Some argue that Calvinism and Matthew 23:37 are contradictory because Matthew 23:37 says that Jesus wanted to gather people, but they “were not willing.” They argue that this contradicts the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace. However, there is a simple explanation that does not at all contradict Calvinism.
Matthew 23:37 and Calvinism
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!“Matthew 23:37
Calvinism’s Answer to Matthew 23:37
The answer to Arminians using Matthew 23:37 against Calvinism and irresistible grace is simple. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus is clearly referring to two different groups of people. The phrases, “your children” and “you were not willing” refers to different groups of people, since “your children” and “you” are clearly different from one another.
When Jesus says, “your children,” he is referring to the general Jewish population, and when Jesus says, “you were not willing,” he is referring specifically to the Jewish leaders, namely, the scribes and the Pharisees. So, Jesus is essentially saying that he wants to gather the general Jewish population to himself, but the Jewish leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees, were actively trying to prevent the Jewish population from coming to Jesus.
In the immediate context of Matthew 23:37, in verses 13-36, Jesus says, over and over again, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” The ones who “were not willing” were the scribes and Pharisees, who were trying to prevent Jesus from influencing the general Jewish population. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus is clearly attacking the evil and the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees.