“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you. How often I wanted to gather your people together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that. Look, your house is left to you deserted. I tell you, you won’t see me until you say, Blessings on the one who comes in the Lord’s name” (Matthew 23:37-39, Common English Bible).
When I read today’s lesson my mind went back to a story I heard several years ago. Many versions of the story have circulated over the years, some even claiming to be a true story. The original version of the story was published in 1945 as a parable. Others have rewritten the story to take place in a forest fire in Yellowstone.
I know the version I first heard is not the original version of the story. Still, I will share it with you as I first heard it. Perhaps this way it will be a new story to you.
When one of the hens hatched her eggs spring was only a few days away. She had great difficulty keeping those new hatchlings close. There were sixteen chicks in total and they were a curious lot, always trying to go off and explore and learn. Such was a dangerous proposition for any chick. If a chick wandered too far from mother hen, they could find themselves as a meal for the cat who lived in the barn.
One day the weather forecast called for a late winter blizzard. Forecasters expected the temperature to drop well below freezing and that it would stay there for two or three days. Most farmers, including the farmer with the little chicks, threw extra hay into the barn and then closed it up tight in an effort to keep all the animals warm.
As expected an early March blizzard blew through the area around the farm. Temperatures dropped along with a great deal of snow. When the farmer made his way back to the barn he expected to find dead chicks everywhere. After all, the poor hen was having great difficulty keeping all of them corraled under her. One small chick alone in a cold barn would never survive.
When the farmer went into the barn he was amazed. There were only two dead chicks. The other surprise was, he found the hen dead. She was exposed to too much cold.
The farmer was wondering where he might find the other chicks. He looked around the barn but didn’t find them. As he looked he picked up the two chicks who had died. Then he made his way to the dead hen. When he picked up her body, he was amazed to find fourteen chicks. She had given up herself so her chicks might survive.
The less tells of Jesus wanting to be like that mother hen. Truly, he is like that mother hen for all of us. Some, like the two chicks who wandered away, are determined to make it on our own. In the end, the mother hen couldn’t save all her chicks. Some of the chicks were determined to go in their own direction. Likewise, some of us are determined to go in a different direction than Jesus is trying to lead others. He cannot save those who refuse to be saved.
Jesus cried over Jerusalem because there, many didn’t want to gather under the safety of his wings. I can’t help but think Jesus weeps today because there are still many who reject the safety and seek to follow their own way.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved