As you will hear in this PODCAST, there is No.Clearer.Picture in all of the Bible of the heart of God towards sinners — I’m talking the hardest of hardhearted sinners — than this one right here in Luke 13.
A Scriptural snapshot that will go a long way to defining your Biblical view of God and your Biblical understanding of Jesus, both as a man and as God.
If you think of the Bible as a picture book, Luke paints for us a portrait of Jesus that is, quite frankly, irresistible, and most refreshing to my soul. It will be to yours as well. Guaranteed.
One that comes to us, ironically enough, thanks to a small cadre of good Pharisees. Yes! You heard me right. Good Pharisees.
The Pharisees as a group, as we have discussed in weeks gone by, and as you therefore understand, were historically among Jesus’ chief tormentors. That being said, there were in the minority some good Pharisees.
Nicodemus comes to mind as a good Pharisee, one who lovingly cared for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.
In Mark 12, Jesus told a good Pharisee that he was “not far from the Kingdom of God.”
In Acts 15, reference is made to a number of good Pharisees who were committed Christ-followers.
And here in Luke 13, we find a small group of good Pharisees who traveled likely from Galilee to Perea to warn Jesus about the murderous intentions of Antipas.
This, my dear friends, is quite a gripping story.
So, let’s begin by reading Jesus’ words in Luke 13:34,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! 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.”
So, here we are in Perea – a geographical destination that is not mentioned anywhere, specifically, in our four Gospels. It’s known as the “region across the Jordan River”. Jesus was pretty much living in exile – a man without a home. Which is why Jesus said back in Luke 9:58,
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Yet, as I mentioned, even this Man without a home still had some good Pharisees who were going to great measures to look out for His well being, as we read in Luke 13:31-
At that time some Pharisees said to him, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!”
32 Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. 33 Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!
I find it interesting – even a bit ironic – that Jesus uses the word “fox” to describe Herod… the same word he used earlier in describing lowly creatures who have dens while He was without a place to lay His head. At this moment, Herod was out to kill Jesus while able to rest each night in his palace.
Herod’s hatred for Jesus was absolutely palpable. We see evidence of this on the morning of Jesus’ crucifixion, as He stood before Herod in His “mockery of a trial”.
Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus. He regarded Jesus as little more than a carnival monkey and wanted only to see Jesus perform miracles for his enjoyment. He wanted cheap entertainment – a magic show. He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer.
What I find amazing is how Herod – in his exploitation of the Son of God – contributed in his own way to the fulfillment of a 700 year-old-prophesy in Isaiah 53:7,
He was oppressed and treated harshly yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
Meanwhile, the priests and teachers of the law stood there shouting their accusations, so Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. And once again, Herod unwittingly behaved just as God had said through King David in Psalm 22:
Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads saying, “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?”
And so we read of Herod Antipas, as Jesus stood silently before him, harshly sneering, mocking and ridiculing the Son of God.
Finally, we read Antipas’ men put a royal robe on Jesus’ shoulders and sent Him back to Pilot. Herod, no doubt was frustrated that he didn’t receive the magic show he had anticipated.So, back in Luke 13:32, when Jesus referred to Herod as a fox, we know today just how wily and harsh of a fox Herod truly was. But Jesus was never one to be intimidated. He knew His schedule. In fact, the whole world operates on His schedule, not Herod’s. This is why Jesus told the good Pharisees, “You to tell that fox Herod Antipas that I’m not ready to die yet. Not here. Not today.”
Yet, those words were followed by Jesus’ heartbreaking words for His beloved people in His beloved city:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! (Luke 13:34)
Wait… what? Jerusalem killed God’s prophets? Sadly, we read the following:
So they conspired against him [Zechariah], and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 24:21)
Then we read in Jeremiah 23:
Now there was also a man who prophesied in the name of the Lord, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath Jearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah…
…And they brought Urijah from Egypt and brought him to Jehoiakim the king, who killed him with the sword and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people. (Jeremiah 26:20, 23)
Again, we read in 2 Kings 21:16 that
King Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the Lord.
Moving to the New Testament, we read in Acts 7:59-60,
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
He died in Jerusalem – the “City of Peace”. But, by her own choices this city has known very little peace in her history. Not then. Not today.
Yet it is still the city that God will always love. It’s His “mailing address”. It’s inhabitants are God’s family and friends, as is written in Psalm 122:
Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
May all who love this city prosper.
7 O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls
and prosperity in your palaces.
8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,
“May you have peace.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.
Yet Jerusalem is also the city for which God mourns – centuries ago when they were led into captivity throughout history and even today.
As Jesus, Himself said in Luke 13:34-35,
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. 35 And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
So, while Herod is a fox who preys on chicks, Jesus is the hen who longs to protect them.
Yet they refused and rejected Him. Even evicted Him.
This is perhaps why Jesus uses the words “your house” instead of calling it His own.
This is further proof that given enough time, God will give us exactly what we want. In my estimation, THAT is the definition of God’s wrath or punishment. And that is exactly what happened in 586 BC and in 70 AD.
He will remove His hand of protection and He will give them exactly what they want. Just as we read in Ezra 8:22,
“Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.”
This is a lesson our own country desperately needs to hear.
I’m reminded of R.C.H. Lenski’s interpretation of Luke’s Gospel, when he wrote:
“Grace is not irresistible; every case of resistance proves it… Damnation results from man’s own will, which settles into permanent, obdurate unaccountable resistance against God’s will of grace. The more God draws the will with the power of grace, the more this will rejects God until grace can do no more.
…Jesus willed to save them, but they willed it not.”
Yet, God weeps, as He wants all of His children to come home to Him… even at the cost of His own Son’s life.