I wrote the other day about the woes Jesus pronounced on the Pharisees, and how I am tempted to skip those kinds of passages (but how they really speak to me when I don't). If you do skip that kind of passage, you often miss something really lovely on the other side, made more lovely by what surrounds it.
After pronouncing the woes, there are three tiny verses that say so much: "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, and you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)
This is one of those verse that kind of haunts me. It's a verse with an ache. Jesus loves those who will kill him, who have killed the prophets before him. His love looks like a mother hen, longing to gather her chicks together under her wings. A very feminine picture of his love for his people, and a beautiful one.
So often when people talk about God's love, whether it's someone in church or a billboard or someone thanking God for their Grammy win, it is a love that is separate from judgment. It is an easy love, a love that has no relationship to sin. But do you see how much more full the real love of God is, when you see it in the context that it is given to those who don't deserve it?
Jesus longs to gather together those who will nail him to a cross.
Do you see how much deeper and wider and greater this love is when you see the full picture? The good news of the gospel is good when contrasted with the bad news that we don't deserve God's love at all. If there were no bad news, there would be no need for death on a cross. God's love could have been in a bunch of double rainbows or unicorns or flowers--something fluffy and easy.
Instead, we have the cross. A man beaten and bloodied for crimes he did not commit. The cross is more than rugged--it's gritty and horrifying. And yet...it is a more beautiful picture of love than anything we could design. It is in the harsh and ugly that we see the real beauty of love.
So don't be like me--don't skip out on the hard passages of judgement and woe. You may be missing the sweetest contrast of love in spite of those things, a true and real and gritty love.
This is part of a Lenten series based on and related to my Lenten devotional, Consider the Cross. For more, you can find the book on Amazon.