“God’s Will . . . Our Desire” Luke: 13:31-35
by Maegan Daigle, Associate Director of the Christian Leadership Center of Centenary College
as a part of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Martha Stearns Marshall, Women in Preaching emphasis
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He 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. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Reverend Adam Smallbone, a priest in inner city London, foiled the mugging of one his congregant’s handbag, when he fought a local vagrant who was getting on a bus. He’s was a hero, known to many as the “Kung Fu vicar” and he was pleased with the attention he was now receiving from his wife, the archdeacon and his local congregation. In fact, his story gained so much publicity that he nominated for the “Pride of Britain,” an award that is given to those who do great amounts of good in the UK. Adam the priest was really enjoying the fame and attention that he is now receiving. Buuuut, his story isn’t quite true. Adam didn’t actually foil a mugging. No. He only unintentionally ran into the mugger. They both fell down, and the mugger just happened to leave the congregant’s purse on the sidewalk as he hurriedly jumped on to a bus.
Now, Adam has a choice to make. Will he accept this award he is up to receive under false pretenses. Or, will he be honest and give up his award for sake of his character and tact?
On a much different level, but somewhat similarly to Adam, Jerusalem had a choice to make. It could either seek after God and the covenants God has made with it. Here, Covenants are promises or agreements that God makes with Israel/Jerusalem in Old Testament. Or Jerusalem could choose unwillingness. It could deny its end of the bargain and defy God with its sinful acts. It’s apparent in our text today, that Jerusalem had not done the best job at keeping in accordance with God’s Law. In fact it’s not just our text today, many of the prophets in the Old Testament complain about how Jerusalem does not live up to its end of the bargain. The prophets lament about Israel and Jerusalem’s association with other gods, and how they fall into dreadfully unjust practices. Jerusalem was ultimately failing, because it unwilling to seek after God.
In our text, Jesus laments because Jerusalem has still not been faithful to the various covenants that have made it a holy city. Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” He mourns over this city. He knows he must go there to die. But Jesus doesn’t stop with lamentations. Jesus isn’t just like “Hey Jerusalem; you’ve really screwed up. You anger me. I’m leaving you.”
No, Jesus goes beyond the prophets. He says, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” This is compassionatemotherly imagery. Jesus is comparing himself to a hen. A motherly hen, who desires to nestle her babies. He wants to care for and protect his children from the dangers and perils of thisworld. Further, Jesus is opening his arms as a hen opens her wings to welcome and beckon her chicks’ home. Yet, he cannot make someone walk into to his arms. He cannot force some one to be faithful or to desire him. Yet, Jesus stays in this vulnerable physical position. His arms are extended and his breast exposed. Even though this is not an easy position to take. Jesus loves Jerusalem! Therefore, he is willing to be vulnerable. He is willing to open himself, to expose himself for the sake of his people. Even though this is not an easy route to take. In the most literal sense, Jesus must take up his cross.
Further, the imagery of a hen is important, because it’s not imagery that you would normally associate with the coming Messiah. A hen is not a fierce animal, like a lion or an eagle or a leopard. No. It’s a hen: a common, dirty, barnyard animal. It carries salmonella. And, a hen doesn’t really have a means to protect and shield her baby chicks except through her own death. Again, this sounds a little familiar right?
Like the hen, Jesus is a man, who from the outside political powers of his day does not have a lot of power. He’s a carpenter who partners with a bunch of fishermen. He’s not part of the Jewish Sanhedrin or the Roman Aristocracy. No. From an outsider’s perspective, he is very ordinary. He, like the hen, is very common. Therefore, he protects and shields his children through death on the cross…(the cross, a humble and common death.) So that they. So that WE might have life. Jesus’ arms are open. His breast is exposed.
