Plymouth United Church of Christ

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“How Do We Reject Jesus’s Desire To Love?”
Sermon, Year C, Lent 2, February 24, 2013
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Luke 13:31-35

Our Gospel lesson is from the Gospel of Luke. In this passage is coming in the midst of a long series of chapters, 11 or 12 of them of Jesus moving around Galilee preaching, teaching, healing, and occasionally eating with Pharisees. Through this he has a fairly cordial relationship with the Pharisees. Not the antagonistic one that we see in some other places in scripture. But he is going around Galilee and doing what we think of Jesus as doing, with the disciples, and taking care of people. He is moving from village to village. So we don’t know where exactly he is in this particular passage. As he moves from village to village the writer of Luke doesn’t very often say where he actually is, just that he is moving around. So we don’t know what village he is in. But we know that he is in Galilee, in that region around the Sea of Galilee and the west and southwest of that. And we know that, because the passage mentions Herod and Herod is the king of that area. And we also know that Jesus isn’t in Jerusalem because we know he’s in Galilee, and also because in the passage he says he is on the way to Jerusalem. So he is not there, but he is somewhere out in the country side of Galilee. And this is many chapters after Herod has beheaded John the Baptist. So he, Herod, shows up when he beheads John the Baptist, and doesn’t show up again until this passage, and then we see him again at the end of Luke. And I will talk about that a little later.

But at this point, we are in chapter 13. Jesus will continue being out in the country side hanging out here, and then finally will go to Jerusalem in chapter 19. That is when he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, that triumphant entry into Jerusalem that begins Holy Week. He knows that he is going to die, and has come to do the final thing that he has been brought here to do. So let us hear now for how God is speaking to us through these words of Luke’s Gospel.


This is an odd passage. I have to admit, there is a part of me that this week was annoyed that whoever put the lectionary together chose this text for this Sunday. It is an odd passage because in many ways it doesn’t fit in the surrounding narrative. As I mentioned, Jesus has been out and about in the villages preaching, teaching, healing, having encounters with people, having meals with people. And then this strange few sentences here that don’t have anything to do with what has been going on. Herod shows up all of a sudden and he wants to kill Jesus, even though there has been no mention that Herod had even heard of anything Jesus was doing. He shows up out of te blue wanting to kill Jesus. This passage is an interruption in the story.

The Herod that it mentions here is not the Herod of Jesus’ birth. You remember from the Christmas Eve stories of the magi coming and they come to King Herod and speak of the baby, and then Herod kills all the babies in Bethlehem. That was Herod the Great. He was the king of the area. If you think of modern day Israel and go a little more to the north, the east, and the south, that was the area that Herod the Great was king over. He died a little after Jesus was born, dying about 4 BCE. His land was then divided up among his children, two of which were also named Herod. That gets confusing. Herod Antipas got the regions of Galilee and Perea. Herod Aeschylus became king of Samaria and Judea, which is where Jerusalem was. Galilee is where Nazareth is, where Jesus lived. [note: the name is actually Archaleus; I was going on memory, and switched out Archaleus for Aeschylus, one of the three famous Greek writers of tragedy plays, along with Sophocles and Euripedes] So we are not talking Herod the Great here, we’re talking one of his sons, who wants to kill Jesus. Herod the Great tried to kill him as a baby, and now his son wants to kill him for whatever reason we don’t know. He shows up again at the end of Luke, after Jesus is been arrested and has been before Pontius Pilate. Pilate says to Jesus that he’s a Galilean, so he is under authority of Herod Antipas. And that Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time for the Passover. So we have the story of Jesus being sent to Herod, and Herod taunts him, makes fun of him, puts a fancy robe on him in a very sarcastic moment and gives him back to Pilate. So that is the same Herod that we will see at the end of Luke. We will get there when we get to Palm Sunday.

And so anyway, Jesus hears about this. And it’s the Pharisees that tell him. So often he’s had this antagonistic relationship with them, but here they warn him. “Herod wants to kill you,” they say. And Jesus, instead of being concerned, acts like he doesn’t care. “Ehhh, that’s fine,” he tells the Pharisees, “You go tell that fox...” (that is a very insulting term, to call the king a fox. The fox is a dirty, unclean animal. The king should be called a lion. That is a proper animal for a king. Jesus says, “You go tell that fox that I am busy. Tell them I have too much going on. I don’t have time for you to kill me. I can’t get out of my schedule long enough for this to happen, because I have some things to do. You go tell him that. And tell him also” (and this could be a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion here) “Tell him that I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Then I am going to have to leave.”

