The Woes from the King Part 3: Forsaken City | Empty Temple - Matthew 23:37 - 24:2
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 23:37–24:2
Christopher Rich – June 14, 2015
Rejection of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 4
Wk11: The Woes from the King Part 3: Forsaken City | Empty Temple| 23:37-24:2
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series covering Chapters 21-25 has been titled the Rejection of the King. Jesus triumphantly entered into Jerusalem with crowds cheering with great expectations for radical transformation and restoration in the holy city. However, as Jesus reveals more of his authority opposition to Jesus grows from those currently in power. With his opposition silenced, Jesus turns his attention back to actively teaching his disciples and crows of people gathered to hear him. Sometimes you define who you are by what you are about; but sometimes it is necessary to define what you are against. Jesus is a preacher. He has been preaching his last sermon. It opened with focused on training disciples to use discernment with the content of the preaching and character of the preachers they listen to. It then transitioned into the main body of the sermon which included the longest sustained righteous denouncement Jesus gives to anyone. In a full and diverse crowd Jesus specifically targeted the religious Pharisees and scribes (teachers of the law). Here, Jesus closes his last public sermon with a more general woe to the whole city of Jerusalem, all it represents, and later foretells the destruction of the temple.
Matthew 23:37-24:2 37 “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 were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” 24 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Verses 23:37 | Lamentable City
Here is Jesus is closing this final public sermon in the temple during the week of Passover to likely a packed house and he has now systematically called out the preachers to the crowd and disciples, the religious elites. Some in the crowd probably thought “I am glad I’m not one of those guys. I hope they were listening.” That is when Jesus, who started the scope of his fire with the laser precision of a sniper, switched to the tactical control of a full automatic rifle, throws out a hand grenade. So there was no doubt who this sermon was for, Jesus makes sure the whole city gets hit. Yet, just as Jesus calls out preachers and teachers warning them of judgement and calling them to repentance, he is showing is great care and concern for this specific city. He says “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” The repetition of Jerusalem shows intimacy. Jesus has a special care and concern for Jerusalem beyond any prophet. He is not like Jonah who was reluctant to go to Nineveh, this is a lament, O that it were not so. Throughout the OT there are examples of God’s love and affection for this city set apart and above all others. Jerusalem is not just any city, it is not spiritual Ephesus, wealthy Tyre, Sidon, or poor Nazareth, it is the Holy City. It is the center of government, culture and worship for the people of God. God has made His presence known in this city with the temple in the center of it. It has been the focal point of redemptive history, God working in the world for His glory has been focused in Jerusalem including Jesus triumphal entry where he was cheered. As Jesus aggressive actions (clearing out the temple), aggravated opposition (from various debates and challenges from different parties), and near angry sermon pile up; the collective mood of the city shifts.
When confronted with a Jesus who isn’t there to assist the city with their own agenda but to radically reorient them to His agenda, the city of Jerusalem will respond with visceral rejection. You expect rejection in Babylon, Nineveh, Damascus, or Athens, or Rome, but not Jerusalem. Jesus has giving a few parables of wicked tenants and wedding feasts dancing around what he is now making plain. Jerusalem, a city that should be defined by the presence of God, the faithfulness of his people is defined by their rejection of God’s messengers. This was not a one-time lapse but a repeated pattern of when confronted with the truth of God’s word from one of God’s messengers their response was not repentance or even indifference but violent rejection, prophets stoned and killed. Jesus response is not one of unbridled rage, but of tender sadness, almost a motherly affection and desire protection and an acknowledgement that rebellion is real.
Luke 19:41-44 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” When was the last time you wept over a city? When was the last time your heart yearned for that which was in consistent rejection of you? There is a gospel truth shown in both the tension of judgment and the compassion of this lament. Jesus loves Jerusalem not because of their worthiness but despite their worthlessness. They have been pursued by God, set apart by God, established and built up by God. All value, peace, safety, and refuge Jerusalem experienced has come from God! In a world broken by sin Jerusalem has numerous times experienced God protection and provision. God’s protection of us shows His love for us. He has made us; we are valuable to him because of him. His desire for us is never because he want’s less for us but because he want more for us. Jesus desire for Jerusalem is peace, Shalom, true relationship and communion with God. Countless times in the Psalms God is spoken of protecting Israel under His wings. Jerusalem is not willing acknowledge or receive the covering of Jesus as their king.
John 5:39-40 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. We are also just as unwilling as Jerusalem. We don’t just refuse to receive protection we reject Jesus as Lord. The nature of sin is a rejection of God recognizing his role in our lives. The city of Jerusalem’s rejection of God is no different than the rejection of God in the garden. Protection, provision, and purpose were given to a chosen few people by God, when faced with honoring God or rejecting God for the false promise of something better they chose to declare themselves the authority at the expense of following God. In Jerusalem, some in the city join with the entering crowds and cheer his arrival but when the enthusiasm dies down and the things got intensely serious they did not want their refuge or shelter to be Jesus. They would rather declare their independence and send their king to the cross. What is your disposition towards those who have been unwilling to come to Jesus? Do you weep, do you pursue or do you condemn?
Verses 23:38-39 | Last Words
These last two verses of Chapter 23 is the last time Jesus addresses a crowd in Matthew. He teaches the disciples but no longer publically. The next time Jesus is in front of a crowd they are chanting Crucify Him, Crucify Him. Jesus words are explicitly prophetic. Seasons of patience, pursuit, and protection will only last so long. Jesus in the temple courts and packed city, says “See, your house is left to you desolate.”
