27 August 2015

Luke 13:31-35

“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.’” (v. 32)

Psalm: Psalm 75:1-7


Were these Pharisees genuinely concerned for the safety of Jesus - or was this a trap? Either way, they indicated that they had information that Herod wanted to kill Jesus; Jesus took the opportunity to send a message back. Luke's Gospel consistently portrays the Pharisees as hostile to Jesus and seeking to trap him in something he might say (Luke 11:53-54). However, there were also those sympathetic to him (cf Luke 23:50-51; Acts 5:33-40).

There are four references to Herod Antipas in Luke's Gospel. None is particularly flattering: this was a man who had seduced his brother's wife and done other "evil things" (Luke 3:19); he tried to meet Jesus, concerned that Jesus may have been John the Baptist restored to life (Luke 9:7-9); and finally, on meeting Jesus and frustrated by Jesus' silence, he mocked and ridiculed him (Luke 23:8-11).

The reference to Herod as a fox (verse 32) is not flattering. For both Greek and Jew, the fox was synonymous with cunning and slyness. It was a term of derision in the writing of the prophet, Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4:3), where it is said that even a fox could break down the walls being built round Jerusalem!

Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, conscious that his ministry was approaching its climax, was not going to be deflected by threats. There was little time to spare: Jerusalem was where the action would be as it always had been. The reference to three days (verse 32) has clear resonances for Christians, but it also indicated a short period of time.

The image of the hen gathering her chicks under her wings gathers force from the earlier reference to the fox. Jesus' lament over Jerusalem is only recorded by Luke; it suggests that Jesus had been in Jerusalem on other occasions; that he would now be leaving and then returning for what would be his final entry (verse 35). There are intriguing gaps in the accounts of Jesus' ministry.

To Ponder

  • How easy do you find it to discern the genuine from the false in the church/community/society? Have you ever been 'fooled'?
  • If you believe those in authority to be corrupt, what are the most effective ways to challenge them?

Bible notes author

Gillian Kingston

Gillian Kingston is a local preacher on the North Tipperary Circuit of the Methodist Church in Ireland and a part-time university chaplain. She is interim Vice-President of the World Methodist Council.