Second Sunday in Lent

by Bear Wade

Luke 13:31-35
(Second Sunday in Lent)
analysis by Robin Morgan

31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

DIAGNOSIS: The Power of the Fox

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Prophet Killing
The text suggests a rather drastic beginning. Certainly not something civilized late twentieth century types like us care to acknowledge might be part of our agenda. But Luke is clear about Jerusalem who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. That sort of practice is not done with the authority of the office of Herod. Some of the Pharisees, who may be sympathetic to Jesus and his mission, are aware of the this Herodian power, but from Herod’s standpoint it would never be called “prophet killing.” It would be called “keeping the peace” or “maintaining the status quo” or “retaining the sanctity of our religion.” Even late twentieth century readers know these phrases–and shudder.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Cowering
The problem for the people of Jerusalem is that they were willing to acquiesce to Herod’s agenda as an acceptable way of life, as the standard terrain in Jerusalem. After a while, it becomes difficult to tell the Herods apart from those who have merely accepted his style of management. We need not think that this was due to willing cooperation with the power of the “fox.” The problem is that victims of oppression can themselves begin to believe that the power of the oppressor is superior–and also believe that cowering in fear is their only recourse. In essence, not making waves against the power structure becomes not only the accepted practice, but the only acceptable belief (or rather, unbelief).

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: In the House Alone
There is a worse fate that besets Jerusalem under the tight ship of Herod. The locks that keep the house secure not only keep the people locked in, but also keep any outside help locked out. God leaves the house and its occupants to themselves, alone. The city and its foxy leader, and any who reject those sent by God, are lost to the One who judges. They are walled up unto themselves. For Jerusalem, there is to be no Davidic messiah to reign–only a reign of terror and suppression. But the suppression that comes from God’s own isolation is more oppressive than any Herod can dish out.

PROGNOSIS: The Hen and Her Chicks

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Jesus, The Mother Hen
What joyous relief, then, comes in the yearning of God’s representative, Jesus. Jesus is the mother hen who is not about to abandon the house to the foxes–or to leave the chicks abandoned. His wings are soft and warm, and his calling is clear and inviting. There is tremendous risk for the mother hen in extending her wings. But she would rather give her life than leave her children abandoned to the wiles of a fox-trodden oppression. Jesus is the Davidic messiah who establishes his reign upon the throne in Jerusalem. Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Gathered
Our being gathered under his wings brings us into Mother Hen’s house, and asserts that Mother Hen is running the hen-house. Here the homeless chicks are given shelter like they receive from no other. Gathered into one, the chicks are no longer chicken. They find their security in Mother Hen, and believe that their Mothering Lord can provide for them and can keep them safe from the dangers that lie in wait in the world of foxy oppressors–and keep them confident that they live in God’s holy house.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Living for the Day
And so the chicks who’ve come to depend on and trust in Him live life in a new way — not bound to control and fear, but free to tell others of the ultimate gift who was sent to gather us all under his wings and into the Father’s arms. As chicks, they go about their business living for the day–“today, tomorrow, and the next day.” There is the same patience and irony that they inherit from their Mother Hen, which infuriates the foxes whose control fades with the dawning of the new day. To be sure, the foxes of this world will always be with us. Prophet killing, unfortunately, is still abroad in our world; but we are forever welcome and safe under the shadow of the wings of our Lord. We have been given strength to live new lives in this world and offer this same newness to everyone we meet.


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