Jesus and Jerusalem
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Jesus and Jerusalem

Luke 13:31  (ID: 2210)

Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in Luke is a beautiful picture of the Savior’s compassion for the lost and His dedication to completing His Father’s work. Examining this passage, Alistair Begg emphasizes Jesus’ sorrow over the Jews who had rejected Him and encourages us to respond differently, both by coming to Him and by reaching out to those who are lost. As He did for those in Jerusalem, Jesus longs to gather us to Himself.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Luke, Volume 8

Signs and Parables along the Way Luke 11:14–14:35 Series ID: 14208

Sermon Transcript: Print

And I invite you to take your Bibles and turn again this time to the New Testament and to Luke chapter 13, as we come to the concluding verses here in our continued studies in Luke’s Gospel. Luke 13:31:

“At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’

“He replied, ‘Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

“‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often [have I] longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”’”

Father, with our Bibles open before us, we pray earnestly for the help of the Holy Spirit to speak and to listen, to understand, to apply, to receive your truth in a way that honors you and changes us. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.

Over time, the cities of the world become identifiable to people for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons are simply geographical. We know that we’re in New York because of the Empire State Building, we know that we’re in London because of Big Ben, we know that we’re in Sydney because of the Opera House, and so on. But cities also become identifiable to students of both history and geography as a result of the events that have taken place within them. So, for example, no serious student of history is able to think of Boston without considering the dreadful waste of tea which occurred there on one occasion when it was all tipped out into the Boston Harbor. Not what we had in mind as a tea party! It’s really quite impossible to think of Chicago without thinking of the immensity of the fire. It’s sadly not possible to think now, in contemporary terms, of Belfast without thinking of bombs, to think of Beijing without thinking of Tiananmen Square, or of Dallas and the assassination of President Kennedy, or of Cleveland and the river on fire, or of Berlin and those dramatic pictures of the Wall being hammered down.

Now, in the same way, Jerusalem had become known for something. You see that in the text before us as we read it. Luke tells us that Jerusalem had actually become a byword for the place where the prophets were stoned and the messengers of God were killed. It apparently had the first claim on the blood of God’s chosen messengers and servants. And yet, despite this fact, it is to this city that Jesus is moving purposefully, resolutely—a city that has become famous for killing divine messengers. The question, of course, that would be in the minds of the people making their way to Jerusalem would be: Will the citizens of Jerusalem also kill, now, this greatest of all prophets? Or are they going to welcome him as the one who comes in the name of the Lord?

Jesus has just described the scene in the previous section here in Luke where all of the prophets were going to be present, he said, at the great banquet feast. And the individuals that were shut out would find themselves weeping and gnashing their teeth—a picture of great sadness and loss and frustration—and particularly when they saw that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all of their heroes, were actually at the banquet, and the very prophets that they had seen fit to kill were also attending the feast from which they were excluded.[1]

Now, Jesus on a number of occasions has pointed out to his listeners that the words of the prophets were pointing forward to himself. By the time we find him on the Emmaus road, which is in Luke chapter 24 (which we will probably reach somewhere around 2010 at the present rate of progress), in responding to those who were disconsolate as a result of the crucifixion of Jesus, in Luke 24, he says to them, “‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’ … And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”[2] We need to pay careful attention to the prophets’ message if we’re going to grasp who Jesus is and why he came. It’s a reminder to us that in the reading of our Bibles, we need to be reading all of our Bibles—that from Genesis, it is pointing immediately forward to the great fulfillment in the one who is to come. And indeed, everything from that point then proceeds forward to the book of Revelation, when we anticipate his glorious and awesome return.

In reading our Bibles, we need to be reading all of our Bibles.

