Conversations: Jesus and Some Pharisees
Text: Luke 13:31-35
Speaker: Pastor Paul McPheeters
We are continuing in our series on “Conversations with Jesus,” and today we come in on Jesus as he is being confronted by some Pharisees, who are trying to convince Jesus to get out of town. They want Jesus to leave their area and “get outta Dodge,” and just go someplace else. So let’s listen in on the conversation Jesus has with these Pharisees which is found in the Gospel of Luke, 13:31-35.
Have you ever noticed in reading the Gospels, how many times people are trying to get Jesus to do things that they want him to do?
We began this sermon series on Conversations with Jesus by looking at Jesus dialogue with the devil at his temptation in the wilderness. There it was the devil himself who was trying to get Jesus to do what he wanted him to do. But at other times it’s disciples like Peter and James and John and Judas who are trying to tell Jesus what to do. And sometimes it’s the crowds, like on Palm Sunday, who very much want Jesus to conform to their image of the Messiah should be like and what the Messiah should do. They want Jesus to be a king like the great King David, and throw out the Romans and make Israel great again.
But all through the Gospels, we see that Jesus is not easily swayed by all of these opinions of what he ought to do. From beginning to end, He remains faithful to what His heavenly Father has called Him to be and to do.
And we see this again today in this passage from Luke today. These Pharisees come to Jesus to try and get him to leave their area, and they even use the animosity of King Herod towards Jesus to back up their admonition to go. “Leave this place and go somewhere else,” they say, “because King Herod wants to kill you.”
And it makes one wonder about their motivation: Are these Pharisees actually concerned for Jesus’ welfare? Or are they in league with King Herod and threatening Jesus on his behalf? Or are they worried about themselves, wanting Jesus to get out of their region so he won’t cause them trouble?
Well, Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees puts all these questions aside. No matter what their motivation, Jesus is not going to be manipulated. He says, in essence, “The length of my time here on earth is not going to be determined by Herod or you, anyone else. I do have a short, but definite, time left me on earth, and it is going to end in Jerusalem, not here. So it is useless for you guys, or Herod, to trouble yourselves about me. I will reach my goal no matter what you do.”
That is Jesus’ initial response to these Pharisees in this conversation. And there are three things I want us to notice about Jesus’ response here.
1. First, it is amazing how clear-eyed Jesus is about the journey he is on. Every step he took, he took with the cross in view. And no one could dissuade him from that journey to the cross. The devil tried to tempt him to forsake that journey. The disciples tried at various times to make him change his mind. The crowds on Palm Sunday want to make him king instead of Savior. Everyone was bent on getting him to go a different route. But Jesus was steadfast….and we see it here quite clearly.
Now in this case, it’s not that these Pharisees are trying to dissuade Jesus from the cross. They don’t know anything about the cross. They simply want him to leave their area. But in Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees we see how clear-eyed Jesus is about where he is going and what he is doing. He says, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.”
And his reference to three days time here is a metaphor. It is not that Jesus is literally three days away from his crucifixion at this point. The phrase, “today, tomorrow, and the third day,” is a Hebrew idiom for a short, but definite time period.
And that is what he is telling these Pharisees in such a clear-eyed way: “My time on earth is short, but it is not up to Herod to determine it will end. I am going to Jerusalem to die, and I will reach that goal.”
Do you see what I mean? Even with the knowledge that His crucifixion is relatively near, Jesus is calm and assured. He knows where he is headed and who is in charge, and his clear sense of direction and purpose lends a strength and certainty to everything Jesus does.
2. Now secondly, I want us to notice that word “goal” that Jesus uses here to talk about his destiny in Jerusalem. He says, “I will go on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”
That is how Jesus viewed the cross. The word translated “goal” is “telios,” and it literally means “Fulfillment, culmination, destination.” It can even mean “perfection.” Jesus saw the cross in that kind of a way, as the destination and fulfillment of all that he was doing. The cross was not a sad surprise that snuck up on Jesus. It was not a dismal failure for his ministry.
