In chapter 23 of his Gospel, Matthew records the most shocking words that Jesus ever spoke. He severely lays on the religious leaders, the blame for the murder of the God-sent Old Testament prophets. Their rejection of God would not end with the murder of these prophets, but it would continue with the crucifixion of their Messiah, the stoning and persecution of leaders in the early church, and the utter rejection of the Gospel message. Jesus concludes in verse 38 with what appears to be a final judgment, “your house is left to you desolate.” The suffering that was to come upon them would be so devastating, that their very house of worship would be utterly demolished.
The severity of this judgment is softened by the poignant lament, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … (23:37) as Jesus expressed His deep desire to enfold His people in His arms. Jesus leaves us with a hope that one day these rebellious people will repent and express the confession of Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (23:39). This seems to point to a future time when the Jewish people will repent and recognize Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. In the words of the prophet Zechariah (12:10), they will look on … him whom they have pierced, [and] they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn (see Romans 11:25-32). While a future hope for a godless nation may seem unlikely in human estimation, we can trust in our God who sovereignly opens the eyes of His elect and grants them repentance and faith as free gifts of His sovereign grace.