Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
DECEMBER 6, 2015
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
— Matthew 23:37-39, ESV
When I was a boy, my father worked at a country radio station in Valdosta, Georgia. One day while visiting him I saw an album cover, heard a song, and fell in love with Emmylou Harris. The song was written by Boudreaux Bryant and recorded as a duet with Graham Parsons:
Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars, Any heart not tough, or strong enough,
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain, Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain.
Emmylou didn’t love me back. Though I’ve seen her in concert, we've never met personally. I think now it’s too late for us to ever have a meaningful relationship. Love hurts.
This is a song sung more seriously by our Savior, Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, a Son who lived and loved, a Son who was criticized throughout His public ministry and crucified at its end. Knowing what was about to happen, Jesus expresses in the last, loving words of His final public sermon just how badly love hurts.
Love Hurts When Love Is Not Returned
Most of us know the pain of unrequited love. Perhaps you had a crush on a boy or girl at school and they did not return your affection. Maybe you were in a meaningful relationship but your boyfriend or girlfriend broke it off. Or you may be among those of us who entered into a covenant marriage for keeps, only to have your spouse shatter it with divorce papers. On any and every level, love hurts when the one you love does not love you.
Jesus’ love for Jerusalem is made painfully plain in this passage. It was an extraordinary, motherly love that shows Jesus reaching out to hold and shelter people, while the people He wanted to hold keepHim at arms’ length. He invites them into a relationship with Him, but the prophets and preachers he sends repeatedly have their invitations sent back with mocking and murder. Jesus loves Jerusalem, but Jerusalem does not love Jesus.
Jerusalem represents the religious center of the world. All the people of this world are religious, in some form or fashion, even if the religion only consists of self worship. Jesus loves all the religious children of the world. He is loving and patient with hypocritical and nominal and cultic Christians. God sheds His common grace upon adherents of other religions like Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Most reciprocate with at least a superficial faith or a common appreciation for Jesus. But do they love Jesus? Do they truly know and really follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? No, they do not. This is why, at least as Jesus shows us in this passage, love hurts.
I wish I had another nickel for ever time a person of suspicious faith and character has sworn to me, “I love God.” But God would rather have us show than tell. People who do not obey the word of God and embrace the gospel are people who do not love God. People who are not willing to come to Jesus in sincere repentance and faith are people who do not love God. People who are unwilling to celebrate the Lord in baptism, communion, corporate worship, and other Christian disciplines are people who really love themselves, who love doing only what they want to do; therefore, they do not love God.
How can people not love our loving God and Savior Jesus Christ? It is because of original and ongoing sin. Sin poisons and hardens the heart. Depravity makes people “not willing” to come to Christ. Selfishness keeps self on the throne that would otherwise be occupied by Christ the King. Only sovereign grace, gospel preaching, and genuine repentance and faith can break the heart of stone and create a heart that truly loves the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Christ came the first time and looked down upon those who did not love Him, and it hurt the Lord. When Christ comes again, looking down upon all those throughout human history who have not loved him, it is going to hurt again, only worse, and this time it won’t be the Christ, it will be all those who were unloving and unwilling to become followers of Christ.
Love Hurts When It’s Too Late to Love
If you truly love someone, tell them and show them, today. If you truly love someone, at least tell them before they are dead, for then it will be too late. If you really love the Lord Jesus Christ, you better tell Him before you’re dead. For after death, if you have not truly loved the Lord, it will be too late for love and it will hurt, beyond repair.
Jesus gave Jerusalem, the religious apart from Christ, a dire, two-fold warning. First of all, their house would be destroyed. And finally, though they had rejected Jesus, they would still have to see Him face to face in the end.
The house destined for destruction that religion has built has many rooms. There are rooms for the legalists, like the Pharisees, who believe in salvation by works and use rules and regulations to promote their own pride and exert control over other people. There are rooms for the liberals, like the Sadducees, who think the Bible is a myth and salvation is a silly, unnecessary exercise. There are rooms for those who think we need government more than God, like the Herodians, who simply use God for political purposes. There are rooms for the atheists, the agnostics, the nominals, the hypocrites, and the practitioners of religions other than biblical Christianity.
This house if filled with people who profess with their lips a love for God, but deny it with their lives. This is a house the Lord looks down upon now with hurt, with patience, and with an outstretched arm of love. This is a house Jesus wept over at His first coming. And, this is a house that Jesus will wipe out in wrath at His second coming. Love will hurt on the last day, for the time will have run out to really love the Lord.
On that day, the prophetic Day of the Lord, everybody will bless and praise the Lord (ref. Psalm 118:26). Everybody will bend the knee and bow before the Lord (ref. Philippians 2:5-11). But not everyone will enter into the glory of the Lord. For most, it will be too late, for they did not truly love the Lord and commit their lives to the Lord while they had the chance.
Michael Jordan was once cut from his high school basketball team. Upon his induction to the Hall of Fame, he invited the very coach who cut him, then proceeded to humiliate him in front of the entire audience. That may have been bad taste on Michael’s part, but imagine being that coach who cut him having to face him at, of all places, the entrance to basketball heaven.
Mercy Me made a megabit out of “I Can Only Imagine,” singing about the joy and peace that will flood the souls of Christians upon Christ’s return. But imagine what it will be like for most people when the Lord returns. We don’t write songs about that. For the people who did not love and live for the Lord, the people who did not love and embrace the gospel, there will be no singing, no joy, no peace. There will be only weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Their time will run out, for all time, and love will hurt.
See the cross, hear this song of Christ, and fall in love with Jesus today. He already loves you, so it won’t hurt, unless you wait until it’s too late.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org