Now, all of the roads, as it were, are converging on Jerusalem. Jesus is moving to this place purposefully, and yet at the same time, we discover that while he is moving, and those with him, converging on Jerusalem, the parties that are identified in this little section are actually all in conflict with one another concerning their desires. I want to point this out to you because I think it is important. It doesn’t come out so clearly in the English translation, but trust me that the same word is used in the Greek. It is a Greek verb, which is thélō, which is to want, to desire, or to wish. And the intensity of the wishing or the wanting or the longing is created by the way in which the verb is established. But for example, you will notice in verse 31 that we discover that Herod “wants” to kill Jesus. If you look in verse 34, we discover that Jesus “wants” to gather the Jerusalem residents as a hen gathers her chicks. That’s where he says, “I have longed to gather [you].” The word there is thélō. It’s the same Greek word. And we also discover in verse 34 that while Herod wants to kill Jesus and Jesus wants to gather these Jerusalem residents, the residents of Jerusalem “do not want” to be gathered. That is the same verb again in verse 34: “You were not willing.” “You didn’t want to.”

A Veiled Threat

Well, let’s try and get to grips with this material by noticing, first of all, that in verse 31, we have what we might refer to as a veiled threat. A veiled threat. And some of you may immediately reread verse 31 and say, “What can possibly be veiled about the statement ‘Herod wants to kill you’? That doesn’t seem to be very veiled. That seems to be very straightforward.” Well, clearly, there is nothing veiled about that threat. It is not this threat to which I’m referring, as will become apparent as I continue.

The Pharisees as a group were opposed to Christ and to his words. They detested him, they detested the fact that the people were delighted by what he was doing and had begun to follow him, and the more the people were delighted, the more they were humiliated. And for some time now, they had made it their express design to try and find a context in which they could trap him and intimidate him and get him to use terminology that would allow them then to bring the full weight of the Old Testament law to bear upon him so that he might actually be removed from any position of influence at all.

Now, it is interesting, in light of all that we have seen of the Pharisees, that Luke describes the group here as “some Pharisees” coming to Jesus. If you backtrack through the chapters, you will see that the most recent references to the Pharisees is just a sort of generic reference to “the Pharisees”: “And the Pharisees were here. The Pharisees were there. The Pharisees were outside the house. The Pharisees came and said this.” Here he actually says, “Some Pharisees came to Jesus,” holding out at least the possibility that these Pharisees are to be distinguished from their colleagues and that perhaps they have decided that if they have to choose between Herod and Jesus, they would rather have Jesus than Herod. It may be that they have also reached the same conclusion that the disciples had reached—namely, that it wasn’t a good idea for Jesus to die.

Now, we can’t say with any certainty just exactly what’s going on here. But when we take the balance of the surrounding material, it is clear that these Pharisees more than likely have become the witting or the unwitting agents of Herod himself. Herod was clearly threatened by Christ. He had silenced John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, first of all by imprisoning him and then by having his head chopped off. He is sending out word, apparently, that he wants to kill Jesus, although it’s unlikely that Herod wants to have another murder on his resume; one, in this instance, is probably quite enough. So perhaps all he is seeking to do is get him out of his region because he is an interference to his plans.

Well, in that respect, then, the Pharisees would simply be bringing this message to Jesus in the fulfillment of what Herod wanted, but also because it would fulfill their own desires. They would like to get Jesus down into the Judean region, because out of Herod’s jurisdiction would push him into the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, who themselves were hatching all these elaborate plots to try, of course, and bring about the end of Jesus. And so the Pharisees, I think, contained the real threat. Herod was really not much of a threat at all, but the threat that the Pharisees bring is a veiled threat. And it concurs with what Jesus had already told his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer many things … be rejected by the elders, [the] chief priests and [the rulers] of the law.”[3]

Now, when you read Luke’s Gospel, you discover that some days the disciples come to him and say, “Jesus, we want to stay here,” and Jesus says, “I want to move on”;[4] and on another occasion they said, “Let’s move on,” and Jesus said, “No, I want to stay here.” And you have this movement—that Jesus is moving according to an express calendar. And although the Pharisees despised him, and although they found ways to plot his death, it doesn’t stop him, as you will notice—just allow your eye to hit 14:1—it doesn’t stop him from going into the Pharisees’ homes. He stills goes in to eat at the house of a prominent Pharisee, we find out immediately next.

