Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Matthew 23
Author: Pastor Josh

"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." (verse 37)

How is the grass doing at your house? Ours is scorched. Our grass is so crispy you can hear it crack as you walk across it. Day after day of 100 degrees weather with no rain in sight and only the ability to water 1 day a week because of water restrictions... it is a tough environment for grass to thrive.

I love the contrasting picture we see of God's heart in vs. 37 of our reading. While grass is parched and dry, we see Jesus saturating the lives of his created people wanting to bring life and hope and encouragement. Jesus said, "how I have longed to gather you together... ." Jesus loves you. He longs to be in a vibrant healthy relationship with you.

And yet... what broke Jesus heart was that people, "were not willing". They rejected what Jesus offered. The chose their way rather than to follow Him.

We see in verse 37 that mankind is the "source of damnation". God doesn't send people to hell... people send themselves there as they reject the only way to the Father (John 14:6). God's desire is for all to be saved, yet we are free to reject the life Jesus offers.

Today... "be willing". Be willing to let Jesus draw you close "as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings". While close to Christ, let Him assure you of His love for you, while also guiding you in His will for the adventure ahead.

Pastoral Commentary for Matthew 23
Author: Pastor Zach

A couple of years ago now, Melody and I got to know a precious little girl, less than a year old, who was dying from cancer. Her story is tragic. At only three months old, doctors discovered a tumor in her brain. Because of its size and because of her age, the tumor was declared inoperable. After batteries of tests, series of treatments, and more hospital stays as an infant than many people experience in their whole lives, this little sweetheart passed away at the tender age of one. Her family, and her friends, were grief-stricken.

I can still remember Melody telling me, shortly after her funeral, "All of this just kills me. It kills me that she never got to experience the fullness of life. It kills me that her parents are now left with a huge void in their hearts. It kills me that God would allow this to happen. All of this just kills me."

Perhaps you can relate to Melody's sentiment. For we all experience suffering, injustice, and tragedy that "just kills us." Indeed, this is the case in our reading for today from Matthew 23. For the past several chapters of Matthew's gospel, tensions between Jesus and the religious leaders have been rising. And they now reach a boiling point as Jesus denounces the wickedness of these super-spiritual hypocrites: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites" (verse 13)! The Greek word for "woe" is ouai, an interjection which expresses not so much denunciation as it does grief (cf. verses 37-39). In other words, Jesus, as he looks at the religious leaders and all of their vanity and duplicity and spiritual blindness, is not only angry, he is grief-stricken. And so, in what must have sounded like a visceral wail, he cries out, "Ouai! This is a terrible situation! This is a sad situation!" Or, to use my wife's words, "This just kills me!"

And indeed it finally did. For just a few chapters later we learn: "Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him" (Matthew 26:3-4). Jesus' ouai toward the religious leaders moves them to plot his death on a cross.

In many ways, I would say that we live in a culture which does not know how to ouai. We do not know how to express our grief. After all, how many times have you, in the midst of some personal tragedy or trial, tried to "put on a happy face" to cover your sadness? Perhaps it is time that we take a lesson from Christ: It is okay to express our grief. It is okay, from time to time, to say, "Woe is me!" Not in some self-pitying way or in a way that seeks to get others to feel sorry for us, but in an honest, godly way. As Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn" (Matthew 5:4).

So today, is there an ouai you need to share with a fellow brother or sister in Christ? Is there a sorrow you need to get honest about? Is there an evil that breaks your heart? Today can be the day you share that ouai. And remember that, even as you ouai, no matter how painful it may be, Jesus doesn't just say, "Blessed are those who mourn," he also includes a promise: "For they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). No ouai lasts forever. For Christ is there to comfort us in our woes.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2020-07-10 17:39:35