“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. [Luke 13:34 CEB]
This Scripture passage in Luke is part of Jesus’ response when He is told to leave Jerusalem because King Herod wants to kill Him. Jesus refuses to leave the city, but not out of defiance. Nor does Jesus say, “bring it on” and is ready for a battle. His response is a response of genuine love for the people of Jerusalem. Even though they have killed and stoned the prophets or messengers of God who were sent to them, and they are about to kill another one (himself), His reaction is not resentment or anger for these acts. He has compassion on the people of Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under wings.” He compares His love and compassion with a mother hen’s love and compassion for her chicks.
What a remarkable testimony—that the closest example of God’s love for God’s people is a mother’s love for her children. Throughout the Bible, motherhood is raised to a special standard, and is as near to God’s love as we can experience here on earth. The Apostle Paul, in all his teachings on the Christian faith and in his words of encouragement to the early Christians in his vital writing in the New Testament, would always take time to stop and send greetings to certain people. And in some cases, he not only sends his greetings, but also reminds them to say “hi” to their mothers as well. “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” Romans 16:13. And in 2 Timothy 1:5, he writes to Timothy himself with these words, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice.”
One of the 10 Commandments, the standard of how we are to live our lives, tells us that we are to “honor our father and mother.” Yes, it does mention fathers as well, but it is the only commandment that comes with a promise, “so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
There is the special love between Jesus and His mother Mary. How often do we read that Mary observed all that Jesus was doing, and treasured it in her heart? And, as Jesus was drawing His last breaths on the cross, He was concerned about His mother. He looked at His disciple John and His mother Mary standing together and in John 19:26 turns over the care of His mother to John.
Motherhood has a special place in the Christian faith. Yet we know in our own lives that motherhood may not live up to that special place. Mother’s Day may be different for you. You may be a mother of a child you are estranged from. Or you may be a woman who is not able to have children. You may be grieving the loss of a child, something that no mother or father should ever have to face. You may be grieving the loss of your own mother this year. Or maybe your own mother was not the shining example of motherhood. Maybe she was not there for you, nor did she provide for you. Mother’s Day involves all kinds of complexities.
Mother’s Day may not be a glorious day of celebration for you personally, yet we can celebrate mothers this Sunday if we look at the ideal that God set out for the love of mothers as a reason to celebrate. Jesus longs to gather us together in His love just as a mother—a mother hen who gathers her chicks under loving, supportive and protective wings. Amen.