This is Saturday of the fourth week of Lent. The reading is Matthew 23. (If you want to listen, scroll to the bottom of that page for the audio links.)
Wright pictures all the little streams of Israel’s rebellions and rejection of God’s ways coming together in a waterfall that brings judgment. But Jesus offers to gather those who want to escape judgment under his protection, as a hen protects her chicks.
Wright says “Jesus looked back, up into the far hills of Israel’s history, and saw a long line of prophets and righteous people who had been rejected by the leaders and opinion- formers of their day. Again and again it had happened. Little by little the streams have grown into a flood; and now Jesus sees the present leaders, his own contemporaries, flowing along in the same tradition. Right back as far as Abel, the first murdered man, right on to the more recent prophet Zechariah son of Barachiah, Israel’s leaders have rejected and killed those who were sent to them; and now they are doing the same one more time.
“What Jesus can see as well, though, is that there is a great waterfall just ahead. All this weight of water will not simply stop when it comes to the cliff: it will crash over it, thundering down to the depths. A mighty disaster is on the way. Many others had warned of similar things; Jesus, like the prophet he was, can see it only too clearly. And when it happens it won’t be arbitrary. It won’t be an accident. It will be the direct result of all these small streams of rebellion coming together into the greatest rebellion of them all.
“But that isn’t the end of the story. In the middle of the warning, Jesus speaks of his own longing to do something about it. God has indeed abandoned the Temple to its fate (verse 38). But, like a mother hen gathering the chickens under her wing to protect them against a fire, or a fox, Jesus has longed to gather Jerusalem and its people to himself so that he could take upon himself the full force of the coming disaster. Somehow, as we go through the next four chapters of Matthew’s gospel, we need to remember that we are watching two different scenes: God’s judgment on his rebellious people, and Jesus standing in the way, offering to take that judgment upon himself.”
If you’re a Godspell fan you’ll remember and appreciate this scene as depicted in the movie version: Alas, Alas.
If you aren’t a Godspell fan, you might more enjoy Downhere’s All at War, which is about our hearts being torn between our Pharisee half and our ‘chick gathered under his wings’ half.
And if neither of those strike your fancy, how about Gungor’s biting Wake Up Sleeper Watch the cellist: he’s awesome.