Readings: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 • Psalm 27:1-14 • Philippians 3:17-4:1 • Luke 13:31-35
The theme this week is God’s promises are sure. In Genesis we read about the promise God made to Abram, which we know came to pass. Psalm 27 reminds us we have nothing to fear and can live in confidence as we wait for the Lord. Paul reminded the church at Philippi (and us) that our citizenship is in heaven. This life is temporary. The truth that sustains us is that God is in control and his promises are sure. The sermon this week, from Luke 13, reminds us to not allow the threats and fears of the world to get in the way of what God is calling us to do. We often hear lies telling us Jesus is not in control, but we know the truth.
Jesus Gets the Last Word
Luke 13:31-35 (NRSV)
Introduction: Share a story about yourself or someone you know who was discouraged from doing the right thing. Ask members to share an example of when they were discouraged from doing the right thing.
It’s probably no surprise to you that Jesus did not get a lot of affirmation from the religious leaders of the day. Let me share one example from Luke:
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 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. Yet 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.’ Jerusalem, 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! See, 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” (Luke 13:31-35 NRSV).
At first glance, you may not give this passage much thought. But let’s notice what is going on here.
The passage begins with the Pharisees wanting Jesus to “Get away from here.” Both Herod and the Pharisees were probably fearful of Jesus being in their territory. Herod had political standing at risk and the Pharisees were losing ground to Jesus. Acting out of their fear of loss, they use cunning and trickery by saying, “Herod wants to kill you.”
Really? Let’s remember this wasn’t same Herod who had the children killed when Jesus was very young; that Herod had died. This is the Herod who said he wanted to meet Jesus after hearing about the miracles he did. Now, it’s possible Herod fluctuated from wanted Jesus to die, and being fascinated by what he was hearing about him. But it’s more likely the Pharisees’ warning was born out of fear and pride, and they are trying to use Herod to scare Jesus away. After all, Herod has displayed a cunning and brutally scheming heart to retain his power and prestige.
Let’s take my opening question a bit deeper. Are there times in our lives where we can relate to Herod and the Pharisees’ desire for control? Are there times we want to do things our way—when we want to be in control? Have you ever been in a situation where you would like to say (or perhaps you have said) “Look away for a moment, Jesus, I can take care of this my way”?
When Jesus enters our territory, he does so as Lord and Savior. He is the ruler and owner of all. He is the Lord of our life; do we trust him with this authority? When we don’t, we may find ourselves responding in fear and pride just like the Pharisees. We may trick ourselves and others that things would be better if Jesus would just move along and keep his nose out of our business.
You see, when we believe we are in control, or when we see ourselves as our own rulers and owners, we conclude there is much to lose if we lose that control. This leads to fear; and out of this fear we can find ourselves moving in devious and deceptive ways to hold on to our perceived control.
Fortunately, Jesus is not swayed by scheming, trickery or deceit.
Going back to Luke 13, Jesus recognizes their scheming and trickery and responds fearlessly:
“Go 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'” (Luke 13:32 NRSV).
Jesus, in contrast to Herod and the Pharisees, does not act out of fear or pride, but fearlessly proclaims that he will continue his work – work that will be completed in humiliation on the cross. Jesus acts like one who has nothing to lose, even as he heads to Jerusalem where he will lose his life. Jesus is the only one in this story who lives fearlessly.
Addressing Herod according to his tricky heart rather than his kingly crown is not just name calling—it is letting Herod know he sees him as he truly is. Jesus is the true ruler who knows the hearts of all people. He knows our hearts as well. We only fool ourselves when we live as if we are the ultimate authority of our own “territories.” When Jesus calls us out on our “foxy” ways, he does so to call us into a way of life that produces faith, hope and love.
How does Jesus live so fearlessly? How can he enter territory where he’s not wanted and continue doing the ministry he was called to do? How can he continue journeying to Jerusalem when it looks like a literal dead end? Jesus is getting his marching orders from another source, a trustworthy source that compels him forward with courage. Jesus knows and trusts the Father’s leading and mission for him. Jesus doesn’t have to second guess his every move. Notice his comment: “today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way.”
Jesus knows who’s really in charge in each territory he enters. He knows the true owner of all things and is therefore able to walk freely without fear of loss. God provides and guides towards his good purposes. This is also the walk Jesus holds out to us. How might our lives look if we journey with the Father trusting him with every step? What freedom and fearlessness await us as we walk with Jesus? The Father has made provision for us in his Son to journey with him in the Spirit with fearless freedom.
Jesus knows what awaits him. Notice how he alludes to the cross:
It is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! (Luke 13:33b-34a NRSV).
So that others understand Jesus is not condemning Jerusalem, Luke includes Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem.
How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34 NRSV).
This striking image of Jesus as a mother hen who gathers her chicks by spreading her wings reminds us of Jesus spreading his arms out on the cross to“draw all peopleto himself” (John 12:32 NRSV).
Between the fox and the hen, it is Jesus who establishes the pecking order and gets the last word. That last word is spoken on the cross as the “mother hen” lays down her life for her chicks.
This is a beautiful maternal metaphor that reveals something of the Father’s heart. God stands up to any “fox” who wants to threaten and scare us away. We are made for walking with the Lord, and Jesus has secured this purpose with his own blood.
Are you facing threats from social and societal pressures that tell you to “Get away” from Jesus? Many are afraid to share their faith because they are concerned about what others think. Don’t let this persuade you. Instead of fleeing in fear, be confident knowing Christ is with you. And what he is doing in your life, he will continue to do until completion.
When you find yourself wavering, remember who Jesus is.
When you have opportunity, share the good news about Jesus. The gospel isn’t a warning, it’s good news others need to hear.
When you feel you are losing control, let Jesus have the control. Watch how he leads you into right decisions.
After alluding to the destruction of the Temple, Jesus concludes the lament by saying:
You will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:35 NRSV).
This reference to Psalm 118 is a statement of seeing Jesus as King and Savior. Even when our world is falling apart around us, we can look to Jesus to be King in every circumstance and as the one who saves us. As we do this, we can “see him” working in our calamities and suffering.
Jesus came to renew and restore. His promises are sure. As you go through life, remind others of the sure promises of Jesus. They need his strength; they need confidence in him. They need to know they don’t have to live in fear and anxiety. Jesus started a good work and he will finish it.
Small Group Discussion Questions
- From how many territories (areas) in our lives are we tempted to try and chase Jesus away?
- Can you think of examples where we speak as if we are looking out for Jesus’ good, when we are really just trying to remain in control as rulers of our own territories?
- How might knowing and trusting the Father as ruler and owner of all set us free from the fear and pride of trying to control our own territories?
- How does the maternal metaphor of Jesus relating to us as a mother hen affect you? Does this help build you faith? Does it challenge your concept of who God is?
- Read Genesis 15:1-12: What was going on in Abram’s mind? What are some of God’s promises you struggle to hold on to?
- Read Psalm 27: What does this Psalm say to you? Share a time you’ve needed to hear the words of this Psalm.
- Philippians 3:17-4:1 talks about our citizenship in heaven. What does this mean to you?