Jesus, I might say so, is a quite wonderful person, is he not? Most of us, if we were rejected in such a whole-scale fashion by a group of people, whoever they were—especially if they were an identifiable group of people—we’d say, “You know what? I’m totally done with the Pharisees. I mean, I have had my lot with the Pharisees. I don’t want to see Pharisees. I don’t want to be with Pharisees. I don’t want to hear from them. I’m not going to say anything to them. They are so clearly opposed to me that I want nothing to do with them.” Isn’t that honestly how we’re tempted to respond to people?

And yet who is it that finally comes and asks Pilate for the body of Jesus? Joseph of Arimathea. “Now there was a man [called] Joseph, a member of the Council.”[5] What council? The Sanhedrin. Jesus is always looking for the Josephs. Jesus is always looking for the Josephs of Arimathea. Jesus understands that although the wholesale rejection of his ministry may be represented in the Pharisees, there are still those whom he is able to reach out and call to himself. Let us beware of our blanket revulsion of people: “Oh, we’re not going to deal with those people anymore. We’re not going to talk to those people anymore.” Let us beware, lest what we might regard as righteous indignation is nothing other than selfish condemnation.

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold,
And one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.[6]

And Jesus said, “That’s the one that the shepherd went for.”[7] So you have all of the Pharisees completely opposed to Jesus, and out of the group comes Joseph of Arimathea and says, “Can I take the body down and look after it?” What a wonderful Savior is Christ!

Let us beware blanket revulsion of people. Let us beware, lest what we regard as righteous indignation is nothing other than selfish condemnation.

A Fixed Goal

Veiled threat. Secondly, in verses 32 and 33, you will notice that Jesus has a fixed goal. He has a fixed goal. Indeed, the phrase is used there in the NIV at the end of verse 32: “On the third day I will reach my goal.”

Don’t you love people with goals that know where they’re going? It’s terrific. It’s horrible driving behind somebody who hasn’t a clue where they’re going, isn’t it? It’s clear they haven’t a clue where they’re going. They may have had in the morning, but somehow or another, it is lost them somewhere along the journey, and they’re just meandering. You go to the mall, you want to go with someone who knows where they’re going and knows when they’re leaving, so that we have a goal, we have a fixed point, we have a destination towards which we’re moving. And when we read this Gospel of Luke, we discover that Jesus so clearly knows where he’s going, and he knows what he’s doing. And that is exactly what comes across here in verses 32 and 33. None of the rumblings of Herod will cause Jesus to change his pace or to shift his goal.

Herod, incidentally, is the only person that Jesus is recorded as having treated with contempt in this way. It’s clearly righteous. It’s clearly justifiable. And the designation that he gives to Herod is not something that he hangs on him from the outside, but he simply gives a word that describes the very characteristics that were known to people who knew Herod himself: “Go tell that fox...”

Now, “fox” has a variety of metaphorical possibilities. In the time in which it was used, the fox was regarded as being sly, as being crafty, as being weak, manipulative, and destructive. Now, I recognize that this is a real problem for all fox lovers and for those of you who keep foxes in your backyard. You say, “It’s very unkind of you to say these dreadful things.” But actually, this is just common parlance, is it not? “Go tell that fox”—that manipulative, destructive character; that individual that is neither great nor straight… He’s neither marked by honor nor marked by dignity. He is, says one commentator, “a varmint in the Lord’s field, a murderer of God’s agents, a would-be disrupter of the divine economy.”[8] In fact, when you think about it, to refer to him as a fox was really quite compassionate.

“You go tell the fox that I’m going to be conducting my business as usual.” That’s essentially what verses 32 and 33 are saying. Herod wants him to keep moving, and Jesus says, “Well, I’m going to keep moving, but I’m not going to be moving in response to any threats from Herod.” His malevolence is not a motivating factor in the life and ministry of Jesus. “No, I’m going to be moving out. I’ll be moving and driving out demons. I’ll be healing people today and then tomorrow, and on the third day I’m going to be reaching my goal.”