No. For Jesus it was the goal toward which he was steadfastly headed. This is what he came to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to do. And the NT is united in proclaiming Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, as the essence of the good news of Jesus. In I Cor. 15, the Apostle Paul says, “I pass on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
That is what is of first importance. It was in Christ’s death on the cross that the sins of the world were and are atoned for. It was there that the lamb of God bore our sins away. Jesus’ life without the cross would be like a ring setting without the jewel in it. Jesus calls the cross his “goal” here. The culmination and destination of his life. It was the reason that He was born among us. The reason that He came. He never forgot that throughout His ministry. In v. 33, he says, “I must keep going – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.” I must keep going. I must reach my goal. I must do what I came to do.”
We shouldn’t forget this either: Jesus went willingly and steadfastly to the cross for us. He was not to be dissuaded, or distracted, or discouraged. He knew it was his goal, and it wasn’t until he was on the cross that he cried out, “It is finished…completed….fulfilled.”
3. Now thirdly, I want you to notice the two animals that are mentioned by Jesus this conversation, and the contras between them.
“Go tell that fox, Herod,” Jesus says in v. 32. And then in v. 34 he says, “O Jerusalem, how I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”
The fox and the hen. An interesting contrast of animals playing out in Jesus’ mind at this point in his life. The fox, an animal who devours chicks and hens and eggs. The Hen, the mother who protects them under her wings. The one is a sly and crafty creature who seeks to trap and kill and consume. The other is a maternal figure, a hen who gives birth, and nurtures and enfolds her little ones.
It is Herod who reminds Jesus of a fox. The image of the hen, Jesus chooses for himself. And that’s not the usual image we have for Jesus is it. In our hymns and praise songs we often sing of Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” or “the Lion of Judah,” but do we ever sing and praise Jesus for being our Mother
No. But it is an image that Jesus chooses for himself here. He pictures himself as a mother hen, longing to gather her chicks under her wing for warmth, and protection, and intimacy. He longs to gather the children of Israel under his wings and be their beloved Messiah.
He grieves that Jerusalem must always kill her prophets. He grieves that they are so blind and dull of hearing. He grieves like a mother over her children, when the children rebel and refuse to come home. He sees his approaching death in Jerusalem, and though he is clear-eyed about it as his goal, he does still grieve that it must be so.
He grieves that in order to save His people, he would need to first experience their rejection, their condemnation, and finally their crucifixion. But it was the longing of his heart to be like a mother hen to them.
And my friends, it still is. He longs for us to come to him for shelter and protection. He longs for us to find rest under the shadow of his wings. He longs for us to give up our rebellion, our obstinacy, our pride. He longs for us to come to him in repentance and trust. It grieves him still when we humans continue to reject him. It grieves him, but it doesn’t surprise him.
And that is my point today. Jesus is clear-eyed about his life and ministry to the end, and he is clear-eyed about you and me as well. He knows us full well. He knows why he had to come and die, and why the cross was the goal of his life and ministry. He knows we still need it. Our sin and rebellion are no more surprising to Jesus than Jerusalem’s was. It is not a surprise to Jesus that we sinners still need a savior.
And the good news is, that nothing delights Jesus more than when we will simply acknowledge our sin to him, repent of it and ask forgiveness, and accept him as our Savior. Accept his atoning death on the cross as the atonement for our sins.
He sees that as his little chicks coming to nestle up under his wings. It is an event which makes the angels in heaven sing for joy. It is an event which makes glad the heart of any parent, when the prodigal children come home. It is an event which makes the barnyard hen cluck with contentment. It is an event which Jesus longs to have happen in each of our lives, because it is the goal for which he came and lived and died and rose from the dead.
He steadfastly walked to the cross with this end in view. He bore on himself the sins of the world with clear eye and fixed purpose. He took our place and bore our punishment with utter love and compassion for each of us.
Before I depart as your pastor, and as we enter into this holy week together, I want to ask all of you once again, those gathered here, and those joining us on-line: Have you ever responded to that love of Jesus by seeking refuge under his wing? Has there ever been a time in your life when you trusted in his atoning death for the forgiveness of your sin? Or are you still thinking about it?
I urge you today, and especially as my own time here at Forestdale is limited, accept his love and grace into your life. Confess your sin and rebellion that sent him to the cross. Receive his mercy and forgiveness. Allow the mother hen of God to enfold you in her wings, and give you rest.
It is what he came to do. It is the goal of all of salvation history. It is still the desired end which God has in mind for you and me even today.