Around that time, some Pharisees came to Jesus. A lot of the religious leaders wanted to see Jesus dead, but these men wanted to protect Him.
They warned Him that King Herod wanted to kill Him. They told Him to leave the area where He was staying and find somewhere else to go. For you see, the region of Perea was under the rule of Herod and, as king, he had the authority to take life. Jesus was not afraid of pretender kings and their malicious, petty ways, though. He had nothing but contempt for foolish and wicked Herod.
He told the Pharisees, “‘Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach My goal.”’” Nobody was going to keep Jesus from doing what the Father called Him to do. Every healing that God had planned, every person Jesus was meant to free from demonic bondage, and the divine plan for His own death and resurrection were the unstoppable plans of the Father.
Did you notice that Jesus did not even try to help King Herod find the way to salvation? With everyone else in every other story, even the horrible religious leaders that questioned Him and wanted to kill Him, Jesus tried to speak to His listeners in a way to break through their doubt or misunderstanding or hardness of heart. Sometimes He confronted them with scorching rebukes, but even that was an attempt to shake them up and get them to repent. Even the harsh words of Christ were a sign of His love and desire to see transformation. Not so with Herod. Jesus wanted nothing to do with him, other than to dismiss him altogether. That is the most dangerous position of all.
Jesus was going to finish His travels in Perea because that was the will of His Father. He still had some work to do there, and He surely would not die. He said, “‘…surely no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem.’” God the Father had decreed the time and place of His death, and it would be in Jerusalem.
His final journey to Jerusalem would begin soon, for He knew that the time of His death was coming.
Then, as Jesus pondered His fate in Jerusalem, He broke into a lament of sorrow over the rebellion of the City of David. King David was the great forefather of Christ, and he had prophesied about the coming of the Messiah. When God promised David that one of his descendants would reign upon an everlasting throne, He was making a promise about Jesus. How deeply sad that the people of David’s city were so blind now that He had finally come!
Imagine the disappointment of hundreds of years worth of grief in Jesus’ voice as He said:
“‘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! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say; “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”’”
Can you hear how tenderly the Lord wished to care for His people? Can you hear the agony of rejection, not because of His own need for their love, but because of the devastation that their wickedness was going to bring upon them? How He would have loved them, yet they would not receive that love! And when the only Source of Good in the universe is repelled, only catastrophe and tragedy are left! The Lord had pursued His people exhaustively and earnestly, yet they spurned His royal love.
Then Jesus spoke a future truth, about something that was going to happen in years to come. And when He said it, it was as sure as if it had already happened. He would no longer go to Jerusalem to gather the people under His wings like a tender mother. Until the people received Him with singing and the jubilant celebration of a nation who was receiving their Lord, Jerusalem would not see Him at all.
Like many prophecies in the Bible, these words of Jesus might have two fulfillments. The next time Jesus went back to Jerusalem, He would enter on a donkey, the animal of kings. We will read about how the people danced and sang, waving their palm branches and singing “Hosanna!” They gave Him a royal welcome, not knowing that within a week, they would turn on Him and nail Him to a cross. But Jesus would take that great, devastating scene, that utter tragedy, by far the worst sin in the history of humanity, and He would turn it into the finest, most beautiful good of all. He would conquer death completely, and He would pay the heavy price for sin.
Jesus’ work on the cross would pave the way for the second fulfillment of His prophecy. Though God did utterly forsake Jerusalem within the generation of the people that watched Him die, one day in the future, Jesus will come back again—on the Great Day of the Lord.
This time, He will return to Jerusalem in all His risen splendor. The Jewish people will see Him and confess, willingly or not, that He is the Messiah. They will finally know Him as King of kings and Lord of lords!
Imagine the glory of what Jesus understood, even as He trekked the dusty roads of Perea. He lived with an eternal vision, and an eternal hope that nothing on earth could touch or destroy. He walked in the perfect humility of absolute obedience to His Father on His way to total victory so that He could give that eternal life to us all. How beautiful and righteous is He.