31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He 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. 33 Yet 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.’ 34 Jerusalem, 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! 35 See, 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.’”
The second week of our sermon series has God moving past obstacles. I am always amazed at the way that we perceive God. At first, I struggled to see God overcoming obstacles. Then it dawned on me that we are the ones with the obstacles and allow them to be placed between God and us. Have you thought about how you picture God? Do you see God as this distant being that sits on a throne? Do you see God as being distant? Do you see God in another light like personal? Do you see God and you hanging out drinking a cup of coffee and chatting? Is that too much and maybe it’s somewhere in between?
The gospel lesson today is unique in the way that Jesus is approached by the Pharisees as a warning to what Herod might do. The Pharisees are trying to get rid of Jesus and the easiest way is if he will leave on his own. Every one knows that Herod had already disposed of John the Baptist beheading him to satisfy his sister-in-law’s desire to get rid of him…
Now Jesus is facing the obstacles that the ruling class of Herodians and the religious class the Pharisees are putting in the way. Jesus is going to go to Jerusalem and he explains again in today’s text that is where he is going. When he gets there, it is going to cause a scene and the Pharisees are trying to head things off at the pass before he gets there. Their intentions are really not that pure, they just don’t want to deal with the political fall-out. If the crowds continue to follow Jesus, the way that they are in the country-side what will happen in the city. If he starts healing for a couple days the crowds will be so thick it could cause traffic jams in the streets.
For Jesus there is no turning back. Jesus knows that he must go to Jerusalem because that is the will of God. “You tell that Fox,” he says, “that I will reach my goal.” Jessica LaGrone writes, “We associate foxes with being clever, cunning. But the truth is that a fox is deceptive and wily, a small animal reduced to chasing weak animals like chickens in the chicken yard, because it has no intrinsic power. Basically, Jesus is calling Herod a varmint.”
Those chickens are a nuisance. You ever had chickens? They are dirty and they are not the smartest animal in the world. They get their business in their feeders and their water. They are sometimes unpredictable about laying eggs and they can get mean. Ever been chased by a chicken? Let me tell you, you have not lived if you were not chased by a chicken as a kid going to get eggs for grandma. Only a mother could love those nasty birds and that is what Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees.
Jesus says, “Jerusalem, 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!” Which is the biggest obstacle for Jesus, Herod or the city itself? Jesus’ answer is remarkable in this moment when he says. “…I desire to gather your children together…” The word desire is very interesting here. The word is only used twice in the gospel. Such a strong word. There is emotion in the word desire. Jesus desires safety for God’s children. That is for you and I. God desires and longs for us God’s creation. Think about the story in Genesis.
Abraham has done as God asked and left the land of Ur of the Chaldeans but he is afraid that God is not going to give him an offspring. From the beginning of Genesis when Adam and Eve are in the garden, God is seeking them calling to them even when they had sinned. God calls, “Where are you?” Made in the very image of God they are desired. Now God promises Abraham that he will have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. God desires to be in contact with God’s creation. Yet God’s love of the creation and Jesus’ love for his children is opposed from the outside and Jesus keeps trying to move toward the object of his love. Even when Jesus’ love is rejected, he still keeps on track to love anyway. Jesus says, “…I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will finish my work.” A foreshadowing of the events that take place after his death he will be raised on the third day. Jesus desire to love everyone, even the nasty ol’ chickens can’t keep him from the destination of Jerusalem and the cross.
It’s Lent, and that means that we’ve set a course for ourselves as well. Yet we seem to hide, resist or flee. We follow our own way, we embrace our own truth, live our own lives. Jesus said, “How often I have desired to gather you in…” God’s desire is to be at the center of our lives, at the core of our being. We tend to ignore God and place obstacles in the way of growing a relationship to God. We are jus too busy to give God anymore than the hour a week in worship, or maybe even less. Since I am on page four of the sermon you are on page two of the grocery or to-do list. Our minds seem to struggle with staying focused for even the shortest amount of time when it come to our relationship to God. Just like the disciples kept falling asleep when they were praying with Jesus. We fight to stay awake in church or at times when God could be speaking to us.
The second time in the gospel of Luke when Jesus uses the word desire it is in 22:15 Jesus says, “I desire to eat with you.” The night of his last meal on earth. The night that the disciples argue, deny him and one betrays him. The next day Jesus will die. Yet Jesus desires to connect the meal eaten at the table sharing with them bread and wine. Sharing with them abundant life.
John Wurster writes, “From font to table to cross, the signs of God’s desire remain ever before us – a promised presence in all things, at all times. How deep is God’s longing for us? We can hide, resist or flee. We can fill our hearts with fear and anxiety. We can fill our lives with the message that we don’t have enough, that we don’t do enough, that we have failed. But God’s desire for us remains. We cannot deter it.”
From the beginning of time with Adam and Eve eating from the wrong tree, to Abraham doubting God because of his age, to Jesus facing Herod and the Pharisees people have put obstacles in front of God. Time and again God has overcome those obstacles to demonstrate how much God loves us. Instead of us throwing up obstacles we need to set our face to arrive in Jerusalem and to face the cross. We need to be ready to set our face to meet God, face-to-face. Are we prepared to give our lives up for God? God promises to remove all the obstacles between us. Even to the point of his Son going to the cross to remove the last obstacle—death.
This Lenten season we hope that we can start to see the obstacles that we are throwing in front of God. That with God’s help we can start tearing them down. Whether they are obstacles outside of us or in our own hearts God will help us overcome them. God is unstoppable toward his desire to open our hearts. With tenacity and determination God will not be deterred. Let God move you… past all obstacles. Amen.