There are times when it would be nice to know what someone is thinking. There was a movie a while back called “What Women Want” and it was the story of a man who, because of a lightning strike, could hear the thoughts of women. Some of those thoughts were very helpful . . . some were quite disconcerting.
Certainly there are times when we would be better off not knowing what people are thinking. For just this morning we focus on the advantages. Think about how nice it would be to know the thoughts and desires of a baby who continues to cry even though you have changed their diaper, fed them, and burped them until you thought they would be bruised. Think of how many salesmen would love to know exactly what a client was looking for. Think about how often men and women would like to know and understand what the other was thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what that frustrated toddler wanted to know as they energetically pointed and said unintelligible words to you?
Think about someone who has had a stroke (or maybe you have been that person). The inability to get words and thoughts to work together, result in an inability to get people to understand anything you are trying to say. It is terribly frustrating. It would be great if you could know what that person was trying to communicate.
And then there are the teenage years. During this time no one knows what anyone wants!
In our text this morning we will learn the thoughts of three different people. These three different people will expose the different ways people respond to Christ. The Bible tells us quite plainly. The Greek word “thelo” is used three different times and means “fixed desire”. This word reveals the three desires we will look at this morning.
Herod’s desire: “Herod desires to kill you” (31)
Jesus’ desire: “How often I would have gathered your children” (34)
The Desire of the People of Jerusalem: “You would not” (34)
Herod’s Desire – Kill Jesus
The first heart revealed is that of Herod. We don’t know what the motives were of the people who said Herod wanted to kill Jesus. They may have been trying to help Him. They might have been trying to intimidate Him so that He would leave the area. We don’t know.
Regardless of the motive behind their words . . . the words themselves were undoubtedly correct. Herod surely did hate Jesus. Herod had already executed John the Baptist. Herod’s father (Herod the Great) tried to kill Jesus when he was an infant. When the Herod’s didn’t like someone or felt threatened by someone they resorted to violence.
Jesus was a threat to Herod’s authority. Jesus claimed to speak the Word of God. Jesus was gaining in power and Herod would stand no rival.
Jesus talked plainly about man’s wickedness. Herod had John arrested because he told Herod he was wrong to steal his brother’s wife for his own. Jesus called sin, sin. That would have made Herod uncomfortable.
Jesus said we could not come to God except through Him. Jews believed you could only come to God by being a Jew (they were exclusive) but the idea that Jesus was the One who would bring redemption would have been heretical even for the corrupt Herod.
Jesus rocked the boat. Jesus was creating those who believed in Him and those who hated Him. When you have two strong parties things can get ugly (look at the political system in our country!) Herod would have wanted to silence this trouble maker in order to keep the peace.
It’s interesting that some people hate Jesus today for the very same reasons. We live in a world where people want God to serve them, not the other way around. People don’t want to submit to God’s authority, they want to place their order at the take out window and pick it up as they head off to do their own thing. The very notion that Jesus is Lord and King over our lives is offensive to many who want to “pull their own strings”.
Think about how children (and adults) don’t like to be told that they can’t do something. When you say, “Don’t do this” it is the very thing that the person wants to do. We naturally rebel against authority.
People also don’t want to be confronted with wrong behavior. Today if you tell someone they are doing what is offensive to God you will be called a bigot and you will be attacked for your “hate speech”. We want people to tell us we are fine and wonderful. The problem is that it is not the truth. I would love for the Doctor to tell me that I was healthy and things looked great . . . but only if it was true. If there is a problem I need to know about it so we can work at correcting it.
The notion that Jesus is the only way to Heaven is considered narrow-minded. People want to hear that “everyone is right in their own way” or “we are all climbing the same spiritual mountain.” However the message of the gospel is “There is no other name under Heaven by which we can be saved.” Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life no man comes to the Father except by me.
Notice that Jesus isn’t shaken by the threat. He says,
“Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
William Barclay recounts the story of the bishop of Worcester (Woo-ster) who promoted the cause of the Reformation in the time of King Henry.
