Theme: Christ Is Willing
In this week leading up to Easter, we focus on an event that shows how Jesus would have received the crowds on Palm Sunday if they had truly come to him in faith and repentance.
Scripture: Luke 13:31-35
What did the people of Jesus’ day who did not like Him do about it? They said, “We know how to handle somebody like that, we’ll crucify Him.” Afterward, perhaps they said to themselves, “Well, we got rid of all those things we did not like about Jesus”—such as His sovereignty, holiness, omniscience, truth, and grace. But you see, He is the immutable God. He rose again from the dead and He’s the same today as He was back then. You and I simply have to come to terms with that, whether we want to or not. That, for many people, is a barrier.
That’s why they wouldn’t come, and it’s why people today don’t come either. Yet, what I want you to see is that, although we’re not willing, He is. We weren’t willing to have Him, but because of His grace He was willing to have us, and so He reached out to us. In his two-volume exposition of Luke, J. C. Ryle says that it teaches us how great is the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ toward sinners:
We see this brought out in a most forcible manner by our Lord’s language about Jerusalem. He knew the wickedness of that city. He knew what crimes had been committed there in times past. He knew what was coming on Himself at the time of His crucifixion, yet even to Jerusalem He says, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood beneath her wings, yet ye would not.” The people of Jerusalem would not come to Him yet Jesus came to them knowing full well that they would crucify Him. He submitted to the crucifixion because He knew that it was only by dying for them that their sin would be covered and He would at last be able to draw many to himself.
Years ago I heard a story which I think fits this text better than any story I have ever heard. It has to do with something that happened years ago out in California. It was in the early days of the settlement of that state before there were many roads, and most people got around by train, which were drawn at that time largely by coal-burning locomotives. It was during the harvest and a farmer was keeping an eye on his fields, because his livelihood depended on it. He particularly was keeping his eye on the trains because he knew that they gave off sparks and one spark from one of those passing trains could set his fields on fire, and he would lose everything.
One day a train went by and a short time later he saw off in the distance a wisp of smoking coming up from a distant field. He knew that the worst was happening, that the field was on fire. He rushed toward it but the wind was blowing in his direction, and before he got halfway there he realized that a raging wall of fire was bearing down upon him. What was he to do? He couldn’t put it out. He decided that what he would do would be to set a small backfire to burn off a portion of ground which he hoped would make a sufficient fire break to stop the inferno when it reached there.
His strategy worked. The fire burnt down to his fire break and went out. He had saved half his crop, but still the other half was lost. He was walking around rather dejectedly when he noticed something. He noticed down there in the embers the burnt, charred body of a hen that had, obviously, been caught in the blaze and been killed. He went over to it and rather absentmindedly nudged it with his foot, and when he did, accidentally turning it over, five little chicks ran out from underneath the wings.
Now, bear that in mind and listen to our text once again: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Not willing? No, we are not willing, but He is willing. You see, that is the point. By that death he was able to gather under the protection of His wings all who will come to him, so that when the raging inferno of God’s judgment sweeps by we might not perish but instead might have everlasting life.
Not willing? Whatever can make you willing? I suppose it’s hard to think of anything that could reach hearts as hard and stony as our hearts, but if anything can, it is that picture of the Lord Jesus Christ giving Himself for you. Even that, it’s hard to melt hearts by that, but it has happened. It has happened again, and again, and again, as men and women who have seen the picture of Jesus dying for them have had their preoccupations, differences, resistance, yes, and even their hatred swept away. They found themselves being drawn to Him and coming to Him in true faith and genuine devotion. God Himself makes that argument. It says in Romans 5, verse 8, “God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Once you allow that to happen to yourself this Palm Sunday, in case it has never happened to you before, remember that Jesus went up to Jerusalem that final week to die for you. He went, knowing what awaited Him, in order that He might be your Savior.
What is it that makes a sinner willing to come to Jesus?
Knowing that God usually works through means to accomplish His will, what kinds of means does He use?
Application: Ask the Lord to use you for his service in the lives of others, and then take advantage of those opportunities he gives.
For Further Study: As Jesus approaches the final week before his arrest and crucifixion, He does so knowing full well what is going to happen to Him, and the redemption He is going to provide for sinners. Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Onward to the Cross.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)