31 Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” 32 And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I [g]reach My goal.’ 33 Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! 35 Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Jesus is approached by some Pharisees who warn Him that Herod is looking for Him and plans on killing Him.
We’re not told why Herod was seeking Christ’s death. Perhaps Herod’s conscience continued to afflict him for his role in John the Baptist’s death. Perhaps Christ has spoken out against what happened to John in words that are not recorded in the gospels. Or perhaps Herod saw Jesus of Nazareth as a political threat with the crowds that gathered wherever He went and the group of followers He had amassed.
But here are some Pharisees coming to warn Jesus. Many Pharisees probably would have helped Herod, but there were some that were not only sympathetic to Jesus, but cared enough about Him to risk the wrath of the secular authorities by warning Him to leave Galilee. It’s easy to paint the Pharisees with a broad brush, but they were very much human like us, and for at least this group, their opinions differed with the majority of their fellows about this Jesus.
Jesus, of course, knows that His death will not come here in Galilee. It will come in Jerusalem. Now, many prophets did die outside of Jerusalem, but Christ isn’t being completely literal. He is pointing out that just as it was the nation who they were sent to that killed the prophets, so it would be that Christ would be arrested and condemned to death in the very heart of the nation that He was sent to. The Roman authorities and Herod would play their part, but it was the leaders of Israel that would demand His death.
Finally, Christ expresses His own heart for Jerusalem. Crying out in compassion that He would gather them together and heal their wounds, but they were unwilling to have Him. I think that is the heart of God towards us. Regardless of our place in life, He is waiting for us, desiring to comfort us and bring healing, love, and compassion. But we are often blind to Him or unwilling to accept it out of a sense of despair, self-loathing, or self-righteousness and self-sufficiency.
The last part invokes the imagery of the siege of Jerusalem (which may or may not have happened at the time of the writing of this book, depending upon the date you accept) in which the city would be invaded and sacked after months of deprivation and starvation, the Temple burned to the ground and overturned, and the residents of Jerusalem killed, enslaved, or captured to be crucified as examples.
Christ’s words about their house being left to them desolate evokes a continuation of His lament. Because the city did not want Him, He would honor their choice and allow them to follow their own leaders even if they followed them over a precipice. Christ would no longer be present, even if His church was (though many in the church would flee Jerusalem as Titus approached with the Roman army.) They would not see Him again until the end of the age.