Last time, we discussed Daniel’s prayer for Jerusalem and its people as recorded in Daniel 9. The people had been forced into captivity by the Chaldeans after they overran Judah and destroyed the city and Temple. It was a significant event and Daniel’s response was also significant. A similar occurrence was prophesied by Jesus many years later, the major difference being that Jesus didn’t pray, but actually wept, over the city because of the impending doom of its destruction and desolation in 70AD by the Romans.
We see Jesus inside the Temple speaking to the crowds, which included religious leaders, i.e., the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes (Matthew 23). This chapter is a transition to the Olivet Discourse, which was Jesus’ lofty prophecy of the destruction and overrunning of Judea, the city, and Temple. It is also very important in that its full meaning must be understood in order to understand the Discourse itself (chapters 24 and 25), which is widely accepted as an “end times” prophecy.
Here, we are concerned mainly with chapter 23. The gravity of the words Jesus spoke cannot be overlooked, misunderstood, or minimized. He, in effect, issued an indictment and pronounced sentence on those leaders and all of Judea. He levied seven woes against them. By the time He was finished with the seventh, He had a heavy heart and so He wept for them: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” (23:37-38).
This was the Lord Himself, weeping over the greatest city, the city in which God chose to put His Temple. There are two points here, the first being the indictment of them that they kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to her. The second is the sentence that He imposed on them in His statement that their house is being left to them desolate.
What Jesus said was a declarative sentence, it was a statement of fact, and it stemmed from what had happened in the past, which is exactly what we have been studying and why we have been studying it. In stating that Jerusalem, who kills the prophets…, we must understand that, although the Gospels don’t record them actually killing or stoning anyone, they were the sons of those who actually did.
Look at 23:29-33 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?”
Pretty strong words; just after that, He said to them, “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city” (v. 34). “So that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood, shed on earth…” (v.35).
Not only that; in Acts 7:51-53 Stephen, a disciple of the Lord on trial before the Sanhedrin, who were the ruling leaders of Judea, levied this charge against them: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
So, there you have it. They were guilty just as Jesus had said. In fact, they were guilty of all the righteous blood shed on earth. And as Jesus said, they would not escape the sentence of hell (v. 32). Their house was being left to them – desolate!