Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
preached in PCC Worship Services, 4 August 2013
Part 1 of 3

In Luke’s gospel, we have three passages in which the Lord Jesus repeats the names of a person when addressing him or her.

The first is in Luke 10:41-42, which we looked at the last time. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Then in Luke 22:31-32, Christ said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

The third passage in Luke’s gospel is found in Luke 13:34-35, where we read,

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

These words are found almost word for word in Matthew 23:37-39. The reason why I’ve chosen to look at Matthew’s version of it rather than Luke’s is because, most likely, Matthew places this passage in its original historical setting whereas Luke arranges it topically or logically in his gospel.

It could also be that Jesus spoke these exact same words on at least two different occasions just like the Lord’s Prayer or the beatitudes. But in this series, we want to look at our Lord’s words of lament over Jerusalem as they are found in Matthew’s gospel.

I’ll like us to consider three things from this passage. First, the context or setting of these words, second, the lament of our Lord, and third, the sad consequences of rejecting Him.

The Context and Setting

The gospel of Matthew has an interesting structure and outline. It has 11 sections. 6 of them are narrative sections while the other 5 are discourse or teaching sections. Matthew begins and ends his gospel with narrative sections and in between, he alternates between discourses and narratives.

Each discourse section ends with the words, “And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings…” Our text is found in the fifth and final discourse section of Matthew. It runs from the beginning of chapter 23 all the way to the beginning of chapter 26.   

In this final discourse, the Lord denounces the sins of the unbelieving Jews, particularly of the scribes and Pharisees, pronounces woes of judgment upon them, predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, and finally concludes with a word about His second coming at the end of time.

The sins of the scribes and the Pharisees may be summarized in three categories. First, they sinned by their lack of sincerity. The Lord says in verse 3, “do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” Second, they sinned by the lack of sympathy. Verse 4, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” And third, they sinned by their lack of humility. Verses 5-7, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”

Then having described their sins, the Lord goes on to pronounce seven woes upon them. The word ‘woe’ means trouble and it is basically the opposite of blessing. These religious leaders of Israel are cursed by Christ for seven reasons.

First, they prevented people from entering the kingdom even while they themselves were shut out of it. Second, they made converts not of heaven but of hell. Third, they reversed the truth regarding oaths. Fourth, they focused on the lesser matters of the law while ignoring the weightier ones. Fifth, they focused on ritualistic and external cleansing rather than the cleansing of the heart. Sixth, they externalized religion and used it as a cover for inward corruption. And seventh, they pretended to honour the prophets of old when in fact they would have killed them themselves had they been given the opportunity.  What a wretched and wicked lot they were!

In verse 33, the Lord said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” In other words, so wicked and evil were they that there was no possibility they were going to escape the judgment of hell.

The Lord went on to say in verse 34 that He would send them prophets and wise men and teachers but instead of receiving them and their message, they will kill some of them, others they will abuse and mistreat, and still others they will pursue from city to city. It is remarkable to read in the book of Acts how this prophecy of Christ was fulfilled in the decades following the death of Christ.

Then in verse 35, Christ says, “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”

Most of us would be familiar with the story of Abel. Abel is described by the Lord in Luke 11:50 as the first of the prophets. He was murdered by his brother Cain and his blood cried out to God from the ground – a cry for God’s justice and vengeance.

As for Zacharias the son of Barachias, he is most likely the same person as Zechariah the son of Jehoiada mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, where we read, “And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it.”

Zechariah was a prophet who preached against the sins of the people during the time of king Joash. Tragically, he was stoned by the people at the command of the king in the very court of the temple itself!

The reason why Jesus mentions Abel and Zechariah is that they represent the extreme ends of Old Testament Biblical History. In the Hebrew Bible, Genesis is the first book while 2 Chronicles is the last. So what Jesus was saying is that the blood of all these righteous men from the first to the last is charged to that generation of Jews who were the contemporaries of Christ.

Now you might ask, how is it fair that that generation of Jews could be held guilty for all the righteous bloodshed throughout Old Testament history?

Consider this: that no other generation in Israel’s history had more light and knowledge than that generation. They had the whole Old Testament scriptures revealed to them. And they had the privilege of hearing the very Son of God Himself preach and watching Him perform miracles right before their very eyes. To whom much is given, much is expected. The more knowledge of God’s word they accumulated without believing and obeying it, the more they accumulated God’s wrath and judgment.

Jesus then said in verse 36, “Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.” “All these things” refer to the judgment of God both in time and in eternity. As an aside, verse 36 is very important in helping us to understand the prophecies of Christ in the very next chapter. In chapter 24 verse 34, Christ would again say, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

These two verses, i.e. 23:36 and 24:34, form a kind of bracket around the first part of the Olivet discourse. All the prophecies of Christ in that section found fulfilment in the generation which was contemporary with Christ.

By using the words “this generation,” Christ is telling us that God’s wrath will be poured out not only on the scribes and Pharisees, who were the main focus of this chapter, but upon the rest of the nation as well.

In Matthew 21:43, at the end of the parable of the wicked vinedressers or tenants, Jesus said, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” The religious leaders including the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees and chief priests represented the rest of the unbelieving nation or people of Israel.

Despite all that they had experienced first-hand of Christ’s ministry in their midst, they did not repent and forsake their evil ways, and turn to Him as their Messiah. Indeed, they reacted in hostile unbelief and their worst treatment of the Messiah was yet to come.

This sets the stage for the Lord’s lament over Jerusalem, which we will look at in the next article.

—Linus Chua

… to be continued, next issue