Last Words: Compassion

Last Words: Compassion

Last Words: Compassion -Matthew 23:37-39- Sharyn Dowd

{The audio recording messed up on us this week, so we’ve included the written version of this sermon below.  It’s both short and amazing!  Hope you can check it out.}

Last Words Series

Whenever someone is getting close to death, often the last things that they have to say are the most meaningful.  If they are the last words, the last memories, of someone that we care about, then these last words become like treasures to us.

This is especially true when it comes to Jesus.  What were some of the last things that Emmanuel, God with Us, the Messiah, the Rescuer from God, have to say to us as a death he knew was coming drew closer?

I hope you’ll listen in as an incredible group of Christ Followers share with us the Last Words of Jesus.

 

Compassion

Matthew 23:37-39

 “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and throw stones in order to kill those who are sent to you. Many times I have wanted to gather your people together. I have wanted to be like a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. And you would not let me!  Look, your house is left empty.  I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

Matthew puts this saying of Jesus shortly after he throws the animal-sellers and bankers out of the Temple — the story Adam told us about last week. In fact, Matthew has about 5 chapters of information about what Jesus taught in Jerusalem before the authorities finally got around to arresting him. You would have thought they would have jumped on him right after he disrupted worship by making it impossible for people to purchase the appropriate sacrifices. Maybe they were so dumbfounded it took them a while to get their act together.

And think about the change in the way Jesus appears. One minute he is bat-poop crazy, throwing his weight around, destroying private property, running people out of business who have legal licenses to be there doing what they are doing. The next minute he is talking about himself as a mother hen who wants to gather baby chicks under her wings. Take a look at this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQEty_Pi73w

I don’t know about you, but that does not look very comfortable to me. Just imagine for a minute half a dozen little beaks under your wings. Why would a mother hen do that?

The only reason I can think of is to protect the chicks—to keep them safe. Because of her compassion and care for her little ones.

Now let’s go back up to the beginning of the passage and take a look at who these “chicks” are. They are the people of Jerusalem, right? If we look at the context, Jesus is speaking particularly to the religious people of Jerusalem. Here is what comes right before the verses we are focusing on:

29 “How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You build tombs for the prophets. You decorate the graves of the godly. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of those who lived before us, we wouldn’t have done what they did. We wouldn’t have helped to kill the prophets.’ 31 So you are witnesses against yourselves. You admit that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets. 32 So go ahead and finish the sins that those who lived before you started!

33 “You nest of poisonous snakes! How will you escape from being sentenced to hell? 34 So I am sending you prophets, wise people, and teachers. You will kill some of them. You will nail some to a cross. Others you will whip in your synagogues. You will chase them from town to town. 35 So you will pay for all the godly people’s blood spilled on earth. I mean from the blood of godly Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berekiah. Zechariah was the one you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 What I’m about to tell you is true. All this will happen to those who are now living.”

Then the next thing Jesus says is, “You are a bunch of godless murderers just like all your ancestors and what I would like to do is to gather you to myself and protect you from danger.”

Huh? Hang on! At this point we would expect Jesus to say, “You are a bunch of godless murderers just like your ancestors and what I would like to do is to treat you just like you have treated the prophets and godly people that were sent to teach you how to behave—Prepare to die!”

But that’s not what Jesus says, is it? He says that he wants to treat these religious jerks like helpless little chickens who need protection. He would like to pull them to himself (herself???) like a mother hen, even if it means putting up with their pesky little beaks and claws.

The only thing that is keeping Jesus from embracing these rascals and pouring his love into them is that they don’t want it. “You would not let me,” he says. “You would not let me!” I wanted to take you in—to love you and protect you from your own evil ways—to show you that there is nothing you can do that will separate you from my love — but you would not let me do it. I wanted to stand between you and harm, so that if anybody wanted to harm you, they would have to kill me first. “But you would not let me.”

And why wouldn’t the religious people of Jerusalem let Jesus gather them to himself? The Bible doesn’t say, but it’s not too hard to guess. I think that given a choice between being religious and following Jesus they preferred to bet on being religious. If you are religious, you know for sure that you are good and people who don’t practice your religion are bad. If you are religious, you know what you have to do to bribe God into liking you and what you have to avoid doing to keep God from getting mad at you. If you are religious, you can follow the rules and keep God at arm’s length and go about your daily business doing whatever you please as long as you cover it up with religion and niceness.

On the other hand, if you follow Jesus like that bunch of fishermen and tax collectors, you may not know where your next meal is coming from and whether you are going to have shelter for the night. What was that about “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”? Not very promising if you ask me. And the guy hangs out with whores and AIDS patients and IRS agents, and his main homeboys smell like rotten fish. Nobody who has any class will have anything to do with him. And Jesus clearly thinks that hanging out with him will change people for the better: “Follow me and I’ll make you fish for people.” “Love your enemies.” “Forgive those who mistreat you.” It might be true, but it’s risky! Who knows what it might cost you? This business about “pick up your cross every day and follow me” is not the sort of invitation that sensible people are eager to accept.

I think that the religious people of Jerusalem figure that their religion is safer than following Jesus.

And they might be right. If it’s safety you are looking for, you had better stick with religion. But if you want to take a chance on following Jesus, if you want to choose intimacy with a God whose compassion can’t be bought by good behavior, if you want to belong to the God who loves you even though you are a rotten jerk—a God who loves you despite, not because of your religion, then Jesus’s arms are open to you this morning.

Don’t believe the lie that most people believe about God. Most people will tell you that if you want God to like you, you have to:

  1. Clean up your act
  2. Believe a bunch of stuff
  3. Confess your sins
  4. Ask Jesus to forgive you
  5. Then Jesus will save you from hell,
  6. IF you are really good for the rest of your life.

Friends, that is a lie of the Devil. Here’s the truth—here’s the good news:

  1. Jesus loved you before you were born.
  2. Jesus loved you before you ever sinned.
  3. Jesus died to forgive your sins 2,000 years ago, KNOWING that you were going to be a sinner who couldn’t change yourself.
  4. All Jesus wants is to gather you to himself. He doesn’t expect you to change, because he knows you can’t change. He doesn’t expect you to repent because he knows you don’t even know what to repent about. He just wants to love you.
  5. If you stop resisting and come to Jesus the best way you can, every day, every hour, just let go of yourself and let God hold you and run your life, then the following things will happen:
  6. You will begin to know who you are—who Jesus made you to be.
  7. You will learn how to repent of who you are not, because it hurts you to be who you are not.
  8. You will be able to have peace even when everything is going wrong.
  9. You will no longer need alcohol, crack, meth, sugar, shopping, or any of the other addictions that you are currently using to kill your pain.
  10. You will find yourself saved from the hell you are already in and moving toward the blessings that God has been dying to give you since you were born.
  11. Your relationships will begin to improve because you are no longer trying to protect them and you are letting Jesus change them for you.
  12. You will be a blessing to everyone around you.

Do it today. Give up your religion and come to Jesus. Religion will make you crazy. Jesus will make you whole.