A True Warning
This week’s Gospel text is Luke 13: 31-35. This starts with the Pharisees warning Jesus that Herod is out to kill him. Since this is the same Pharisees that are often trying to trap Jesus and whom Jesus often excoriates, we are right to be suspicious. It may be that they are afraid of Jesus stirring up trouble and threatening a Roman crackdown which may put their position at risk. It might be possible that this is a sincere warning. In the end we are not sure. Anyway, it is Jesus’ response that is more important here.
What is Jesus Doing Anyway?
Before looking at the key takeaway in this passage it is crucial that we understand what is going on with Jesus here. Jesus is working his way toward his ultimate destiny, which lies in Jerusalem. This has been the case in Luke since Luke 9:51, when Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem”. In verse 33 Jesus talks about what he must do today, tomorrow and the third day. This sounds a lot like the Passion and the Resurrection. However, this is not those three days. All of that must take place in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the city that kills the prophets (verse 34). This tightly identifies Jesus with the Jewish prophetic tradition that he is part of. This should not be considered a blight upon the Jewish people. Too many have distorted this element of the story into a broad anti-Semitism. Jesus is himself Jewish, and this is completely a part of the Jewish tradition. It is frankly a part of every culture’s tradition, even our own. We only need contemplate the case of Martin Luther King Jr. to disabuse ourselves of any arrogance here. It is absolutely where Jesus must fulfill his destiny to die and rise again. It is of course our destiny to be granted God’s grace through faith because of this sacrifice.
What is notable about the imagery Jesus offers as he makes his way to this destiny is that it is of a hen, not a hawk. He offers up the image of a mother hen protecting her brood under her wings. This is a solemn reminder that Jesus saves not by taking lives but by laying down his.
Step Off Herod!
In all this the key lesson is Jesus’ response in verse 32; “He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.” First, he insults Herod by referring to him as a fox, a clear put down in the context of this culture.
Second, Jesus is simply too busy for Herod. For all Herod’s earthly power and position Jesus just cannot be bothered to interrupt his day to deal with this poser. Jesus is obviously making a statement that Herod’s earthly power is irrelevant. Indeed, it is. The larger claim is that God is in charge. Herod’s part in this is as God wills it. Jesus will not be delayed or distracted by Herod’s needs or threats. All will happen as God commands. This is a consistent theme in the texts. It smacks of Jesus’ claim that Caesar is irrelevant as in Luke 20: 20-26, the famous “render unto Caesar…” passage. It is also the stance Jesus will take when he is brought before Pilate.
Jesus is steadfast in his adherence to his father’s will and the sacrifice he is knowingly going toward in Jerusalem. Jesus never lets us down, lies to us or disappoints. As we ponder Jesus and what he is doing here all we need ask ourselves is “is this true?”. Since it is, then simply believe…then obey.
Praise Be to God