Now, here’s another opportunity for all of you who want to take the Bible literally to have a little exercise that will help you. For we do take the Bible literally, don’t we? Well, Jesus says that he’s going to drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day he’s going to reach his goal. But we know that there isn’t enough time for Jesus to complete everything that’s left in the Gospel of Luke to be accomplished in the space of what he describes in verse 32. So what do we do then? Well, we recognize that his speech is idiomatic—that as in other places in the Bible, he uses a definite number to describe an indefinite time frame.

Now, what he is saying is this: “We’re just going to be moving along. Well now, tomorrow we’ll do healings, and the next day we’ll do something else, and the third day I’ll finally reach my goal.” In fact, were that not the case, then verse 32 and verse 33 would contradict each other: “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside [of] Jerusalem!”

Now, once again, you see the plain meaning of the Bible is the main meaning of the Bible. When you take all of these words and you say, “What is Jesus saying here?” what he’s saying is this: “Go tell the fox Herod that I will be continuing my business as usual, that I have a destination towards which I’m moving, and none of his rumblings and his bumblings are going to make one bit of difference to the fact that I will complete that which my Father has given me to do. In other words, I’m in complete control. And as the divine agent of salvation, I’m going to take my message to the center of the Jewish world—namely, to Jerusalem.”

For surely Jerusalem is the ultimate destination of the prophet. In the same way that golfers might ask each other, “Have you ever been to St Andrews?” so the prophets might sit around and say to one another, “Have you ever been to Jerusalem?” Now, you say, “That’s a very trivial illustration.” It is. I admit that. I should have thought a little longer before I bounced it out. But anyway, I’ve done it now, and you can argue, then, as it were, from the lesser to the greater or from the ridiculous to the sublime. So, St Andrews is ridiculous; Jerusalem is sublime. Golfer to golfer: “Ever been to St Andrews?” This is the ridiculous. Prophet to prophet: “Have you ever gone up to Jerusalem?” That’s the sublime.

So, of course, Jesus is going to go to Jerusalem. Ironically, of course, the religious center of the universe, which embodies all the hopes and dreams of the people of God, has, as we’ve seen, tragically become known for the killing of prophets. And indeed, it would seem that Jerusalem has a monopoly on killing the prophets, hence the ironic statement by Jesus at the end of verse 33: “Surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” Jesus is not suggesting here that it is impossible for prophets to die anywhere other than Jerusalem. What he’s saying is this: it has become so commonplace for Jerusalem to kill prophets that he says, “Hey, you know, if you’re a prophet, there’s no better place for you to go and die than Jerusalem, because they’ve got an angle on killing prophets.” That’s what he’s saying. “Surely nobody’s going to die anywhere else. They get you in Jerusalem, boom, you’re gone.”

Now, if you doubt this, you take a concordance, look up prophet, look up killing, look up everything you like, and spend the rest of the day trying to put it all together for yourself. And you will find that the Old Testament is replete with these references. Those of you who were present some Sunday evenings ago, when we looked at the little cameo study from Jeremiah 38—where, remember, Jeremiah was thrown into the cistern—the reason he was thrown into the cistern was an attempt to kill Jeremiah the prophet. And were it not for the intervention of the kind man, then, of course, they would have completed their objective, and Jeremiah would have been another statistic referred to here in Luke chapter 13. It’s a staggering thought, isn’t it, that the city of David, the city of the Great King, should become such a place?

A Strong Lament

Now, you see, when the Pharisees said this, Jesus gives them the reply. He then says, “Surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” Now, whether this soliloquy follows in the immediate hearing of these individuals, whether he steps aside, we have no way of knowing. I wonder, if we had to set this in a film context, how we would direct it. You have a veiled threat in verse 31; you have a fixed goal in verses 32 and 33; and finally, you have a strong lament in verses 34 and 35.

