17 March 2019

Luke 13:31-35

'How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings' (v. 34)

Psalm: Psalm 27


 Jesus’ character
Verse 31 shows the duplicity of human beings. Herod, a ‘crafty fox’, is reported as being as hostile to Jesus as he had been to John the Baptist; but elsewhere he is determined only to ‘see’ Jesus (Luke 9:9, 23:8). The Pharisees, often blind to Jesus’s message and criticised for it (Luke 11:42-44), now masquerade as his friends.

Verse 32. In contrast, Jesus has a message for Herod and the Pharisees: he is not for turning. Nothing will deflect him from his mission, which has been given and shaped by God. He will carry on as planned, doing God’s work of exorcising and healing. Jesus’s time may be short, but it is always focused on his goal. He is afraid of no one.

Jesus’s goal and fate: God’s judgement on Jerusalem
Verse 33. Jesus is heading for Jerusalem. According to popular legend (it is not demonstrated in scripture), true prophets feel a divine compulsion to go to Jerusalem, only to meet their death. Jesus will meet the same fate; for his words too are the words of God.

Verse 34. Jesus therefore speaks an oracle of God loosely based on the Jewish scriptures: see Isaiah 60:4, Zechariah 10:6-10, Psalm 147:2-35, Isaiah 40:11. Time and again God has wanted to gather the chosen people as a hen gathers her chicks close, for love and safety. But always the people resist God. They stone to death God’s messengers.

Verse 35a. Jesus cites a further judgement of God, from Jeremiah 22:5 (see also Jeremiah 7:34): the holy city and temple will be abandoned by God. (Luke would have read these words through the lens of what happened in AD 70: the Romans destroyed city and temple.)

Jesus reveals when the crisis will come, for himself
Verse 35b. Jesus must be on his way with his appointed tasks. His listeners will next see him close to Jerusalem, in a crowd of pilgrims, singing psalms as they journey to Jerusalem for Passover. Psalm 118:26 is cited, as it will be again (slightly modified) in Luke 19:38.


To Ponder:

  • How much do we value faithfulness, consistency and reliability in our attitudes and relationships? Reflect on how much this means to us when a family member or friend behaves like this; and when they don’t.
  • In European culture, Christian commitment rarely, if ever, is a life and death choice. But how do we support, and learn from, Christians in many parts of the world who are persecuted and martyred?
  • This coming week: How much is already programmed in the diary? How much is vague or blank time? How will we cope with the unplanned and unexpected? How far ahead do we like to plan, and how do we feel when plans have to be changed? 

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.

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