Latimer was once preaching in Westminster Abbey when Henry the king was one in the congregation. In the pulpit he mused, “Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The king of England is here!” (Which is likely what someone may have actually said to him before he entered the pulpit.) Worcester went on, “Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The King of Kings is here.”
This is the attitude of Jesus. He said, “Tell Herod that I am not intimated. I’m going to keep doing what I am doing until I do what God has called me to do and until I get to where I need to be, to accomplish God’s purpose. Jesus submitted himself to a higher authority than Herod! He served the Lord.
Don’t miss some important facts about Jesus.
- Jesus recognized himself as a prophet. He knew that He was speaking for God
- Jesus accepted the role of one who must suffer. Jesus was not at all surprised by the cross. He knew exactly what was ahead and still He moved forward in faith.
- Jesus understood when and where He would be crucified.
- Jesus was determined to carry out the work God has given Him to do.
There is great comfort here. We are reminded that God is sovereign over history. Our times are in God’s hands. God has a plan and purpose for life. Jesus was unruffled by Herod’s threats (which had real substance) because He rested in the Sovereignty of God. If we will trust Him we can know that same confidence and peace even in the midst of the storms.
We may indeed face the hatred of the world. When this happens we must hold on to the wisdom and unchanging nature of God’s purpose and plan. We may not always understand what God is doing but we can rest in the fact that what He is doing is good.
Christ’s Desire – Gather Jerusalem
We have spent a disproportionate time with the threat of Herod because it occupies a central place in the dialogue. In verse 34 we catch a glimpse of the heart of Jesus.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
Some cities will forever be linking to things that happened in those cities.
- New York City will forever be associated with the 9/11 attacks
- Beijing China will forever be associated with the Tiananmen Square Uprising in 1989
- Munich, Germany is associated with the deaths of Olympic athletes in a terrorist act.
- Boston will forever be linked to the Tea Party
- Chicago will be associated with a great fire
- New Orleans will be forever associated now with the great flood of Hurricane Katrina.
- Normandy in Northern France will always be associated with the D-Day invasion
- Berlin will be associated with the tearing down of the Berlin wall.
Jerusalem at the time of Jesus was known as the place where the prophets of God were killed. If you remember, Jesus talked about how the Scribes and Pharisees had even built monuments to these executed prophets. (After the death of Jesus, Jerusalem became best known for being the place where the Son of God was executed.)
What we need to see is the emotion in the words of Jesus. His repetition of “Jerusalem” is a way of conveying intensity or passion. When Jesus thought of Jerusalem He was heartbroken. It was a city of such great potential. It was the city of David. It housed the Temple of God. It was the center of the Jewish faith.
Jesus said he longed to protect the city as a hen would protect her chicks. Having grown up in the city I don’t have the same vivid image of what Jesus is saying as perhaps you do. The picture is that of a mother hen who takes her responsibility to protect her chicks very seriously. If she felt they were in danger she would wrap them up in her wings to protect them. There are stories of fires hitting barns and the firemen are startled to find under the charred remains of a hen, chicks who are alive and well. A hen would give her life to save the lives of her chicks. This is the heart that Jesus has for Israel. This is the heart that Jesus has for you.
In Ezekiel 33:11 God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked”. In other words God doesn’t want people to go to Hell. He wants to embrace those He has created. However, God is a righteous and just God and will judge those who refuse His mercy.
There is a message of hope here to every person. God is not mad at you . . . He reaches out to you. Think about all the people Jesus reached out to . . . people the world hardly noticed. Think back to how He washed the feet of His disciples. Think about the tenderness he showed to His mom as He carried His cross to the place of execution. Think about His declaration of forgiveness and his encounter with the thief on the cross next to Him. Jesus ministered to tax collectors and prostitutes. He touched the lepers (who were considered untouchable). Jesus stopped to care for grieving parents; He reached out to those the world considered to be crazy.
Do you think you have gone too far? Do you think you could never be welcomed by the Lord of Life? You are wrong. Jesus is willing to embrace you. The Lord may not like the way you are living your life, He may disapprove of choices you have made . . . but He loves you. He wants to help you move in the direction of wholeness, life, and healing.
