Summary: God’s attempt to bring us closer to Him.
How often have I longed to gather your children together...
These were the words, which Jesus uttered, as he lamented regarding the way the Jewish religious leaders treated those who had come to bring the children of Israel closer to God.
So what was Jesus talking about? Was he speaking for his ministry on earth or was He speaking in the larger sense?
Jesus is speaking here on more than one level, throughout his ministry up to this point. He has been speaking to both the common people of Judea and to the clerical people in the Pharisees and the Scribes. He attempts to reach out to both groups, in order to bring them closer to God.
Throughout history, the relationship between the people of Israel and God has been one of straying and repentance. As the people of Israel would stray from God, and pursue their own gods and their own devices, God would send a prophet or prophets to call upon both the leaders and the people to return to Him. Often times this was met with much resistance by the leadership of the nation.
One only needs to read the account of Elijah and King Ahab in the book of Kings, or read Jeremiah and Isaiah, who lived during the reigns of Kings Josiah and Jehoiakim. In all three cases the prophets came with a message for both the common people as well as the leaders. In all cases it was to point out injustices by both groups. These prophets made sure to point out how God was going to punish them, while at the same time how they could avoid punishment.
While Jesus is far above Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, he uses the same techniques of the prophets of old. However he does it in a totally new way.
He appeals to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Scribes through use of the Word. These are men who are well educated and versed in the Word of God. However many are very narrow in their views, as each group has its own specific theology, and rituals. However while they respect the wealth of knowledge and how versed Jesus is in the Word of God, they are skeptical of His message because, like the prophets of old, his message chastises the way they have taken advantage of their position within the Jewish community.
They were skeptical even though they knew what he spoke is the truth, for it is something many of them struggled with, as these men were living in privilege in their respective communities. The power they held was based on how they could wield the Law over those who were not of the priestly houses.
In other words, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes had let their theology and the worship of the rituals of the Law become more important than their relationship with God Himself.
Jesus even lets the Pharisees, who are warning him about Herod, know that they have their faith placed in the wrong place. Listen to these words from Luke 13 in the New Jerusalem Bible:
`Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! Look! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you are saying: Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord!"(Luke 13:34-35 NJB)
Jesus has told them that they constantly reject their prophets, and yet they still have THEIR place of worship. For the temple is far more important to them than their relationship with God. Then Jesus promises them that they will not see or know the Messiah until they announce; “Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord!"
For the common people, God had become viewed as a wrathful god, who demanded sacrifice for atonement of sin. He was one who was distant and unapproachable except through the priests.
Because of these attitudes and beliefs about God, Jesus appeals to them, through the parables. He reminded them of how God had reached out to them in the past. Jesus uses miracles as a way to show the common people the power of God. Moreover he uses the miracles as a way to show these people that God cares for them, and that He is amongst them in their daily lives.
You see while Jesus may have appeared to them to be a prophet in the mold of an Elijah, His message was one of hope, rather than of repentance. It was one that was meant to bring them into a much closer relationship with God.
Of course, Jesus was not only speaking of the people of his time and those who had lived before his time. He was definitely speaking of our time as well.