Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave 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 reach My goal.’ Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'” (Luke 13:31-35 NASB)
When I was a kid and my family would be going on a long vacation, occasionally I was allowed to pack my own bag my way. It was only when it didn’t matter whether I brought enough socks and underwear though. My bag inevitably ended up with lots of stuff that made no sense and served little to no purpose. But I had an explanation for everything that was in there. It made sense to me. In a way, Luke’s preservation of this dialogue of Jesus is like my child-travel bag.
Luke is clearer here than in other places about the timing connecting back to what came before. More than one Pharisee comes to Jesus with the warning, and the warning sounds like they care about Jesus. Jesus’ response is to call Herod a fox (and not in a cute sense), and then proceed to delineate His itinerary of healing and exorcisms over the next three days until He reaches His goal. And I have to ask whether Jesus is giving a clue to the “3-Days-In-The-Grave” thing coming up quickly; where He is in the grave today, the next day, and the following day rises from the dead.
But then Jesus goes on to lament over Jerusalem even though He’s not there yet. He will do it again once He arrives, but here laments about how unreceptive the city has been to her God and His prophets and messengers. How long has Jesus desired to gather her children as a hen gathers her chicks? It’s possible Jesus is describing much more than His earthly life time, though the ones hearing Him wouldn’t have understood that. “But you would not have it” is a sad commentary on a city whose claim to fame is as the “Place where God placed His Name.” The commentary is to become an epitaph, as is clear in Jesus’ prophesy over the city when He arrives.
This last statement about the city though, I think, is a foreshadowing of the Triumphal Entry, and not some end-time reference. This prophecy is really about the city receiving Him, but at the same time, foreshadows His eventual rejection. It only takes a few days to come to be, so it’s not a prophecy of some future yet to be. And the quote within it is from Psalm 118, which also sounds like a hodge-podge of praise about God and to God. Psalm 118 is where we find “The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone.” It’s where we find “This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And then, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
It’s a weird statement from a weird Psalm. The context doesn’t really illuminate why Jesus would use it here. What did it mean to the Pharisees? What did it mean to the disciples? Does this Psalm refer to some event in the minds of first-century Jews? Not that I’m aware, which means little really. I am more inclined to believe Jesus is simply foreshadowing the day He arrives in Jerusalem. Perhaps these same Pharisees who have lied about Herod will be there, see the entry, and remember this statement. Who knows. And yes, they lied about Herod.
So what is my lesson, my take-away from this? Jesus doesn’t subscribe to my illusions. He isn’t fooled by those things I use to fool myself and others. Jesus sees through them, through their distractions and focus’ on His purpose, His plan and goal. He will not be deterred from Jerusalem, and the cross, the grave, and the empty tomb. So, I also need to be honest about my illusions. I need to learn what the Pharisees did not. Why not learn from Jesus? Unlike them, I know He’s God, shouldn’t I listen to God? Why not share Jesus’ focus, purpose, plan, and goal? Do I have better ones? Not letting the distractions of warnings, fears, empty and hollow fears, is the necessary approach to life with Jesus. But like Peter, the wind and wave distract me from walking on water. The hollow warnings of those seeking my destruction draw my attention. The ridiculous and the easy distract from the beautiful and difficult. Jesus was undeterred in His pursuit of the cross. I can be undeterred in my pursuit of His goal for my life.
What do you learn from this passage?