And then, what might be the source of Jesus’ confidence, he also says, “Tell him this: that it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.” Maybe Jesus knows he’s safe because he’s not in Jerusalem. He is saying to Herod, “You don’t have the power to kill me. Only the people in Jerusalem can do that. Only Herusalem gets to kill the prophets.”

And only Jerusalem does.

And then he laments that city. that city that kills those who are sent to it. And it is Lent now, so we can ask this question: How many prophets, over the last couple thousand years since Jesus’ time, have we killed? Or if not literally killed, how many have we ignored, pushed off to the margins, told to be quiet, not given any of our attention or time to?

Prophets have the job of making us uncomfortable. Because it is their job to point out our faults, point out the places where we are not alignment with God’s will, where our centers of truth are not aligned with God’s center of truth. That’s the job of the prophet. To point ot God and say “This is the way” and “We are not on that path. We need to change. We need to get back on that path.” And this could be the prophets that come to talk about sinfulness and straying from God and God’s will. But also the prophets that have come to warn us of environmental change, or that women should have equal rights as men, that gays and lesbians should have equal rights. The prophets that have come to challenge our thinking. Challenge our way of being. Challenge us to include more people, to be more godly, to live more in God’s kingdom. We are, after all, citizens of heaven. Prophets challenge us to live more into that citizenship.

And so Jesus laments Jerusalem of being the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. And then he also this moment of incredible tenderness. Beautiful tenderness. He is lamenting the city, and then shows why he laments. One doesn’t lament over something that you don’t love, or that you don’t care about. If you didn’t care for it, you wouldn’t lament its existence or non-existence. Jesus cares deeply for Jerusalem. He says how often he has desired to gather her children as a mother hen gathers her brood under wings. A beautiful image. A motherly image. Total protection. This all-embracing love. To fully protect and have the people of Jerusalem completely enclosed by his protective love. The protective love of a mother hen. The love that a hen has for her chicks, her brood. But then Jesus laments again. He says, “But you have not been willing.” He is saying, “I have often wanted to bring you under my wings, but you have not wanted it. you have been unwilling. You have not wanted that love. You may have said that you wanted it, you may have prayed loudly and gone on and on about how much you want the love, but your actions have said otherwise. You have not acted that way. You don’t want to accept my love unless I give it to you on your terms. You have a specific way that you are willing to accept my love. And it doesn’t work that way. My love comes my way. God’s way.”

There is a Lenten message in that. Something to think about, these forty days of repentance and self-evaluation on our journey to Easter. Ask: Where, when, in what ways, are you or I unwilling to allow ourselves to be fully under Jesus’ wings? Where have we been when, why have we been, unwilling to fully trust in Christ’s love? Christ’s protective love like that mother hen with her brood under her wings. What do we reject hearing, what do we reject being? What conditions are we putting on this, that we want to have met first, that may stop us from fully knowing this kind of love? What makes us act like Jerusalem? And what do we need to do to be otherwise? What do we need to do to find the faith to be willing to let Jesus do what he has so long desired to do? what ought we change in ourselves to be willing to be gathered as a brood? And how do we as Plymouth, as a congregation, as God’s gathered people, How do we as a church reject or deny or refuse to live fully under Jesus by not trusting enough, or not putting our hope in Jesus?

All good things to think about during Lent. And during the rest of the year. Some good questions for all times on our faith journey.

And then Jesus ends this lament, “See, your house is left to you.” And I think he is looking at Jerusalem and lamenting and he is saying here, “They all think that they are in charge, so I am going to let them be in charge. I am going to leave their house to them. That is what they want, that is what they will have.” And as we know, it will be to their own detriment and their own destruction and failure. At least for many of them.
One of our biggest mistakes, or sins if you want to use that word, is to think that we are in charge. To think that it’s up to us to decide how things ought to be, or to get things done, or to think we are sovereign over ourselves. It’s not, and we’re not. We are citizens of heaven. We are citizens of God’s realm.

Then Jesus offers his final words. He says, “You will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. And as I mentioned, Jesus does not go to Jerusalem throughout the rest of the Gospel until Palm Sunday, that final week of his life. Holy Week. He finally enters on Palm Sunday in that triumphal entry with the palms and the singing and the alleluias, and one thing that is said as he comes in is, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” He said, “You won’t see me, Jerusalem, until you hear those words.” And that is what is heard as he comes into Jerusalem. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” as he comes into the city.

And he said, “O Jerusalem, how I have longed to gather you as a mother hen gathers her children under her wings.”

Keep that in your heart through the rest of Lent, as you journey toward Easter.


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