2nd Sunday in Lent

February 24, 2013

Summary

He helps … he does!

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from 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 finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 13:31-35 ESV)
How often would you try and help someone? I suppose that depends on the circumstances – who you’re trying to help, when, how, why and so on. Maybe we give special effort and energy for family or close friends.

How often would you try and help someone who didn’t want to be helped … in fact who actually made your life hard and the helping task difficult? Maybe you’d keep trying – same as before – or maybe you’d give up more quickly and say to the person, “Look, if you really want help, you know where to find me”. After all, there are generally accepted ‘rules’ about helping that go something like – I’ll help you but don’t give me grief and be a little bit appreciative.

Jesus helped people. However it often seemed that he just got into more trouble for his effort. His teaching would get some people excited and some people angry. He would perform miracles and the same thing would happen – some people got excited and some people got angry. And on one occasion King Herod Antipas (the son of the Christmas King Herod) wanted to kill Jesus and some Pharisees came and told Jesus about this. We don’t know the details – why Herod was ticked off or why some Pharisees were the messengers when Jesus and other Pharisees were not exactly one another’s fans. Perhaps Herod just wanted another troublesome prophet out of his jurisdiction and, rather than beheading him, wanted to scare him. Perhaps the Pharisees were just plain and simple messengers for the king. Perhaps the Pharisees were protecting themselves in the event that Jesus caused trouble – since Jesus would have been considered at first glance to be a Pharisee (a lay man, righteous, on about the kingdom of God) – and so they were happy for Jesus to ‘move on’ and came and told him.

Jesus’ response is interesting. He didn’t sulk. He didn’t let other people determine his behaviour. He didn’t go back where he came from saying, “Look, if you really want help, you know where to find me”.

Instead, Jesus was blunt to Herod – calling him a fox – which had connotations of destructiveness and insignificance attached to it – and he said that he would help people until he was good and ready to leave. He would help people – rescue people – as he saw fit – and then he would leave (in three days) – not because he was scared – but because the rescue mission he was on meant that he had to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. There was a divine direction here; a divine imperative operating – and Jesus gives us a window to it – to peek in as it were – to look and see what God is doing – as he describes himself as a mother hen trying to protect and care for her little chicks who refuse to come under the shelter of her wings. Herod, Pharisees, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Empire, the Sanhedrin all seem to come down a peg or six when you suddenly see them as chickens scratching around the farmyard thinking that their little existence, their pecking order is most important.

It’s quite a telling image – divine care meets blind unwillingness – arms (wings) extended meets self absorbed importance – and the outcome for the chicks is simply desolation. There is a personal poignancy for Jerusalem and its history for it did welcome Jesus with the words ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ – yet she did kill Jesus – and she was desolate when finally destroyed
in 70AD. Jerusalem is also humanity with no Saviour – scurrying around the farmyard unwilling to be saved.

There are two mysteries here – the depth of sin and rebellion that is unwilling to receive any help or salvation unless it’s on its terms – and the grace of the rescuer who keeps stretching out those arms; keeps helping; keeps rescuing … still today.

Jesus’ goal of helping us – involves death and life – his death and resurrection for us. As we hear today, he is seeking to gather us through his Word – so the Holy Spirit works – death and new life in us – as people are convicted of their sin but are not desolate – for the gospel also declares and promises new life, forgiveness, salvation, and saving faith. And so the church lines the road, as it were, each Sunday as the Lord continues to come and help his people – ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ we sing – and he doesn’t walk past with a royal wave but stops for each of us and invites us to his table – and feeds us – a sacramental eating – his own body and blood in the bread and wine – Jesus himself – is in, with, under, and above us – helping us live … with him and with others.

Others. Hmmm. The world would often be a much simpler place if there weren’t so many others … especially the others who need help. In earthly matters a good rule of thumb in helping is giving what they need or want so that life is ‘better’ in some way. This help requires good listening, compassion, and some practical intervention. This help can even be life saving. However it is largely mercurial, mundane and subject to the power and strength and means of the helper.

In spiritual matters the goal of helping is bringing, carrying, leading, guiding people to Jesus who truly helps. Sure, many of the same skills are used – good listening, compassion, and practical assistance – but the goal is not to give the chicken a bigger grain of food or a safe place in the farmyard – but to help him/her see that the mother hen can be trusted. This help truly helps because it is finally the power of the Holy Spirit who works to keep people’s ears and eyes only on Jesus.

Jesus. Everything he does for us is to help us. He can’t be bullied or scared away by our behaviours. His cross and empty grave declare that he is committed … to you. To us all. He truly helps!

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Bible References

  • Luke 13:31 - 35
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