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Lent 2 Sermon — Luke 13:31-35 (LSB Lent 2C)

February 28, 2010

February 28, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA



At that very hour, some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus]: “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them: “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course.’”



Prophets don’t do well with the rulers of the Jewish people. This has been so from the very beginning of Israel’s monarchy. Saul had his run-in with Samuel. David had to be confronted by Nathan. Elijah was constantly under threat. In today’s Old Testament Reading, you heard about what Jeremiah faced: “Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, ‘This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’” Speaking the Lord God’s words doesn’t protect one from opposition. Usually it increases the likelihood of opposition.



So it was with the Old Testament prophets sent to the Jewish people. But it was the same in the days of Christ. You heard what the Pharisees reported to Jesus: “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” Jesus is faced with the king’s anger. He is presented with the threat of death. And it isn’t without warrant; for like Jesus, you have heard about the dealings that Herod had with prophets.



In one of this year’s Advent Gospel Readings, you heard this about a prophet and Herod: “So with many other exhortations [John] preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.” The last of the prophets had his face-off with Herod. It got John thrown into prison, and worse. The Evangelist records: “Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, ‘John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he sought to see [Jesus].”



Now the Pharisees bring Jesus the message: “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” So what is Jesus to do? Should He leave the area, abandoning His mission and fleeing for His life? Should He turn and actively engage Herod, condemning him for the murder of John? Or should He do something else? You heard what Jesus said: “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course. Nevertheless, I must go on My way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’” Jesus hears the threat, the opposition that Herod may pose, but He goes on His way. He is not distracted or dissuaded, but continues to do what He had been sent to achieve.



Why can Jesus act this way? And why could Jeremiah and the other prophets continue to speak openly in the face of potential death? It is possible because they were given the Spirit of the Lord and His Words to declare. This was their calling. This was their duty. No matter the audience, no matter the opposition, the message was to be spoken. You see this in Jeremiah’s response to Judah’s officials: “Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak these words in your ears.”



Jeremiah was given the words to speak, and speak he must. Likewise, Jesus had been appointed for a duty, and fulfill it He must. That is why He tells Herod: “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course.” The opposition that the monarch may bring cannot prevent the fulfillment of Christ’s duties. If Herod wants to see Jesus, there He is in public for observation. If Herod wants to seize Jesus, there He is out in the open. But what the Eternal Father had determined for His Son to achieve in this world would come to pass. And no Tetrarch of Galilee would stop it from happening.



And just what is it that Jesus must fulfill? His words give detail: “Nevertheless, I must go on My way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Herod may oppose Jesus’ teaching, but his sword will not strike Jesus as it did John. No, Jesus must go up to Jerusalem. For that is where His fate takes Him, as He prophesied before His Transfiguration: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” That is His destiny. That is what Jesus must accomplish. That is His course that no one will interrupt.



So Jesus goes on His way. He tells the Pharisees and the others who hear: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!’” Jesus gives the prophecy about His journey to Jerusalem. He goes there as a prophet, knowing that the Lord’s spokesmen die in that city. But He goes for that purpose. Jesus will be killed, but not because He falls victim to His opponents, but that He makes Himself the Victim for the life of the world.



In that act, Jesus turns the tide on all the opponents to the Divine Will. There are many who actively oppose the Lord God, His way of life, His precepts and commandments. They chase after what their hearts desire, whatever makes them autonomous, their own gods. The Apostle describes them: “Many . . . walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” So it was for the officials of Judah who questioned Jeremiah’s prophecy and for Herod who refused to heed John’s rebuke.



The opponents of the Divine Will may seem successful. They certainly have a better time of it here on earth. Compared to them, the Lord God’s people appear pitiful. The Psalmist’s lament depicts this well: “O men, how long shall my honor be turned to shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” There is little satisfaction for believers in this world. But the death and resurrection of Christ will reverse this. The Apostle reminds his audience of Philippian Christians: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power the enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”



Paul’s statement about Christ is based upon what the Lord says: “I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course.” Jesus finishes His course. It is not left unfinished. He is not preempted by Herod or the Pharisees or the chief priests and the elders. What has been determined from the foundation of the earth to take place will come to pass. Jesus will enter Jerusalem on the day when the city that kills the prophets says: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” For that is His destination: to the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday to His Betrayal on Holy Thursday and Crucifixion on Good Friday. But it also leads to the Empty Tomb of Easter Morning, as Jesus predicts: “the third day I finish My course.”



That is what Jesus accomplishes, what He accomplishes for you. For through His actions, you also have a course set for you. It isn’t destruction, but resurrection. It isn’t condemnation, but redemption. For your minds are no longer set on earthly things, but on the glory of heaven that Christ has won for you. You may suffer humility and shame now, as the psalmist describes. There are enemies who may seek your life because you dare to speak the Lord’s words and believe them. But your course is set with Jesus who reached His goal, despite the opposition brought by sin, death, the minions of Satan, even your own sinful desires.



So the message of the prophets is spoken to you: “Mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God.” The psalmist’s exhortation is meant for you: “Offer sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” The Apostle’s instructions are given to you: “Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. . . . [S]tand firm thus in the Lord.” Christ’s statement shows His desire for you: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”



You are called to repentance and reconciliation, and you have responded. Brought into the citizenship of heaven, you are also called to boldness and courage. Despite the opposition, your Lord is not victimized, but victorious. Jesus’ statement stands true: “The third day I finish My course.” For Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, but on the third day rose again from the dead. And since Christ finished His course, you shall see Him “who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” And you shall say for all eternity: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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