Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 28 April 2013
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Reference: Luke 13 v 31-35
Disney have a film called the “Fox and the Hound” which used to be watched in our home when our boys were small. Images of animal create a connection with us, and Jesus uses this when he compares Herod to a fox and himself to a hen. As we consider this passage these two images will come to the fore.
We have three characters to consider:
This was Herod Antipas who at this stage had recently beheaded John the Baptist, and would have a part to play in the execution of Jesus. We know that Herod was an able, ambitious and successful man. As a strong man of Palestine, he took who he wanted – including his brother’s wife – ruled over Galilee and had huge wealth and a palace. But appearances can be deceptive. On the surface this was one of the great men of the day. But the fact was that the man was a moral and spiritual wreck, at the mercy of his manipulative wife and his own lusts. It is God who gives the verdict on our life – not the tabloid press.
Jesus knew what Herod was all about – he called him a “fox”. He was someone who may appear to be OK on the surface, but the reality was that underneath he was scheming, manipulative, cunning, predatory and, like a fox, a carrier of disease that could infect everything he touched..
God knows what we are really like. For those of us who have found this out it is wonderful to have a saviour who has paid the price for our uncleanness. For those of us who have not, all the bravado and success in the world will not stand up against an all-seeing God.
…not really a character, but a place that represents God’s people. It seems that once Jesus thoughts turn to where he was headed, he is overcome by a lament for the city (see below). But in the meantime, we consider the fact that Jerusalem had been the centre of God’s purposes for his people and therefore for the whole world. And yet, far from being the model of righteousness which God intended to bring salvation to the world, it was a place with a history of rejecting God’s servants. God’s fiercest opponents normally come in religious garb.
So we have two forms of opposition to God and to His Messiah – one overtly hostile and worldly and one which has a religious face. We are in no different a position today. How do we respond to it? We have the opportunity at seeing how Jesus himself responded to it.
The responses of Jesus serve as a model to us.
a. Anger. It was clear that Jesus had a judgement of Herod that he was happy for everyone to know. Jesus always calls a spade a spade, and so must we.
b. Steely determination. The “three day” comment is not a reference to the resurrection (except possibly obliquely) but is in fact a Jewish figure of speech to indicate that he will finish his course. What Jesus is saying is that nothing will hinder Him for doing the job that His Father has given Him to do. It is true of Jesus and it is true for us too. If we desire to follow God with all our hearts, there is no opposition that can stop us. The gates of hell will not be able to stand against the church.
c. Compassion. We now see Jesus at His most tender and compassionate. Jesus compares himself to the Mother hen that rushes to protect its flock. Jesus says how longs to do that. Clearly Jesus has in mind the city of the day and their response to Him. It is also reasonable to assume that he refers to the nation of Israel over time. But we can also apply the sentiments to the heart that Jesus has for those who he died for and who are holding out against His love. Jesus longs to pour out his love on men and women…but a response is needed
d. Judgement. Jesus acknowledges the response of the city of Jerusalem and indicates that it will always have its consequences. Rejecting the love of God has devastating consequences for the nation of Israel, for each sinner and for the world, as there is nothing left to protect them against the wrath of God. “Look, your house is left to you desolate” refers to the horrific consequences of rejecting Jesus love. The consequences for the Jews of his generation – who would – with their own eyes see Jerusalem fall – for the Jewish people down the ages, who would experience the consequences of the rejection of God’s Messiah, and on each individual who will have to accept the consequence of their rejection of God.
The words of Isaiah are appropriate:
Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
Daughter Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
like a city under siege. (Isaiah 1)
Is there any hope for those who have rebelled against God?
The good news is that there is. Jesus says “You will not see me until you say ”Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. This is in fact a very positive message. When anyone actively welcomes Jesus, he will meet them where they are, be their refuge and they can have all the benefits of being part of his family. As He has always wanted to, He spreads his wings over them and tends them. As he says in Revelation 3, he will come and eat with them. The gracious invitation of Jesus for them to be a part of his family is still there. Would it not be extremely foolish to turn down such a gracious offer?