Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 27)

This sermon is not based on one of the Lectionary readings but is added here for your personal use or may be applicable at some other time for use in your congregation

Text: Luke 13:31-35
Jesus replied, "Go tell that fox (Herod) that I will keep on casting out demons and doing miracles of healing today and tomorrow" (verse 32).

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me" (verse 34)

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Foxes and hens

Do you find one image of Jesus more meaningful to you than another? When you think of Jesus what picture comes to mind?

Is it the Jesus who controls storms or stands at an open tomb and raises the dead?
Is it the Jesus who heals and calms the troubled mind?
Is it the Jesus who speaks forgiveness to the guilt-ridden conscience?
Is it Jesus the Good Shepherd who promises to walk with his sheep when danger threatens?
Is it Jesus the King wearing a crown and royal robes as he rules heaven and earth?
It is Jesus the rebel who dares stand against the authorities?
Is it Jesus the champion of social justice as he defends the poor and the underprivileged?
Is it the suffering Jesus who in great pain carries his cross through the streets of Jerusalem suffering as we do?
Or is it the baby Jesus sweet and gentle with adoring parents and shepherds around his manger-bed?

I’d hate to count how many churches I have visited in my travels and how many different pictures, statues, and frescoes of Jesus can be found representing all these differing images of Jesus.

However, when asked which of the biblical images of Christ do I relate to the most I would have to say "It depends …". It depends on what is happening in my life at any particular moment. There are those times when Jesus the Good Shepherd speaks to me clearest and then there are times when the crucified Jesus or the comforting Jesus is more meaningful or the risen and victorious Jesus when dealing with sickness and death.

Maybe this just goes to show that Jesus is a person for all people and all occasions regardless of age, social standing, the troubles they are enduring, how bold and confident or vulnerable and defenceless they are feeling.

From today’s reading from Luke, two facets of this remarkable, complex Jesus of Nazareth are highlighted.

First, the tough Jesus.  Some Pharisees came to Jesus with a warning:  "Herod is looking for you and wants to kill you. You had better get out of here." 

This was the same Herod who ordered the execution of John the Baptist.  He is a tyrant not to be taken lightly. He was a son of the notorious "Herod the Great", the killer of the infants at Bethlehem. Like his father he was cruel and ambitious.

The response of Jesus was tough and direct, "You go and tell that fox, Herod, that I will keep on dealing with people’s needs until I’m finished."

Now that is a tough response to a tyrant.  Jesus was a strong person, resilient in character, hard as nails when the occasion called for it.
He had no trouble calling the religious leaders ‘hypocrites’ or saying to his disciple, Peter, "Get behind me Satan".
He had no trouble overturning the tables of the money changers and stall holders in the temple.
He made no bones about the fact that those who reject him reject the one who sent him and they will end up weeping and gnashing their teeth in hell.

This is no pretty-boy Jesus, no sentimental dreamer. Jesus knew the score. Herod had killed his cousin John but he was not going to be intimidated. He was bold and confident. He knew what was about to happen but it will happen when he says it’s the right time. He was tough when it came to sin ruling people’s lives. If he wasn’t tough on sin then he would hardly have given his life on the cross.

Placed right beside this picture of a tough Jesus we see the compassion of Jesus.  

Luke immediately shows Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me. 

We can visualise a clucky hen rounding up her chickens and fluffing her feathers protectively over them – a picture of the compassionate Jesus – the same Jesus whom we have just seen as tough when it comes to wickedness and evil.  

You and I can never appreciate the depth of feeling a Jew like Jesus had for Jerusalem. Idealised as the city of God, Jerusalem was woven into their prayers, songs and conversation. No earthly place was more precious to Jesus the Jew.

On Palm Sunday as Jesus looked over Jerusalem on his way down the Mount of Olives, he wept. Jerusalem had rejected the One sent by almighty God to bring peace and forgiveness. It turned away from the love that God was showing them through his own Son just as they had done in the past when God had sent the prophets. Jerusalem rejected him and killed him outside its walls.

With tears in his eyes and pain in his heart Jesus states, "The time will come when your enemies .... will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!" (Luke 19:43-44).  

Can you feel the pain Jesus felt; the love that Jesus felt for his people and the disappointment in his heart? Can you feel the compassion; profound human compassion, intense divine compassion?

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't le me.

Here you have it. Jesus the tough character, who wouldn’t give an inch to the rule of evil, is also Jesus the passionate lover of his people. He is the man who longed to mother the people of Jerusalem. Their rejection of Jesus was the rejection of the greatest compassion this world has known.

And yet the mystery is that Jesus, as he weeps over Jerusalem, and as he weeps over the world and the church and over each one of us today, doesn’t give up on those whom he loves. He still goes on reaching out to embrace them. In the end Jesus stretches out his arms to embrace Jerusalem one last time - from the cross, praying for their forgiveness, even as they kill him.

God does not give up on those who have given up on him. Our Father in heaven is tough on sin and will not excuse it as it didn’t matter but he is also tough in his resolve to embrace all people and on the cross allowed his Son to bring all people back under his wings:

The door is not closed. The day of grace and forgiveness continues. Those brooding wings still hover. The voice of the Gospel still speaks, calling people to repentance and salvation. There is still time for them to hear God’s call and respond.

Jesus has not given up on the people in your life - kids or spouse, siblings or parents, relatives or friends who turn away from Jesus Christ and reject the faith they once had - Jesus has not given up on them – and neither should you.

Pray for them. Be tough in your resolve and passionate in your desire to have them come under the wings of their heavenly Father. When we do this, we collaborate with God's Spirit, who prays in us and with us and works in the lives of those people as he invites them, calls them to shelter under God’s wings.

I started by talking about how we relate to the various images of Jesus. The one we encountered today is the tough yet compassionate Jesus. May God's Spirit fill us with the same resolve to be tough on the sin that threatens to overtake our lives and our world but also show the same compassion as Jesus did on the Mount of Olives when his greatest desire was embrace all people with his love and forgiveness.

Let’s rejoice that God is dead serious when he says he is our mother hen and wants to embrace us under his wings.
Let’s ask him to develop in us the same kind of mother hen attitude toward one another.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
7th November 2010

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