Based on: Luke 13:31-35
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but you were not willing!” With this brief illustration our Savior opens his heart and allows us to see his heart breaking over those who refuse to accept his help. He came to them as their Messiah to rescue them, to save them the with his almighty power from an eternity of suffering. He loved them with such a love that he was willing to live a whole life of service to them. He drove out demons. He healed their sick. He told them the truth about God. He even died for them.
He came to give them the one thing they truly needed and in return they did to him what they did to so many others sent by God. They killed him. They would not listen to what he had to say and like a stubborn little baby chick who ignores its mother, they would not stand still under the protecting wings of the almighty God. They refused the protection he had to offer against our enemies in this world or against God’s wrath on judgment day.
The rejection is like that of a young man who wants to marry a certain lady. She is the only woman he has ever loved or will ever love, and he wants only what is best for her. He shows it in the way he treats her and with the gifts that he gives her. But even though he is the perfect husband for her, she rejects him and chases after other men who are only concerned about their own selfish desires and not about her.
In these words concerning Jerusalem we see Jesus’ great love for others, even for those who reject him. His heart aches when others do not want to hear what he has done take away their sins. He does not want them to suffer in hell and yet they avoid the one thing that will save them – the protecting wings of the almighty God.
I share his feelings. I am not Jesus and my love for this congregation is not perfect, but God has made me a spiritual shepherd under the one Good Shepherd. My heart also aches when members of the flock are not interested in hearing the voice of the Shepherd.
Might I also say it? “St. John’s, St. John’s, how often I have longed to gather you together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing but you were now willing.” It is a burden on my heart to know that as we gather together two-thirds of the congregation is not with us. My heart aches in Bible class as I think of the many others not there who would benefit and would be drawn closer to their God by our discussion.
I don’t say that with a selfish desire to have lots of people listen to me, in fact it brings me joy to share God’s Word whether the group is small or large. Seeing all of you here brings me joy! But I know that many of those absent are not hearing the gospel. And it is the gospel, it is God’s word that Jesus uses to gather people together and to keep them protected under his wings both now and on the day of judgment. I want to see all the members of St. John’s in heaven with me and when someone is not regularly hearing God’s Word, they are refusing to come under the protecting wings of our Savior. Their soul is at risk.
Do you feel the same way? Do you have that same burden on your heart? Perhaps you know of friends or family members who haven’t been to church in a while. Perhaps it seems like they are avoiding the protecting wings of our Savior. Talk to them. Encourage them to hear often about the love and concern of their Savior, how he rescued them from hell and how he will keep them safe on judgment day. It can be easy to dismiss the words of a pastor, "Well, that’s what he’s supposed to say." But those encouraging words can have a far greater effect when they come from a loving parent or brother or sister or friend.
Really, we all grieve our savior when he comes to us with his Word and sacraments and we, for whatever reason, are not interested. There have been times for all of us when we get too distracted by the things of this world and God’s Word takes a back seat to other things in our lives. We are like little chicks scurrying away from the mother hen instead of finding protection under her wings.
But do you know what the amazing thing is? Jesus knows all this and he continues to love us and to willingly give his life for us. Jesus knows that, "no prophet can die outside Jerusalem." He knows that Jerusalem has “killed the prophets and stoned those sent to her,” but he goes anyway. He is not forced. He is not simply resigned to the fact that this is the way it must be. He goes with determination and with resolve. He goes and no one will interfere, not Herod and not the Pharisees. He goes knowing full well that the people of Jerusalem will mistreat him and crucify him, but he goes anyway to pay for the very sins they will commit against him. He goes to pay for the very sins that we commit against him. With determination and resolve he goes to suffer God’s wrath for all those times we behave like stubborn little chicks avoiding the mother hen.
So look at you now. You are listening to God’s Word. By his Word and sacraments Jesus has gathered you under his almighty wings to protect you. You are not scurrying about, avoiding the Savior, but when Jesus comes to you with his Word you say with joy, "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." You bring joy to your Savior. As you bring your offerings, as you use your talents to serve him, and especially as you spend time listening to him speak to you in his Word. As you bring your children to God’s Word you bring joy to the Savior. As you help support St. John’s School where students are gathered under the wings of their almighty Savior, you bring him joy.
You also bring joy to me. It lifts my spirits and makes me glad to know that there are people here who cherish God’s word, who want to hear over and over again that Jesus with determination and resolve went to Jerusalem and to the cross to rescue you from Satan, to set you free from the sins that controlled you, and to give you a life that will never end.
That’s what others need to hear. If anyone is slipping away from the church, they need to hear about God’s wrath over sin, but also about the protection our Savior provides as he gathers us to himself like a mother hen.
As Jesus laments for Jerusalem, do you see more clearly into the heart of our Savior? Do you understand what is going through his mind? How great his concern is for you and your soul? He loves you and wants what’s best for you. Through his word and sacraments, even as others share that word with you, he is gathering you to himself so that you will be protected from the evils in this world and protected from the punishment that awaits unbelievers in the next. May he also use you to reach out to others and gather them in under his wings there to share eternity with us.