by The Rev. Rob Ruff
Second Sunday in Lent
“You better watch your back”, the Pharisees tell Jesus, “You better watch your back because Herod, the emperor, the guy in charge, wants to kill you.”
Herod apparently liked things calm, quiet, under control. But Jesus has been drawing large crowds and stirring up the people so Herod wants him dead.
Now if I got word that the guy in charge wanted me dead, I expect that such news would leave me just a bit unnerved. But Jesus does not seem upset, unnerved or worried.
“You tell that fox, Herod” says Jesus, “that I’m going to be about my business
of healing and curing. And I’m going to Jerusalem.” Jesus has no plans to go into hiding, or to lay low, or to get out of town. He’s not concerned about Herod’s threat because Jesus knows that a larger plan is unfolding here, a plan controlled not by Herod but by God.
“I’m going to be about my business says Jesus, and I’m going to Jerusalem.” And it seems that Jesus knows full well what will happen to him once he gets to Jerusalem.
And we know too, we’ve heard this story many times, year in and year out:
- Jesus will be greeted in holy city with palm branches and Hosannas.
- But the tide will quickly turn against him.
- He will eat a last meal with his friends.
- One of his confidantes will betray him with a kiss in exchange for a bag of coins.
- Jesus will be arrested, tortured, and executed like a common criminal, left hanging to die on a tree atop a garbage dump of a hill outside the city wall.
“I’m going to be about my business – healing & curing – and I’m going to Jerusalem.”
And at the mention of the holy city, Jesus’ tone changes. He softens and sounds sad as he laments the fate of Jerusalem and of her people, and by extension of all God’s people including you and me:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem…,” Jesus cries, “how often I have desired to gather your children together as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing.”
It’s almost as if He is wishing that God’s plan could have been accomplished, could have been fulfilled without a cross, without a death. It’s as if he’s saying,
“Here I am with my arms wide open, my dear ones. If only you would come to me,
if only you would gather under the loving shelter and safety of my wings.”
“Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
But alas you would not.
We would not, brothers and sister. For “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We are, each one of us, wayward little chicks, prone to wandering away from our mother hen, chasing after our own interests, agendas, and appetites.
“…How often have I desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not…” Jesus bids us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. But we would not. We instead find ourselves holding grudges against our enemies, hating and even killing them. Jesus bids us to lose our lives for his sake.
But we would not. We instead find ourselves grasping to save our lives for our own sake. Jesus bids us to see him in the face of the hungry, homeless, and imprisoned.
But we would not. We instead find ourselves crossing to the other side of the street
so we don’t have to see the faces of those unfortunate ones at all.
“…how often have I desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not…”
Notice that according to Jesus, Herod is a fox and Jesus himself is a mother hen. An interesting picture that, don’t you think? For in the natural world, where the rule is ‘survival of the fittest’ and where the strong so often devour the weak, a fox will best a chicken each and every time. And so Jesus portraying himself as a mother hen
may not inspire much confidence.
But Jesus isn’t talking here about how it is in the natural world.
He’s talking about how it is in God’s Kingdom that in the topsy-turvy world where the first are last and the last first, where the poor are filled to overflowing with good things and the rich are sent away empty-handed. In God’s kingdom, a mild mother hen gets the last word in her encounter with the devious fox. For the mother hen enters the holy city where the bloodthirsty fox lies in wait. And there she gives up her life, lovingly, in order to protect and save her wayward brood.
“No one takes my life from me, she says, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18)
And then, after the sun has gone dark at midday, and the mother hen lies cold and dead
and the fox has triumphed, then, in order that her love continue, God reaches down into the grave and raises the mother hen to new life.
“… and on the third day” said Jesus, “I finish my work.”
His work was and is to love us, to forgive us our wayward ways and to wash us clean in his blood. His work was and is to gather us back under the loving shelter of his mother-hen wings, “…transforming the body of our wayward humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory…” (Philippians 3:21)
And His work was and is to then send us forth to love our enemies, to give our lives away for the gospel’s sake and to serve the poor, the hungry, and the outcast in His name.
And because his work has been accomplished, because he is alive and loose upon the face of the earth, all the darkness of this world, the darkness of trial and tribulation, of suffering and pain, the darkness of all the foxes and forces of evil,
Is rolled back by the light of just one candle, the light from the candle of a loving mother hen the light of Christ, of course. And it is that light that we follow, Brothers and Sisters, throughout this Lenten tide and for all the days of our life.
It is the light of Christ which illumines our way amidst the darkness and shadows
of life’s changes and chances, it is the light of Christ that we follow as the foxes of this world nip at our heels.
We follow that light, the light of Christ, our mother hen, because it leads to life and salvation. And because of that light, despite foxes and enemies, despite darkness and death, we are not afraid. For Jesus is our light and our salvation, Jesus is the stronghold of our lives, Whom then shall we fear?