The repetition of “Jerusalem” is akin to the expression of the depth of feeling in the heart of Jesus. You have it in the Old Testament, where David says, “O Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son!”[9] You have it when Jesus speaks to Martha, as we saw earlier: “Martha, Martha.”[10] When he speaks to Simon Peter: “Simon, Simon, … Satan ha[s] desired to have you [to] sift you as wheat.”[11] And now he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you.” “Look at the hardness of your hearts, Jerusalem.” It is surely the hardness—the willful, obdurate desire of these people to reject the initiatives of Christ—that crushes him in this instant. “I wanted just to gather you the way a hen would gather her chicks under her wings.” You know, the inference being “And what’s so bad about that? What’s so hard about that? What’s so unappealing about this picture?” “But you were not willing! [So] look, your house is left to you desolate.”

And he looks forward in his mind’s eye, and he sees the destruction of Jerusalem as the power of the Roman authorities comes and crushes the place in one of the most horrendous events of history—and the ultimate desolation actually being found in the fact that the house is left desolate not of drapery and seats and ornaments, but the house’s desolation is found in the fact that God is no longer there. “And you’re not going,” he says, “to see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” They’re not going to see him again until, at the end of the age, he will come in splendor, and all will recognize that he was the person he claimed to be—some to the great joy of this discovery, and others to the sadness that is represented in being shut out of the feast.

Picture, Passion, and Pattern

Now, let me take the remaining moments that I have to wrap this up by pointing out to you this. First of all, let’s just consider the picture that he paints. The picture that he paints: a hen and her chicks. Actually, this morning… I don’t know what it was; it was so dark when I was coming through. I think it was a duck and a duckling decided to halt the meager traffic on 91 in the early hours of this morning and just worked their way slowly from the medical building. I think they were going to Bob Evans for their breakfast, as far as I could see. And I stopped and waited and wondered. I always have done because of something that is fixed in my mind since I was a small boy. Driving with my family to the coast in Scotland down rural roads, we found ourselves encountering a scene whereby a hen and chickens were actually making their way in a cluster across a two-lane road in rural Scotland. And, of course, my father backed off the accelerator, and we were probably 200, 250 yards back, and we were all mystified at this lovely scene. And, you know, Mother would be saying, “Oh, look at the mommy with her babies.” And we were saying … and stuff like that. And just at that, a guy on a motorbike overtook our car and plowed right through the whole scene. And by the time we drove up to it, a couple of the chickens had been completely squashed on the road. One of them was hanging by its wing, and the thing was carnage. And the hen was just totally distressed by it.

And I’ve never forgotten that. That’s a hundred years ago, at least. And I remember how we talked about it in the car afterwards as we drove on: “Well, what about the little ones? And where did they go? And what happened to them? And what about the mommy? And the mommy’s going to be sad now because…” and so on. And no person with a brain or a heart can stand back from this without being drawn into the beauty and wonder and tenderness and sensitivity of the scene. This is not sentimentalism; this is realism! This is naturalism! This is how a normal person should feel about these things. This is not—we don’t need a violin for this! If you cannot care about these things, there is something wrong with you. You need help!

“Well,” says Jesus, “this is how I long to gather you. To the extent that you can empathize with the scene of a hen and her chicks, I long to gather you to me. I long to protect you. I long to provide for you. I long simply that you would come under the shelter of my protection, as you had read about in the Old Testament so many times: that he would rise with healing in his wings, and you would be drawn unto his care.[12] But you were not willing.”

And some of you are here this morning, and that’s why you remain outside of Christ: because you are flat-out unwilling. You will not come. Changing the metaphor, the hymn writer, picking another New Testament metaphor, says,

Souls of men! why will [you] scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will [you] wander
From a love so true[, so] deep?[13]

I mean, does it make any sense? Are you telling me that you have security in your material provisions? Are you telling me that as a result of your academic attainment, you have discovered the riddle of life, and you’re able to sleep at night? All is well with the world! Are you telling me that the things—the ephemeral things of time—have been able to secure and fill for you Pascal’s God-shaped void within your heart?[14] You’re not telling the truth. You long for security. You long for reality. You long for that sense of belonging to something far greater than yourself. And here Christ looks over Jerusalem, and he says, “I would have gathered you the way a hen gathers her chicks.” And in very realistic terms, he looks over the city of Cleveland, and he said the very same thing: “I would gather you the same way that a hen would gather her chicks, but you are not willing.” That’s the picture. Clear, isn’t it?