The Crowd’s Desire
Unfortunately, Jesus says about the people of Jerusalem, “but you were not willing!”
This is one of the deepest mysteries of life. The Sovereign God, the one who ordains everything and who draws believers to faith also gives humans freedom to turn to Him or away from Him. Though we may not be able to fathom how these two things fit together, it is the clear teaching of Scripture. The message is clear: We must decide whether or not we will allow Jesus to rescue us or whether we will take the way of Herod and reject Him.
Practically we see that no one who truly wants to be a follower of Christ . . . no one who really turns to Him for eternal life will be rejected. No one is going to say: “I really wanted to trust Him but God would not let me in.”
Likewise, there will be no one in Hell who is there unjustly. Everyone who is in Hell will have chosen to live apart from God. They may not say, “I choose Hell” but they will have done so by their refusal to submit to Christ. C.S. Lewis said, “In the end there will be two groups of people: those who say to God ‘thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, ‘thy will be done’.” Those who end up in Hell will be there because they chose to ignore the offer of Christ.
Jesus spoke these devastating words to those who turn away,
Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
Throughout the Old Testament God punished nations for their disregard toward Him. Jesus, in true prophetic fashion, announced to Jerusalem that they would be left desolate. This didn’t happen immediately….but within 40 years Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The city was burned and the nation of Israel was largely homeless until 1947!
God allows us to resist Him . . . but not without consequence. The person who refuses to repent of their rebellion against God and embrace Christ may not face desolation immediately (things may still seem good for awhile) but desolation is before them . . . if not here, in eternity.
I think there are two applications. First, there is a summons to recognize the greatness of Christ. Jesus came to earth knowing why He was coming. He marched forward to Jerusalem even though He knew what was ahead. He continued to reach out to people even though He knew they would crucify Him. He prayed for the forgiveness of people even though they rejoiced at His demise.
What an incredible Savior He is! We use the word “awesome” so often today that it has lost its power. However, when you use the word to describe someone that inspires awe; someone that provokes wonder; someone that inspires worship . . . that word befits Jesus. Perhaps we could also use the words: staggering, breathtaking, overwhelming, humbling, and gratitude producing in describing the effect the love of Christ has on us.
For the life of me I do not understand why people reject Him. I don’t know why some push Him away. Who has ever loved us like He does? Who has ever done more for us than He has? Who or what is more worthy of our devotion than He is? How do some reach the conclusion that He wants to ruin or diminish our lives? How can we think that He has given us His Word for any other reason than for our ultimate good? Why would we reject the One who willingly suffered, endured the wrath of God, and died on our behalf? Why would we reject the One who was uniquely raised for our redemption? I just can’t answer these questions. Jesus is worthy of our worship and deserves the devotion of our lives.
The second application is the implied from the first: there is an invitation to which we must respond. In this passage a choice is clearly painted. We can choose to be like Herod and the people of Jerusalem….we can continue to insist on worshiping and adoring ourselves. We can push away the Lord Jesus and treat Him as the enemy . . . if perhaps not with our words, but certainly with the choices of our lives. We can push Him away or we can run into His open arms.
I hope every parent and grandparent knows the joy that comes from a child running joyfully into your arms. We embrace that child and hold them as a great treasure. We don’t push them away . . . everything else stops as we relish that wonderful moment. Fix that image in your head. Please understand that this is the way God feels about you. He wants you to run to Him. If you come to Him in love and trust He will not push you away. He will not ask you to come back at a later time. He will embrace you and love you and lead you to beauty and joy that you never knew existed.
I wish I knew what you were thinking today. Some of you probably checked out from the message a long time ago. Some of you may be filled with follow up questions and that is quite alright. I hope . . . I pray that some desire to walk in a new direction. I pray that there are some who wish to open their hearts to the One who can make them new.
I don’t know you heart or your desire . . . but God does. I encourage you to examine your own heart and mind and decide how you will respond to Jesus.