Jeremiah 12:7-8 7 “I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies.8 My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.
The word desolate is more than mere destruction it is a total rejection and forsaking from God. The people hearing this are in the temple they came to meet God. It did not appear desolate, but God doesn’t just see things as they are, but as they will be. The house is desolate because God’s presence is not there. There is no value in the earthly temple if the divine presence is not there. Jesus calls it “your house” not “my father’s house.” It’s similar to when you spouse calls you and says “do you know what your child just did.” There is a dis-ownership and distance because of the actions. Separation from God is a result of our unwillingness to come to him, follow him, or submit to him. At some points God gives us what we want. You don’t want God in your house that’s fine but it will not last. Watch what happens when the wings of protection are lifted off!! Our hearts are desolate as this temple and this city when God is not there because of our rejection.
But the sermon doesn’t end in verse 38, Jesus final words, closing appeal is ultimately a gracious one. Not unlike the seven woes of last week, Jesus has given the charges (Jerusalem’s violent rejection of God and his prophets) and the verdict/sentence (Removal of protection and desolation); true evil has been committed and without a change in condition righteous punishment will come. However it also includes compassion, sorrow, and regret. It does not delight in destruction or rejoice in condemnation instead it gives an appeal to repent we see in a sense in verse 39. Isaiah 30:19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. You want to experience God’s presence and protection? You will need to call out to Jesus “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. Some in Jerusalem already called out to Jesus with those same words as he entered the city yet Jesus tell the crowd to call out to Jesus again. A saving, live changing, relationship with Jesus must be more than momentary enthusiasm at misunderstood expectations. Jesus the preacher calls Jerusalem to decision time; who will you pledge allegiance too? For the city known for rejecting God’s prophets, Jesus last words to them show his desire for their repentance! Despite our sin and rejection of God’s purposes and protection, Jesus desires it for us and offers it to us!
2 Pet 2:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Verse 24:1 | Misplaced Trust
Jesus has just dropped the mike on his final public sermon. He doesn’t linger to shake hands, get feedback, or even debate what he’s said. Jesus literally leaves the building. Jesus has declared plainly the temple is no longer the “House of the Lord”, his presence no longer dwells there and God is done interacting with his people through the temple system. The temple, the city, and those who place their hope in it (instead of Jesus) will find they have been forsaken. This is such a radical shift in how God relates to his people from the generations of Moses and the Tabernacle, through Solomon’s first temple, destruction, exile to this second temple, even Jesus disciples are having a hard time understanding and keeping up with what was said. Many of the disciples are poor fishermen from Galilee, and others from the region. They’ve traveled a big distance to come into the greatest city they’ve likely ever seen and spent a week in and out of this grand temple that has been held up as the powerful symbol of God’s presence and kingdom. The temple in Jerusalem was greater than the temple to Artemis in Ephesus; listed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It seemed so strong it looked invincible. It was impossible not to marvel in its beauty. 1st Century rabbis - “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building.” “Being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the son was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from solar rays. To approaching strangers it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of the purest white.” Josephus
“Jesus, stop you can’t be saying something so amazingly stable and inspiringly beautiful is truly desolate? How can you not be moved at the monolithic nature of this physical structure? When you talked about establishing your kingdom, when you cleaned out the money changers and called the temple “My Father’s House” and a “house of prayer”, and began healing people and restoring sight in the courts just a few days ago we were sure the temple would play a huge role in saving and restoring your people, why are we leaving?” The temple is where God’s people gathered for worship. It is where the presence of God interacted with His people. It is where sacrifices for sin were made, where wrath was diverted and where mercy was given. It was a great symbol of unity while Gods people are scattered across the world they could all be brought together at the temple. Community was formed around the temple. Teaching happened there, songs were sung prayers were offered, and healing was sought all at the temple.
Jesus leaving the temple signifies a major, forever, transition. All those things the temple has stood for and people seek and hope for at the temple will not be found there any longer. They are all found in Jesus!
Ephesians 2:17-18 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Verse 24:2 | Death for a Jesus-less Temple
Not only is Jesus not impressed with the temple, he says it is going to be destroyed. Jesus has left the building so it is no longer important. There is life with Jesus but destruction without him, a Jesus-less temple is pointless and will never last. Whatever you are hoping in whatever you are seeking to build, whatever you are looking back to if Jesus is not in the center of it will fail you and lead to destruction.
Isaiah 64:10-11 10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11 Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
Without God’s protecting wings covering the city and with his presence removed from the temple destruction is assured and it didn’t take long. Rome was the instrument God used to kill Jesus; Rome will be the instrument He uses to destroy Jerusalem. In 70 AD The Roman General Titus comes in and sacks the City. There is still an arch in Rome commemorating this great victory today. Conversely for Israel they have never recovered. The temple has never been rebuilt; no sacrifices for sin have been made. The western retaining wall (Wailing wall) is all that stands today. Jews still go there and weep for their broken temple. We don’t look to an arch and we don’t wail at a wall we look to the cross!!! We go to the cross and celebrate the broken body and blood shed for us!! Jesus rises again, and there will be a new Jerusalem.
Revelation 21:1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” We don’t have to weep for Jerusalem, or wail at a wall because all our tears are wiped away and hope is assured when we, Trust Jesus!
More in Rejection of the King | Matthew Part IV
June 7, 2015The Woes from the King Part 2: Seven Charges - One Verdict | Matthew 23:13-36
May 31, 2015The Woes from the King Part 1: Unbearable Preachers | Matthew 23:1-12
May 17, 2015Entrapment of the King: Sad Theology | Matthew 22:23-33