to be the Messiah and reject His offer of salvation. Their track record as a nation would continue unabated. Centuries had come and gone, but little had changed. The rebellion of the people of Israel was undiminished, and Jesus informed them that all the woes He had pronounced against the Pharisees would “come upon this generation.”

But He expressed sorrow over their coming judgment. He longed for them to repent and return to God in contrition over their sin. He wanted to protect them like a mother hen protects her chicks. But they would refuse His offer. And, Jesus warned them that “your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38 ESV). That word, “desolate” is packed with meaning. The Greek word is erēmos, and it means “uninhabited, deprived of protection,” or it can refer to “a flock deserted by the shepherd.” Jesus was predicting the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans. And He will elaborate on His prediction in the very next chapter.

“Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” – Matthew 24:2 NLT

Jerusalem would fall. The temple would be destroyed. And Jesus told the people, “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 23:39 ESV). This is an interesting statement because it echoes back to His recent entry into the city of Jerusalem. Luke records what happened that day.

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” – Luke 19:37-38 ESV

The people of Jerusalem had welcomed Jesus as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. But as we will see, they will just as quickly turn on Him, demanding His execution at the hands of the Romans. Their shouts of praise and confession of His kingship had been a sham. He had not fulfilled their Messianic expectations, so they would turn on Him. They would reject Him.

But one day Jesus will return and, when He does, things will be different. The apostle Paul would later pen these words, quoting from the book of Isaiah:

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” – Romans 14:11 ESV

And Paul would remind the believers in Philippi:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11 ESV

The Jews of Jesus’ day would not accept Him as their Messiah. But the day is coming when all the inhabitants of the earth will bow before Him, recognizing Him as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. The apostle John provides us with a preview of what that day will look like.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. – Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

And when Jesus returns to the earth, He will set up His Kingdom in the city of Jerusalem, where He will reign for a thousand years.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. – Revelation 20:4-6 ESV

The Jews could and would reject Jesus as their Messiah. But that would not stop God from fulfilling His sovereign plan to redeem fallen mankind. The Romans would crucify Jesus, but that would not derail God’s predetermined outcome for His creation’s restoration. Even those who reject Jesus will one day recognize Him for who He is: The one who comes in the name of the Lord. They will bow before Him, either in veneration or subjugation. They will either revere Him or fear Him. But all will acknowledge Him.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

(MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Day 33 – Luke 6:20-49

Say What?

Luke 6:20-49

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” – Luke 6:27-28 NLT

Whenever I read some of the message of Jesus, I can almost hear those in His audience looking around at each other with confused looks on their faces, and shrugging their shoulders, as if to say, “What is He talking about?” Most of us have heard these messages a thousand times and we have grown used to them. But those in Jesus’ audience on the day He delivered these words would have been shocked at what they were hearing. Some of what He said probably sounded like nonsense. How in the world could the poor be blessed by God? For those in the crowd who were hungry because of a lack of food or funds, Jesus’ talk of blessing and satisfaction would have contradicted their experience. If you happened to be in sorrow that day due to the circumstances surrounding your life, having Jesus tell you that a time of laughter was on its way would have sounded hollow. Oh, and it gets better. “What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy!” (Luke 6:22-23 NLT). Now let’s be honest. Think about just how ridiculous that sounds. Now imagine how it must have sounded to the common Jew sitting listening to Jesus speak that day. They were already hated, excluded, mocked and cursed in so many ways. Their own religious leaders looked down on them. Yet here is Jesus promising them more of the same if they would simply follow Him.

Then Jesus really confused them. He began to contradict their long-held concepts regarding prosperity and righteousness. Their faith system had taught them that the blessings of God were materialistic in nature. To be wealthy and prosperous was a sure sign of God’s blessing. Yet Jesus pronounces a series of woes on the rich, fat and happy of His day. He paints a completely different picture on how to view these things. Basically, Jesus says that those who find their fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction in the things of this world, instead of in God, will someday be sorely disappointed. The tables will be turned. The justice of God will set all things right. This message would have been a shock to the system of His hearers. All they had been taught and believed would have been turned on its head by Jesus’ words.

And then He really rocked their boat by giving them a whole new way of relating to their enemies. For the Jews, enemies were everywhere. They were then, as they are now, a despised people. They were under the iron-fisted rule Rome. Their entire history had been one of constant wars, living as a conquered people, putting up with oppression, captivity and the degradation of living as little more than slaves in their own land. But Jesus tells them to love their enemies, to do good to those who hated them, to bless those who cursed them, to pray for those who hurt them. This was radical stuff. Not only that, it was impossible. These requirements would have seemed onerous and off-setting to the Jews in Jesus’ audience. His suggestion to turn the other cheek would have sounded ridiculous and repulsive to their middle eastern sensibilities.

But what Jesus was doing was clarifying the standard by which God judges. Jesus tells them, “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” (Luke 6: 32 NLT). Doing good to those who return the favor takes no special capability. Anyone can pull that off. What Jesus is suggesting is impossible. It goes against our very nature as human beings. But it is the very nature of God. Which is why Jesus told them, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36 NLT). He is the standard. And what God wants from His people is godliness, not just more humanness. Our humanness is what got us into trouble in the first place. It is our very humanity that will be the death of humanity. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells them “Imitate God, therefore in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT). What Jesus is describing for His listeners is the life of a believer. But He was still in His incarnate or earthly state. He had yet to die, be resurrected or ascend back to heaven. The Holy Spirit had yet to be given. The lifestyle He was describing WAS impossible. Apart from a relationship with Christ, none of these things would be possible. Later on in His ministry Jesus would say, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT). But those who placed their faith in Jesus Christ would be given the power to pull off what Jesus was saying. Their live would be marked by a new set of rules, new power, a new nature, and new capacity for living in the difficult surroundings of this fallen world. Jesus closes out his message with a promise. Those who would listen to His teaching and follow Him, all the way to the cross, would have a firm foundation on which to stand amidst the storms of life. They would receive the power to thrive in this world and live a distinctively different life just like the one Jesus describes in this passage. And we who are in Christ today, are the recipients and beneficiaries of that promise.

Father, even today, some of what Jesus said sounds so impossible. But never let me forget that all of this is only possible through Your grace and mercy. I need Your power to pull it off. If I try to do it in my own strength I will fail. But with You all things are possible and apart from Christ I can do nothing. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men