Sermon from Sunday February 24th 2013 / 2nd Sunday in the Season of Lent
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / February 24th / 2nd Sunday in the Season of Lent, Luke 13:31-35.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course. Nevertheless, I must go on My way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In Aesop’s Fables Foxes are crafty, and in Jimmy Hendrix’s lyrics a Fox is attractive, but Jesus isn’t calling King Herod clever or beautiful. In the Old Testament the Fox is lumped in with the Jackal, they are of a minor nature compared to animals like Bears or Lions, they only rule in desolation once there are no really predators left and because of this they are considered more of a pest than a threat. Jeremiah, who we heard from in our Old Testament Reading, on a different occasion warns the people of the coming destruction of Jerusalem telling the people that God, “will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals,” if they don’t repent. In the Song of Solomon, the Bride asks the Bride Groom to, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” In that poetic language the children of Israel, the church, asks God to clear away the pests that would spoil the vineyard, spoil the church, spoil the people, spoil the fruits of their righteousness.
So while people in Jesus’ day may be aware of the popular Greek idea of a fox being clever, the underlying tone in Jesus’ comment is that no matter how crafty or cunning or cleaver people may consider Herod to be, Herod is really nothing but a stuffed shirt, a pest, an opportunistic and weak enemy, an empty threat to Jesus, a puny villain when stacked up next to that Lion, the devil, that “prowls around ... seeking someone to devour.” A Fox alone is skittish around men and is scared off with a quickly cast stone. Now Herod was dangerous, he’d killed John the Baptizer and he’d killed other people that got in his way. This however doesn’t worry Jesus. Jesus knows the journey He’s personally on, a path that takes Him to the cross, and Jesus knows that this path will not end as the Pharisees are warning Him, His work will not be interrupted by that Fox, King Herod, Jesus’ work must run its course and in the end while Herod may have a part to play in His death, it won’t be Herod who signs the death warrant: that warrant will be signed by the ones He’s come to save, by the people of Jerusalem.
Before Lent started, when we were contemplating and thinking about the events which took place on the Mount of Transfiguration, we heard this little phrase in the Gospel reading from that day which will be helpful to think about in connection to today’s reading “behold, two men were talking with [Jesus], Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”What does this mean? At the cross, in His death, Jesus departed from Jerusalem. This departure was likewise meant to fulfill all righteousness. This conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah was to show where Jesus would go to His death and that would be in Jerusalem, it wouldn’t be anywhere else. King Herod didn’t live in Jerusalem he lived on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus knew that the Christ wouldn’t die on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was going to die in Jerusalem. Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah happened before the conversation the Pharisees are having with Jesus in today’s reading, this is why Jesus isn’t troubled about any possible interruptions in the unfolding events of His crucifixion, He is confident that His Heavenly Father will pave the way for the work ahead of Him and that there will be no detours, no devastating pot holes, no obstructions along the way. And when anyone sets up a detour sign, even a well meaning one, Jesus is quick to trust His Heavenly Father and rebuke the one who is trying to get Him off the narrow path to the cross, off of the narrow path to your salvation. Today’s Gospel shows His confidence in the fulfilment of the prophecies laid out before Him.
Jeremiah in our Old Testament Lesson is also very confident that God will get done what God wants, regardless – or even in spite of the plans of others, “Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that He has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” Jeremiah says these words during an official and public trial, the threat of death is a very real one, his life hung by a thread: that day Jeremiah did not die, on that day Jeremiah lived and was not put to death, God still had more work for Jeremiah to do, in the same way Jesus was not put to death by King Herod, like King Herod had killed John the Baptizer and as the Pharisees were predicting to Jesus, God the Father still had more for Jesus to do. Jesus Himself says “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course.” Here we have more foreshadowing of Jesus’ death – for three days He was in the Tomb and on the third day, when all was finished there in that place, on that day He was raised from the dead to be “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” the first fruits of the Dead who now in Christ have obtained eternal life. Jesus is confident of this unfolding plan of salvation and He is also confident that that Fox Herod will not disrupt this plan.