As a mother hen, Jesus wants to protect to give life but speaking to Jerusalem he grieves their rejection saying “but you were not willing.” He wants all of these things for Jerusalem. To protect. To shield. To beckon. But, they are not willing. I mean there is a lot of conviction in this statement, right? Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem’s choice not to claim him as Messiah. He is going to Jerusalem to die. But, he still compassionately wants to care for them under his wing. I wonder how often we make the choice to not seek after God. How often are we not faithful, yet Christ always opens his arms and calls us come home under his wings, because he desires us. It’s daily task right? We, like Adam and Jerusalem, have choices to make.
But this isn’t the entire story. Let’s go back to the beginning of the passage.
In the first part, the Pharisees are telling Jesus that he needs to get away from here, here, which is Capernaum, because Herod wants to kill him. Now, the Pharisees have a good point. This is not just any Herod. This is, Herod Antipas, you know the one who killed John the Baptist. I mean if I had been Jesus I would have been like, “Yeah see you suckers, I’m bailin’, deuces ” But, thank goodness, I’m not Jesus, because Jesus tells 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.
Now there are two things going on here. First, Jesus just called Herod a ‘fox’ which I feel like is a pretty gutsy move considering Herod killed John the Baptist. Then, he makes an allusion to his time on earth, death and resurrection. On the first two days he is casting out demons and performing cures, but on the third day he will finish his work. And this, I think is key, and connects back to the 2nd section.
Jesus knows the journey he must endure— He knows that it will not be pleasant. He knows it will be painful, and there are points later in scripture where he doesn’t want to bear it. But Jesus, unlike Jerusalem, consistently chooses to seeks after God. And, he has ‘a willingness’ to seek after God, because he knows that his journey is providential. Therefore, he can call Herod a fox, because he knows that Herod is not going to kill him. Jesus has a purpose and a great willingness to fulfill his purpose. And, none of the powers at hand, whether they be political or religious, are going to get in the way. Jesus is faithful. Jesus is seeking after God. Jesus upholding up his end of the bargain.
In next part of these verses, Jesus says “3Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.” Again, we see that Jesus has a discipline of willingness and is choosing to follow God. He is choosing to seek after the Kingdom of God and fulfill his providence. Even though the road to Jerusalem might be fraught with tribulation and ultimately his death. He chooses to travel towards Jerusalem, because he knows that this journey will allow him… allow us to ultimately live.
So Yes, Adam the priest has a choice to make. Will he accept this award he is up to receive under false pretenses. Or, will he be honest and give up his award for sake of his character and tact? The Bishop ultimately comes to visit and questions Adam about his heroic venture. Adam admits his accidental error and chooses to tell the truth. He doesn’t receive recognition and fame. Adam chooses humility over praise and admiration. Though it is hard, it is right. And, it is ultimately life giving for he and his family.
So how do we as Christians consistently choose to consistently seek after God, God’s Kingdom, and God’s promises? Well, we don’t and we fail a lot of the time. But, Jesus consistently saves us in spite of ourselves, right? Therefore, we consistently perceive the Kingdom of God and see glimpses of it within our lives. But, what does that practically look like in our day-to-day basis?
Well I mean, I think it looks different for everyone. You could be a healing presence like Jesus was in this text…sitting and listening to a friend who is going through a hard time. Or, it might be that you show up to the hospital to visit someone when there is no one else is available. It could be as simple as something like Adam of the priest…telling the truth even if it causes you to lose your fame and admiration. Perhaps it means making friends with those who might be considered outcasts, or becoming friends and partnering with those who are significantly different than yourself. People who are different colors, practice different religions. People of different socioeconomic classes. Those who are older or younger than yourself. Those who have a different perspective on life, or are from different cultures. People who see the world differently than you. Become Friends. Be willing to love. Be willing to follow. Even when the journey becomes uncomfortable.
Like Jesus, with the help of God we can have the discipline and the ability to seek after God and the Kingdom of God. Our journey may not be easy. It may have bumps in the road. There may be suffering. But, in the end, if we are living a life in which we are trying and willing to continually seek after God, we can and will experience life. God desires us, with arms open and breast exposed. Are we willing to seek after God’s promises?
Audio of Maegan’s Sermon is here: