Matthew 23:37-39, “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, and you were not willing. Look, 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.’
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”
Jesus directs his speech to the city. In this way he is also mindful to correct his hearers.
What does the repetition mean?
This is a way of expressing his pity for her and bemoaning her and greatly loving her. Jerusalem is like a woman ever loved by him, but she has despised the One who loved her. Therefore she is on the point of being punished.
Being now about to inflict the punishment, he pleads with her.
This is also the pattern of the prophets, who said, “Turn to me, and she returned not.”
A poignant offer of shelter
Then having called her, Jesus tells of her blood-stained deeds, “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, and you were not willing.”
In this way he is also explaining his own dealings with her. Not even with these things has he turned her aside nor withdrawn his great affection toward her. It was his desire even so, not once or twice but often, to draw her to himself.
“For how often would I,” says he, “have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks, and you were not willing.”
He says this to show that they were ever scattering themselves by their sins.
He indicates his affection with a picture. Indeed, the hen is warm in its love toward its brood. Everywhere in the prophets it is this same image of the wings – and in the song of Moses and in the Psalms – indicating God’s great protection and care.
Jesus' offer is for us
Know that when Jesus calls out our names, mourning the rebellion in our lives, he offers us the same welcome under the protection of his wings. The Savior -- who died short days after calling Jerusalem to repentance -- was crucified to guarantee that welcome. Empowered by such grace, run to his shelter.
Source: John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407) was the Archbishop of Constantinople. His name Chrysostom means "golden-mouthed" in Greek. It celebrates his speaking ability. Learn more about his at the Encyclopaedia Britannica.