Are you this confident in your salvation? Are you preoccupied by the very real road bumps and detours that present themselves along the way of your life? Are you tempted to place your trust in the advice of well-meaning bystanders, like the advice from the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading? Are you tempted to unseat God and set up your own worries on God’s throne (do you worship and idolize your misfortunes instead of enduring them?); are you more comfortable with your own hands on the wheel of life, than with the plans that God your heavenly Father has for you? Would you be willing with Jeremiah, to say to your troubles, those Foxes and Jackals in your life, “But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves.” Are you confident to say that in the face of your troubles? Remember Psalm 116 says that, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Are you willing to let God be your defender in the face of suffering and possible death? Saint Paul comforts us saying, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Jeremiah trusted this, Jesus trusted this, in your baptism you can trust this too.
When you attempt to wrestle away from God His best wishes for you, His love of you, His mercy for you, His defence of you in the face of trouble, so that you can set up what seems pleasing to you in place of His gifts, you are breaking the first Commandment, in such situations we all set up idols in place of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we make for ourselves other gods and we worship them in place of the One True God. This is what Jesus is being tempted to do here. He is being tempted to abandon God, abandon the plan of salvation, abandon you. Last Week we heard of Jesus being tempted to turn away from God the Father by the Devil in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted to abandon the plan of Eternal Salvation for an immediate and transient solutions to things like hunger and the abuse of power. For you and for your Eternal Salvation Jesus would not give into the temptations of that Lion (the Devil) and in today’s reading Jesus refuses to be frightened by the threat of this Fox (King Herod). For every time you’ve caved in to fear, for every time you’ve broken that first Commandment cutting God out of your plans, for each time you’ve chosen to fight your own fight without God’s help, for each of these times Jesus was victorious over the same sorts of temptations. He crushed the Lions Head, He drove away the skittish Fox, the ravenousness Jackal and because of His perfect Trust your lack of trust, your lack of confidence in God is forgiven. Ask and you shall receive this forgiveness.
This is what Jesus wants when He looks out to Jerusalem and says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus wants for them to put their trust in Him and not in themselves, He wants them to enter into the kingdom like little Children trusting their heavenly Father, He wants them to trust the prophesies found in the Scriptures and to have confidence in the Holy Spirit who moves to bring these prophesies to fulfilment. He wants them to have the confidence of Jeremiah in the face of trouble. He wants them to have His own perfect confidence. This final and complete perfection will come to you on the last day in your resurrection to new life; in the mean time you have hope in that resurrection because the prowling Lion, the Fox, the Jackal and all of your enemies were defeated at the cross by the shedding of the innocent Blood of Jesus and at the empty tomb, when He was risen to Eternal Life.
Be strong therefore when your life is threatened and remember that because Jesus conquered all your enemies you can be courageous too. Saint Paul tells us that, “in all [the sufferings and troubles of life] we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure” Saint Paul says, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and/or the sword: none of these things can separate us from the Love of Christ. This likewise is Jeremiah’s confidence and it is the purpose and reason for Jesus’ confidence in the plan of Salvation. He does this so that, you will, on the Last Day be gathered into heaven where you will be safe and secure for eternity; where you will never suffer fear or weak resolve again, where no Lion prowls looking to devour you, where no Fox or Jackal will seek to pick you off and eat you, where you will have perfect trust and perfect confidence in your heavenly Father, in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, you will have these things just as Christ Jesus had, just as Christ Jesus has. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy, Lord Have Mercy, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Jeremiah 9:11
 Song of Solomon 2:15
 Aesop’s Fables were purported to be written around 400 years before the birth of Christ.
 1 Peter 5:8
 Luke 9:9
 Luke 9:30-31
 Jeremiah 26:12-15
 1 Corinthians 15:20
 Psalm 116:15
 Romans 12:19
 Romans 8:37-39
 Romans 8:35