It is truly one of the most heartbreaking moments in all of Scripture.
In Matthew 23:37, we see Jesus’ heart for Israel, His wandering people: “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.”
Jesus spoke these words to the Jews, but His divine words tell us a lot about the heart of God for all His people. Our heavenly Father longs for relationship with His children. He longs to protect them, to be near them, to hold them close to His heart.
Maybe you find that thought surprising, but we can find a lot of evidence in Scripture that God desires an intimate relationship with us. Way back in the garden, before God banished Adam and Eve from Eden, He made a promise that He would find a way to bring His children back home.
It would take centuries for that rescue story to play out. Battles would be waged and kingdoms would rise and fall, all as part of that rescue plan, all leading up to the birth of the Messiah.
And when that Messiah came, He loved to tell stories about God’s longing heart. Jesus compared God and His lost children to a woman who searched for her precious lost coin, and to a shepherd who was so desperate to find one wayward sheep that he left all the other sheep to search for it and bring it home (Luke 15:1–10).
Finally, Jesus said, God’s longing for His lost children was like a father who had lost his son, a father who would never give up and who would give absolutely anything to have his boy come home (vv. 11–32).1