21 February 2016

Luke 13:31-35

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (v. 34)

Psalm: Psalm 27


The opening phrase of today's passage ("At that very hour …") invites us to look at the preceding verses. Jesus had been teaching in towns and villages on his way to Jerusalem (Luke 13:22), a journey that had begun when "the days drew near for him to be taken up" (Luke 9:51). The teaching concluded with the prophecy that people from everywhere will eat in the kingdom of God and that "some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (Luke 13:29-30). This reversal was a central theme of Jesus' teaching and both the Pharisees and Herod could have understood it to be a challenge to them.

It was 'at that very hour' that the Pharisees approached Jesus. Whether they were genuine in their warning about Herod or using the story as a ploy to move Jesus on is debated; the important thing, however, is that Jesus went to Jerusalem not at the behest of others but to continue to fulfil God's purpose. When Jesus says, "I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem" (v. 33) he is pointing to a sense of divine necessity that is also expressed in Luke 24:7, 44. The reference to prophets being killed in Jerusalem evokes the stories of Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20-23) and Jeremiah himself (Jeremiah 38:4-6); it also points forwards to the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:54-60).

Jesus' response to this was to lament over the city using the image of a hen gathering her brood under her wings (v. 34). Similar images are found in Ruth 2:12, some of the Psalms (including 17:8 and 36:7), and Isaiah 31:5.

His statement at the start of verse 35, "See, your house is left to you", echoes God's words in Jeremiah 22:5, "this house shall become a desolation". Yet the passage ends with a prophecy that the people will say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" (see Psalm 118:26). This happened on the first Palm Sunday (Luke 19:38) just before Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44), but it probably also looks to the final coming of Jesus (see Acts 1:11).

To Ponder

  • What cities other than Jerusalem have rejected prophets?
  • How would you share with someone else your understanding of God's purpose for your life and the life of the world? In what ways, if any, would you talk about 'a divine necessity'?
  • How does the image of a hen gathering her brood under her wings speak to you?


Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Stubbens

Neil Stubbens is a Methodist presbyter who is currently the connexional ecumenical officer. Previously, he has served in the Barnsley, Southport, St Helens and Prescot, and Sankey Valley Circuits.