The Compassionate Christ

Jesus concludes His scorching denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees with a revelation of His tender heart towards those who would soon dispatch Him to the Cross. He bears no illusions about the hard and wicked hearts of His enemies. For centuries, the custodians of God’s truth had “murdered the prophets” (23:31), with the full consent of the citizens of Jerusalem, a city whose habitual practice “kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her.” Nor does the Lord fail to pronounce a terrible judgment upon these rebellious people, in words that echo the prophets of old: “See! Your house is left to you desolate” (23:38; Isaiah 5:9; 6:11; Jeremiah 12:11; 33:10; Ezekiel 26:10; Micah 7:13; Zephaniah 1:123; Haggai 1:4; Zechariah 7:14). The populace, imitated by their children, had greeted Jesus when He entered the city a few days before with the words of Psalm 118, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” (Matthew 21:9). Jesus had noted the irony of that acclamation when, quoting the same psalm, He described Himself as “the stone which the builders rejected” (Matthew 21:42). He knew that the fickle crowd would soon follow their leaders in a demand that He be crucified (Matthew 27:22). With a solemn warning, Jesus announces that they will not see Him again until they can greet Him with sincerity (23:39), and leaves the Temple for good. That is why His lament for Jerusalem strikes us so powerfully. Despite their terrible hatred of Him and all the previous messengers of God, Jesus yearns for their return to the only Savior and Protector, and bewails their stubborn refusal to accept God’s love. For it is God whom they have spurned! In the Old Testament, Yahweh says that He had sent messengers to His people that they might avoid impending judgment (Jeremiah 7:13). Now we learn that the Sender was the eternal Word of God, now incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, the last Prophet whom they would refuse to heed, to their awful loss. The Sender has become the Sent One. Unwilling to see His erring flock perish eternally, and impelled by unfathomable love, He has come to take upon Himself the punishment of faithless Judah. Jesus departs from the Temple, not in anger, but in a sorrow no man can penetrate, determined to “save His people from their sins” (1:21). What matchless mercy! What divine devotion! What conquering compassion! “O come, let us adore Him!”