The Second Sunday in Lent; Year C (2/21/2016)

Lessons:Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Psalm 27 (5) Philippians 3:17–4:1 St. Luke 13:31-35

Prayer of the Day: God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross you promise everlasting life to the world,  Gather all peoples into your arms and shelter us with your mercy, that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

13.31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 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. 33 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.’ 34 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!35 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.’ ”

St. Luke 13:31-35 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

 

A Determined Jesus

In the new Testament, the Pharisees are among a number of first century Jewish officials who often find themselves in conflict with Jesus (also including the Sadducees, the scribes and the Chief Priests). There are so many examples of this, that in our language the term pharisee (or pharisaic) has come to mean someone who is haughty, self-righteous, hypocritical…

The picture isn’t completely black and white, though. In today’s text, it appears that some of the Pharisees are concerned for the wellbeing of Jesus. They become aware that Herod has plans to kill him, so they come to him and warn him to leave town because he is in danger.

You might expect Jesus to be curious about why they are concerned. Or maybe bemused at the fact that members of this group, who have already called his actions into question as early as the fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 5:17-26), are worried about him getting hurt.

His response hardly considers them. What we notice, instead, is an immediate and determined effort to make it clear that he is not the least bit afraid of King Herod, and has no intention of altering his course simply because the king is out to get him. There is a sense of purpose and direction about Jesus’ ministry now, that wasn’t apparent just a few chapters earlier. Jesus knows, it seems, he is headed to Jerusalem. Jesus knows, it seems, that prophets often found great opposition in that city. Jesus knows, it seems, that his life will be in grave danger the minute he steps inside the walls. Yet he doesn’t waver a bit from his mission.

Some believe that this is, in part, because of the experience he had on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah. They met him in glory, spoke with him about the departure (Exodus) he is about to accomplish in Jerusalem, and from this point on he has a determined purpose that nobody can diminish.

So Jesus doesn’t respond by arguing with the Pharisees, or by speculating about King Herod’s motives. Instead he declares his determination to go to Jerusalem no matter the cost, and gives them some insight as to why. He describes himself as a mother hen, filled with compassion, whose deep love and commitment to the people drives him to risk great danger to love and comfort them.

Jerusalem may be the city of death for God’s prophets, but Jesus is the source of love and comfort for God’s people. The day will indeed come when they say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (We’ll celebrate this on March 24th this year.) The day will also come when he spreads his arms wide and embraces the world in love.

This Sunday, as we sing “Blessed is he…” in preparation for the meal, perhaps we’ll remember his love and compassion for all people, including us. Perhaps we will also remember how he continues to spread his arms wide across the face of the earth, to welcome all people into God’s love.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why were the Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod?
  2. What does the determination of Jesus say about his sense of mission?
  3. How did the first century reader of Luke’s Gospel hear Jesus’ reference to “Blessed is he…”?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has Jesus been a source of love and comfort for me?
  2. In what ways does his love for me strengthen my sense of mission?
  3. How can I live in service to his mission of sharing love with the entire world?