We’re back! Moving right along to part 3 of 4, exegeting Matthew 23:37 this week.
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!
As far as I can tell, this verse is used to come against the reformed doctrine of Irresistible Grace. In simplified terms, the argument would go like this: if God could irresistibly draw people to Himself and save them, then why does this text say that He would have done it, if they were unwilling?
This is a fascinating verse, and if you take it in isolation, it is actually kind of confusing. The confusion stems from the fact that you have Jesus addressing the city as a whole “Jerusalem, Jerusalem”, and then the children of Jerusalem, and finally that “you” would not. If this text means what some say that it does, why does it say “you” instead of “they”, referring back to the children? The entire chapter has Jesus going to town on the Scribes and Pharisees, and I think it would make sense that they are the “you” in this verse. I think it would be fair to say that there is a parallel phrase a few verses earlier, in verse 13.
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Another important question to ask is, what is this analogy referring to? A hen gathers her chicks (brood) under her wings to protect them from potential danger, right? I’ve never been a farmer/rancher, but I’ve seen hens do that when it starts to storm or even when an unfamiliar person is around. The prophets were sent by God to Israel, and what were they doing most of the time? Warning about danger on the horizon. The leaders killed these prophets, and in the immediately preceding verse, Jesus says that “all these things will come upon this generation.” These are the things that Jesus was trying to protect the children of Israel from, but the Scribes and Pharisees kept getting in the way, if you will.
I don’t believe this verse is strictly speaking about salvation, because if it was, then it seems to indicate that the Scribes and Pharisees have successfully prevented God from saving anyone, which the Scriptures contradict all over the place. It seems to simply be Jesus continuing his harsh critique of the Scribes and the Pharisees, adding to their list of offenses, that of resisting Him (and the prophets) in their attempt to draw the children of Israel to God. This is a lamenting of their actions, and not some sort of thwarting of God’s sovereignty in salvation.