Jesus’ knowledge of the needs of men and women is such that he has a passion to see them saved.

Also, will you notice that there is not only a picture that he paints, but there is a passion he portrays? Here is the God-man revealing his passion for the lost. He’s explained to his followers, “I didn’t come to call the righteous. I came to call sinners to repentance.”[15] His knowledge of the needs of men and women is such that he has a passion to see them saved. And of all the places on God’s earth that he wants to see them saved, he wants to see them saved in Jerusalem! For Jerusalem is where God gave all these promises to Solomon. Jerusalem is where we saw the temple built. Jerusalem is the city of the great God. It is the place that the people make their journey to and their pilgrimage to. And here he comes down to this very place: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you’re known for killing the prophets and stoning those who sent you. I’ve longed to gather your children together as hens gather her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

And what of your heart today, my friend? Does he find a welcome in your heart? Have you welcomed Christ to your home, to your life? If you do, the joy and the peace and the forgiveness and the delight and the security and the protection are beyond human telling. If you don’t, then listen carefully: your house will be left to you desolate. Well, that doesn’t mean that you won’t drive what you drive or go where you go, but it does mean this: that eventually, in the eternal record of things, instead of all of the enjoyment that emerges as a result of having received Christ as he called you to him, there will be all of the emptiness and the loss and the disaster of having said no, flat-out no.

I tried for a considerable part of the morning till I finally found a hymn that was going through my mind by Charles Wesley. I’m going to quote this. I have one final point and we’re done. But listen to this. If you don’t think that this is a lyric, then I don’t know what. Wesley, 1707–1788; this is what he writes:

Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood his grace,
Long provoked him to his face,
Would not listen to his calls,
Grieved him by a thousand falls.

There would be people here this morning, and that’s exactly where you are. You just found that Wesley in the eighteenth century just wrote your epitaph to this point in your life. And in the back of your mind, you’ve said to yourself, “Well, you know, I’m going to go and try and patch myself up as best I can, but there is no way that Christ would call someone such as me.” Listen carefully:

Why to me this waste of love?
Ask my advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
There before the throne of grace.

There for me my Savior stands,
Shows his wounds and spreads his hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Now, Lord, move me to repent,
Let me now my sin lament!
Now my proud revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.

If I rightly read your heart,
Merciful in every part,
As before your throne I bow,
Pardon and accept me now.[16]

The picture he paints, the passion he portrays, and the pattern that he provides. It is a pattern for those who are his followers. Are we, then, to leave to Christ all of the passionate longing for unbelieving people to become his committed followers? “Oh,” you say, “well, I’ve got a great mystery in this for me, you know. I’m not sure what to do with this theologically. What does it mean, we were not willing? How can somebody not be willing if God wants them to come?” Well, let me tell you, friends: it is not that these Jerusalem residents were constitutionally incapable of being gathered to Christ; it is because they were stubbornly, willfully resistant to his call.

And is this mysterious? Without question. You can spend the rest of the week reading systematic theology on it. I suggest to you Dabney would be a good place to start. I fell asleep on Friday reading a great chunk of him. I decided just to give you one quote, and this is for those of you who even know enough to be concerned: “Scripture and consciousness assure us that God executes his purpose as to man’s acts, not against, but through and with man’s own free will.”[17] These people did not say no because they were preprogrammed to say no. They said no because they were willfully resistant to the urgings of Christ—the same reason you’re saying no.

