“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, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23.37
We have been looking at some passages in the Bible that describe the nature of God in 'motherly' images. Today, in these well-known words, Jesus compares himself to a mother hen!
As Jesus began to talk about Jerusalem, he recounted just how far the people had wandered away from God's plans by killing those whom God had sent to them. Rather than punish the people, however, it seems that what God wanted to do was to tenderly gather them together so that he could care for and protect them. If there are times when you feel that God is stern and authoritative, then this image suggests the reverse. Even in a situation when it is not deserved, the tenderness of God is revealed.
The phrase that follows is even more poignant – “you were not willing”. God’s will was to be tender, but it was not what the people wanted. He offered love and intimacy but his offer was ignored.
Hundreds of years later, God is still offering us his tenderness and love. What are we doing with it? So often we rush into our prayers without first acknowledging and appreciating his deep commitment and love for us. Although we speak about the love of God, we can be resistant to really living and resting in the security that it brings. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, his words expressed a real sadness that the people would not receive his love. Perhaps he feels a similar sadness when we also rush away from him without embracing and enjoying his love for us.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission