(Jesus said) "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! See, your house is left to you desolate. 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)
What happens if you try to set people free—but they are not willing? It sounds like an odd problem, but it's one that Moses faced with the people of Israel, again and again, on their journey out of slavery to the Promised Land. God led the people in the pillar of cloud and fire; He provided food and water for them by miracle; He protected them from danger—but again and again, the people changed their minds. They wanted to go back to slavery—where, they thought, things were easier.
In our reading today, Jesus is grieving over the same behavior in the people of Jerusalem. He came to save them from the power of evil—but already the leaders of the city were plotting against Him, and the common people would follow their lead. In just a few days, they would be shouting "Crucify!" Jesus wanted to set them free—but some of them didn't want to be free.
Many people ask, "Why doesn't God just overrule people? If they are rejecting Him and insisting on a path that leads to hell, why doesn't God just magically change their minds?" But God doesn't do that sort of thing. He respects our free will—even when we are fool enough to refuse Him. If we insist on staying in slavery, He does not set us free. He will do any number of miracles, but this He will not do: overrule our freedom to reject Him.
This is still true today. Jesus calls, He argues, He draws—but He does not force. He laid down His life for us on the cross—He rose from the dead, to share His victory over death with us—but He does not force anyone to take the gift. How He loves us! And so He waits, patiently, calling us to Him in faith, waiting for us to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit and say, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord."
THE PRAYER: Lord, let Your Holy Spirit strengthen my faith in You, and turn my heart to follow You. Amen.
* What is there about us that resists that which deep down inside we know is good for us?
* What do you do when someone you love refuses something that is good and necessary for them?
* Is there something you are saying "No" to God about, even though you know it's for your own good?
Lenten Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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