And how now does Christ issue his call? He issues his call still through the preaching of the Bible, and he issues his call through the going of his followers. He says, “There’s a harvest out there, and it’s ready to be harvested. Let’s get out there and get on with it.”[18] He says, “Now, from now on, you’re going to be catching men. I’ll make you fishers of men.”[19] He says, “From now on, I want you to understand that there is a great banquet being prepared. And the lord sent out into the banquet, and the people didn’t come from their invitations. And so he said, ‘I want you to go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come in.’”[20]

In fact, 14:23 struck me this week, because it just seemed to fit the Parkside area, where Jesus says—where the parable says—“Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in.” “Go out to the roads and [the] country lanes and make them come in.” Where? Come into this building? No! Come into the kingdom. If they come to the building, that’s okay, but that’s secondary. Make them come into the coffee shop with you, and ask them, “What about security? What about certainty? Have you unscrambled the riddle of life? Do you know why you exist? Do you know where you’re heading? Do you know if it even matters? Do you want to talk about it? Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus is calling you?”

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling [you],
calling to you and to me;
[There] on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
[And] watching for you and for me.

And he’s saying, “Come home, come home; you who are weary, come home.”[21]

Why won’t you come? And if you’ve come, I hope you haven’t been thinking that we’re done, you know? “Us four, no more, shut the door! It’s kind of cozy in here under the feathers. Got the family under the blanket, you know? It’s nice just to have our family under the blanket.” Of course it is. Who would deny that? I love my family under the blanket! Somebody sent us a blanket this week. We were immediately under it! Wonderful! But there are people outside. And they need to know of the love of Christ. They need to know of the compassion of Jesus. They need to hear his call. They need to meet him.

We are either being called, or we’re out calling.

You talking to people about Jesus? Are you introducing your friends to Jesus? Or have you just decided, “I go to church. I’m in. I’m under the Shepherd’s wings. I’m under the… You know, I’m here. This is nice. I’ve got a life group. I’ve got a big group. I’ve got a wee group. I’ve got a thing. I go here, and I go there, and I go there, and frankly, that’s it.”

Some of you have adopted children. Do you remember what you went through? Did you ever have as many nosy questions asked of you in all your life? Why? ’Cause they’re not just going to put children anywhere, and rightfully so. God is not going to entrust spiritual children just to any place. He needs to know that the family in which he puts adopted children is a family that is able and ready to care for the additions to the family. So we are either being called, or we’re out calling. Today, if we hear God’s voice, let us not harden our hearts.[22]

Father, help us so to understand the Bible that we might respond to its promptings, obey its precepts, trust its promises. I pray that you will look upon us in your mercy at this point in our lives and, that those of us who have heard your call and are not willing to come, that you will break down every barrier by your amazing grace. And those of us who have responded to your call and now we feel comfortable, I pray that you will make us uncomfortable as we think about those on the highways and the byways of our lives, awaiting an invitation.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one of us, today and forevermore. Amen.

[1] See Luke 13:28.

[2] Luke 24:25, 27 (NIV 1984).

[3] Luke 9:22 (NIV 1984).

[4] Luke 4:42–43 (paraphrased).

[5] Luke 23:50 (NIV 1984).

[6] Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane, “There Were Ninety and Nine” (1868).

[7] Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4 (paraphrased).

[8] John A. Darr, On Character Building: The Reader and the Rhetoric of Characterization in Luke-Acts (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 144.

[9] See 2 Samuel 19:4 (paraphrased).

[10] Luke 10:41 (NIV 1984).

[11] Luke 22:31 (KJV).

[12] See Malachi 4:2.

[13] Frederick William Faber, “Souls of Men, Why Will Ye Scatter” (1854).

[14] Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670).

[15] Luke 5:32 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17.

[16] Charles Wesley, “Depth of Mercy” (1740). Lyrics lightly altered.

[17] Robert Lewis Dabney, Syllabus and Notes of the Course of Systematic and Polemic Theology (Presbyterian Publishing Company of St. Louis, 1878), 223.

[18] Luke 10:2–3 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 9:37–38.

[19] Luke 5:10 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17.

[20] Luke 14:16–24 (paraphrased).

[21] Will L. Thompson, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” (1880).

[22] See Psalm 95:7–8; Hebrews 3:7–8, 15; 4:7.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.