Luke 13:  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 would not!  Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ “
The above verses from Luke 13 are the words of Jesus as He calls out to His city, His country, regarding their sin and refusal to come to Jesus. This text should make us think about how Christlike we are toward our cities and culture. If it teaches us anything it teaches us that Jesus loved His people, and had a broken heart for them because of their sin. We need to be heartbroken over our cities like Jesus was heartbroken over His.
But there are other ways that this text applies to us. It may be great to conclude “I am like Jesus calling out to various kinds of people “People, People …”, but should I not also be prepared to say that there might be some of Jerusalem in me as well and this text is not just about me calling out like Jesus did but it is about Jesus calling to me like He did to Jerusalem. “Ken, Ken – you who read the prophets and are so poor at hearing them. You who have all the written Word of God at your finger tips – how often have I called for you to go and be and do and help and show compassion and sacrifice and say no to sin and … And you did not”.
But we do not think like that when we come to this text or others like it do we? We know this is not about us. We know we are numbered among the faithful. We know that when it comes to sins that make Jesus weep He is not weeping over ours; well, maybe yours, or his, or hers – but not mine. My sins are small, insignificant. We do not have this story in order for us to hear Jesus calling out with compassion and heartache to us. Oh no. We have this story because we have our act together so well that Jesus just wants us to call out to our cities like He did. What sins we do have are small by comparison. They are often other people’s fault anyway. Our sins are nothing on the grand scale of sins. This story out of the life of Jesus is about churches that have abandoned the Gospel, ordain gays, think that the Gospel is no more than doling out money to the poor. This is for those who persecute the saints, who side with the prevailing culture. This is how we think isn’t it? And that is how the people of Israel thought too. They wanted a Messiah, but not one who would come and say that their sins had to be dealt with, but one who came to deal with the sins of others, Gentiles, the oppressors, the Roman empire … . Just like we think of Him now.
But we should note this well. The vast majority of the time the Old Testament prophets were sent to religious people (Amos 5 for example), people who went to the temple with their sacrifices (Jeremiah 7, for example), people who could recite the Ten Commandments and much of the Law of Moses. The prophets were sent to priests and religious leaders (Malachi, for example). They were sent to the temple to confront worshippers. They were sent to the religious leaders, priests and Levites, who had the job of leading the people to God. They were sent to the chosen people of God – like we say that we are.
Jesus mentions that His people stone the prophets and kill those who are sent to it. Well, we certainly do not do that. No, we do not. But look at these prophets as those who delivered the Word of God. They represent the Words of God to those to whom they are sent. Their message is “Here is what the LORD says”. When the people killed the prophets it was not because they just didn’t like that particular prophet. It was because they did not like what they said. But what they said was the very Word of God. There is an episode in the life of Jeremiah that illustrates what refusing to hear the prophets was about … .
Jeremiah 36:20-26 – So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king.  Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king.  It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him.  As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot.  Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.  Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.  And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the Lord hid them.
Dear ones – we do not kill the prophets. We can’t. They’re already dead. But we can ignore them. And not just the Old Testament ones either. And we can cut out the bits we don’t like. We really do need to ask ourselves – “Does Jesus weep over me? Does Jesus weep over us?”
What would we be reading in this text if Jesus had called out that day to us? “Oh my children, you who depend upon your own resources, you who think you are fine just the way you are, you who scowl at the sins of others while ignoring your own. You who align yourself with political issues as if they were the very Word of God. You who do not weep for your cities. You who rejoice at the justice of God upon others but think that God is being unloving when He does it toyou. You who live in luxury. You who will not see how the Scriptures apply to you. You who know that the sermon is for them. You who live a double life – the Sunday life and the Monday to Saturday life. You who keep your favourite sins in a secret place where you can enjoy them by yourself. You. You, who hear and hear and hear the Word of God but never change. Can you point to anything in your life that has changed in the last month because of what you have read in the Bible or heard preached from a pulpit? An attitude? A behaviour? Have you stopped any sin, taken up any act of righteousness, spoken differently, said “I’m sorry”, or “I forgive you” …?
So we must not forget that Jesus here is speaking to the chosen people of God. He is speaking to those who are waiting for a Saviour. He is speaking to those who will welcome Him in to their city in a short while with great fanfare. And He is speaking to people who tell God how He must come and what He must do and who do their own thing if God does not get it right . What an awful indictment, and I do not want to be named among those who have such things true of them.
But let us also not forget that Jesus is weeping for these people. He loves them. He cares for them. He wants them to hear and listen and turn and obey and trust. So – if it is right for us to see these words as warnings to us, Christians in 2012, then it is also right for us to conclude that Jesus has a heart for us like He had for them. He does not call this out to us to beat us down, but to lift us up. He is not giving you and me this text in order to say “Too late for you”. He has given us this text so that we will turn around because He loves us. He weeps for us. He desires better for us. He cares enough to not let us go. Let us be thankful that Jesus says this to us, so that we will be serious about examining ourselves. God preserved this text for us because He loves us.
It is not with a whip that He calls to us from this text. There are stories with whips and we can look at them on other days. But today we simply need to understand that these words were not just for a people two thousand years ago. And we need to see that they are not just for other people today. We need to see that these words are for us. And we need to be grateful that God loves us enough to preserve such things for us. And we need to weep over the fact that our sins make Jesus weep.