by Pastor Bob Miller
Here we are on a journey with Jesus which started in the wilderness. It was there in the wilderness in communion with His Heavenly Father that Jesus fully comes to grip with what it meant for Him to be the Son of God and what it was that His ministry would look like. It was also there in the wilderness that Satan tempted Him.
But Jesus stood firm – He would not be side-tracked. He was committed to doing the will of His Father in Heaven. He was headed to Jerusalem, and He understood that a cross awaited Him. He would lay down His life so that we might have life! And this, taking up of His cross, was not just a one-time thing at the end of His life here on earth. It was to be a lifestyle of picking up His cross daily – of dying to Himself and doing His Father's will. While He had come to be the King of the Kingdom of God, He had not come to be served, but to serve.
We are told in Luke's Gospel that Jesus went up out of the wilderness to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. In Luke 4:16 we read:
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!' And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'" 24 "Truly I tell you," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time when the sky was shut for three and a half years, and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian."
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we find that Jesus stays true to His mission. His message doesn't change. He proclaims the good news of God's Kingdom, which when established, will set the oppressed free, the recovery of sight to the blind…the setting of captives free. It is good news to the poor, to the outcast, sand to the down-trodden. God has heard their cry! A new order is being established and they will be lifted up set free! GOOD NEWS for the poor.
But NOT SO GOOD NEWS for those who were doing the oppressing. Not so good, if you were the landowner getting rich by cheating your workers of a full day's pay. Not so good if you are the one getting ahead through injustice and corruption.
When Jesus came proclaiming that a NEW KINGDOM was at hand and you were the KING of the present kingdom, it meant you were on the way out and that your kingdom was about to expire!
We all like to take power and to use It to our advantage. If we had it, we would use it to take care of our family and our loved ones! And once we get it, we'd spend our energy "holding onto it." (Look at what is taking place in Venezuela with two presidents claiming the right to rule. Look at the power struggle going on in our own Congress – with two Parties vying for the right to RULE!)
The same thing was happening in Jesus' day as He goes to his hometown of Nazareth. It is interesting that they loved the scripture He read until He opened their eyes to the fact that they needed to repent! The townspeople played the, "You're the Son of Joseph” card. You're one of us! Throw us the perks. Take care of us. We want the freebies without paying the price!
But Jesus reminded them that God has called his children to serve others, not to be served. He tells them that privilege isn't something we use for our benefit. It is used to bless others. “The first shall be last and the last first!" That preaching didn't sit well with Jesus' hometown crowd. They didn't like the fact that they, too, were being called to repent!
We ALL want the Kingdom of God to come. It's just that not all of us see that we might be the very reason it is not being fulfilled.
Remember the prayer Jesus taught us to pray? "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." You can't pray this prayer without being willing to let God sit on the throne of your personal kingdom. You have got to be willing to step off your throne, and participate with Him in bringing about His purposes and plans.
When the people from Jesus' hometown couldn't get their way, and they realized that Jesus wasn't going to use His power and influence on their behalf, they turned on Him and drove him to the edge of a cliff to throw him over! (It was a little friendly persuasion!) But Jesus' message did not change! Nor was He influenced by their pressure tactics. We are told that He left them standing there. They had a choice to make. Would they follow Him and His mission or would they "keep the status-quo" and remain in the crowd? It’s the same kind of choice we are called to make. Don't let Jesus pass by!
In our passage of scripture found in Luke 13, we see Jesus facing the very same challenge but this time the opposition is stiffening.
Jesus has gotten the attention of King Herod. And Herod doesn't like the idea of a New Kingdom, for that implies CHANGE…but also a NEW King! Herod decides to do what he has done in the past - use his power and authority to ERASE the problem. He wants Jesus' head! Just like he took John the Baptist's head!
The Pharisee's come to warn Jesus about Herod! I'm not so sure that they want to protect Jesus as much as they merely want Jesus to leave town and go somewhere else. They were NIMBYs. (Not in my back yard.) I think they felt if Jesus just left for a few months, the people would forget about Jesus and go back to their usual way of living. Out of sight out of mind! They couldn't have Jesus continue preaching – He was making them look bad. His unselfishness and love for others made them look shallow and greedy.
Jesus' response to their warning was,
“Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.”
Jesus is warned to leave or face death by the hand of Herod. However, Jesus doesn't flee. He keeps moving forward, toward the very seat of power, Jerusalem. Jesus isn't going to step aside. He's not going to run away. He's not going to change His message or His methods. Jesus is committed to doing what His Father has told Him to do!
Not only does he move closer to the city, but he also continues to do the things that have angered Herod in the first place: healing others, freeing the oppressed, and preaching a new kingdom. He doesn't move away from the threat. Instead, He seeks to embrace it, saying that he "longs “to gather the children of Jerusalem under his wings like a hen with her chicks.” Even though they refuse to listen, Jesus longs to see them repent and return to the heart of God! This takes humility. Jesus knows he is approaching his death, yet he still willfully walks toward the cross, out of compassion for even those who seek to do him ill.
Though they reject his words and acts of liberation, Jesus continues to speak truth to power, knowing it will ultimately lead to his death.
Jesus' love is not based on our acceptance of Him! Paul tells us that "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." He continues forward, knowing it is not death that will have the final word but "resurrection." Jesus walks toward Jerusalem with the knowledge of his death waiting, yet He continues to walk. He continues to heal. He continues to preach. He continues to help the people imagine a New Kingdom where the last will be first and the poor fulfilled.
Jesus references His death when He talks about three days. He also references his death when talking about how Jerusalem has killed the prophets before. But the hope of the kingdom wasn't in the grave but the resurrection. While Jesus continues to allude to his death, he's always pointing toward his resurrection. The third day is the resurrection day. If you will notice that in his response, Jesus alludes both to His coming crucifixion – but also to His resurrection.
Jesus is headed for Jerusalem – to the seat of power! He is headed for the THRONE-ROOM WHERE THERE IS ROOM FOR ONLY ONE KING! When he enters Jerusalem, the people cry out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." They are ready to lift Him high and make Him their King. And yet by the end of the week their cry changes to, "Crucify Him!" How quickly their hearts turn when they don't get their way! How easily we go with the crowd! How often do we simply accept the "way things are" even when we know what is happening is wrong!
Lent is a time for confessing and seeking out the Word of God for our lives. It is a time for us to embrace the GOOD NEWS! God has come to draw us close to Himself. Perhaps we've been oppressed, imprisoned, and we need deliverance! Good News! YOU haven't been overlooked or forgotten! Jesus wants to set you free. Will you let Him?
Perhaps He will open your eyes to the fact that YOU need to repent, that YOU"VE been part of the problem! Life has been all about YOUR abundance, YOUR family, YOUR stuff…while all around you there are others that need to be set free. Maybe it's time to step off your throne and let Jesus begin to direct Your path.
Maybe like Jesus, this is the time for us to step up to the plate and face the “Herods” head on! Perhaps this is the time for us to listen to the voice of God. As citizens of the kingdom of God, we are called to live like Christ. We are to care for the brokenhearted, to speak for the oppressed, to protect the widow and the orphan, to declare freedom to the captive.
This way of living is counter to the ideas of this world and will lead us on the same path that Jesus walked—a path toward the cross. Can we stand in the same humble courage to stand even in the face of death? Can we spread our wings to embrace those that need to be rescued. Can we stand in hopeful expectation of the resurrection?