“The Fox And The Hen”
(Based on Luke 13:31-35)
Grace, Peace and Hope to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel begins with one of the Pharisees going to Jesus, and telling him to leave that place, because Herod wanted to kill him.
It sounds like he was trying to do the Lord a favour, but I’m not so sure.
The Pharisees are mentioned fourteen times in Luke before we get to this chapter, and all but one refer to the conflict that was growing between them and Jesus.
In 11:42 Jesus says:
“Woe to you Pharisees because you give a tenth of your Mint, Rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God…”
That’s a huge indictment against them.
In the following verse he says: Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the market places.”
In 11:53 “The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law began to oppose him fiercely, besieging him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he said.”
And in 12:1 Jesus says: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy;”
another strong indictment against them.
There’ a sample of Jesus’ last four interactions with the Pharisees leading up to today’s text, so you understand why I doubt that particular Pharisee was trying to do Jesus a favour.
In fact it’s far more likely he was trying to scare him off, which is a more likely fit for how the rest of the Gospel pans out.
Jesus’ response adds to that likelihood.
“Go tell that fox ‘I cast out demons and perform miracles today, and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. Yet today, tomorrow and the next day I must be on my way, for it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’”
Jesus gave his itinerary to the Pharisee, maybe to pass on to Herod if he wished, but more likely to call his bluff,
because he knew his life wasn’t in Herod’s hands, but the eternal hands of his Father…
Jesus called Herod a fox, and I’m sure that has to do with the bad reputation foxes have always had for killing unnecessarily.
I remember hearing how a fox will chase a tiny lamb until it bleats, then bite the lamb’s tongue out, leave it to die, and move on to the next one.
It’s not a pretty picture, and reminds us of another fox, another Herod; the father of the one we’ve heard about today, the one who chased the lambs of Israel and had the baby boys under two years of age killed, after the Magi came enquiring about the new born “King of the Jews.”
So much senseless death!
It also reminds us how this particular Herod had John the Baptist’s head cut off and presented on a plate.
More senseless death!
He was a fox…
and then a little later,
Jesus is cast in the role of a Hen, whose natural enemy is a fox, and who will lay down her life to save her chicks… and we’ll come back to that later.
Notice the shape of the itinerary.
Jesus says he’ll be casting out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day he will reach his goal.
Then he reinterprets it to say:
“Today and tomorrow and the next day I must be on my way, because it is not possible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.”
The symbolic language Luke uses here is doing very much the same thing as the passage we heard a month ago when Jesus went to Nazareth where he was rejected.
Where they led him to a cliff, to throw him off and kill him, yet fortunately for us all, he walked away through the crowd and went on his way.
And that particular Gospel is a précis of Jesus’ earthly ministry right up to his death and resurrection.
His ministry that cast him in the role of the prophets, who were well received at first, then rejected and killed.
There’s a very similar thing happening here;
Jesus tells of his plans to carry out more ministry; casting out demons and performing healing miracles,
then he superimposes his movement toward Jerusalem, and the fate he knows awaits him there, to be rejected by his people and killed.
The part about him reaching his goal on the third day looks past Jesus’ death and alludes to his resurrection. And that’s been unanimously agreed on by biblical commentators as every other time Luke uses that formula;
‘on the third day,’
he’s referring directly to Jesus’ resurrection.
So the elements of Jesus’ mission in the world, his miraculous works, followed by his rejection, death and resurrection are all here, just not in chronological order.
And finally the last verse for today, where Jesus says: “You will not see me until you say ‘blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.’”
When do you think that might have taken place? It happened on Palm Sunday in the city that kills the prophets-Jerusalem.
Today’s Gospel is like a jig-saw of Jesus’ mission in the world, with Luke gathering all of the miraculous things together;
Jesus’ driving out demons, his healing ministry and the allusion to his resurrection are mentioned in the first itinerary statement,
With the second itinerary alluding to his rejection, suffering and death in Jerusalem.
Now this mightn’t seem so, but this is vitally important,
because those two aspects of Jesus’ ministry;
his glorious works, and his suffering and death,
validate him as God’s true Messiah.
He must have a glorious ministry, or it would be said that God hadn’t come in Jesus’ flesh.
But a glorious Messiah who doesn’t suffer for his people, could never bring the Gospel of God’s grace to us.
A glorious Messiah who didn’t suffer could only heap more condemnation from God’s Law on his people, which would only serve to inflame the war between Heaven and Earth.
There wouldn’t be any peace with that kind of Messiah, only death and destruction…
and yet how ironic it is; that is exactly the kind of Messiah the people thought they wanted!
But what really stands out for me today is the fox and the hen, because when you think about those two,
the fox is the aggressor,
and the hen is its prey.
So I wonder, what have hens ever done to foxes that might cause them to attack?
It is purely and simply the nature of a fox that it wants to kill and eat any hen it comes across… and their chicks.
The way Luke has cast those two creatures;
humanity in the guise of a fox,
and God in the guise of a hen,
really does capture the natural animosity that humanity has for God,
And this picture that Luke has painted with these words, helps us to see how that animosity is only one-sided because we all know that hens do not go around attacking foxes.
A couple of weeks ago a newspaper ran an article about the plan the South Australian Attorney General has to remove the Bible and references to God when witnesses take the oath and swear to tell the truth in court.
There’s some more degradation the current culture is imposing on us.
But what was also worrying were the comments about that in the opinion column on the editorial page.
Comments full of bitterness poured out on God and the Church.
Seriously, the malice that some of our fellow citizens feel free to express in those sorts of forums now, is frightening.
But what has God done to deserve it?
What God has done-deserves nothing but our thanks and praise.
Now, if it’s not bad enough that the unbelieving world maligns God,
is that it wasn’t the unbelieving nations of the world who killed the prophets, or Jesus Christ.
It was the holy people of God; the people God had actually bent over backwards to bless.
A new low so to speak that emphasizes the appalling nature of human sin that just cannot be overstated.
And in that, we see the depth and wondrous beauty of the Gospel.
God in Jesus Christ wasn’t blind to any of this.
The Gospel shows us very clearly how his eyes were wide open to the treacherous nature of the human heart:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem; the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
He knew them through and through, and yet when Jesus answered the Pharisee he said:
“Today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.”
Why would he even bother with such unfaithful people?
Would we not just turn away in disgust.
Some of the foul treatment that I’ve seen that’s handed out to my loved ones, friends colleagues and brothers and sisters in Christ
Can make it be very, very tempting to take a stand against those people and sought them out both verbally and physically in a like manner to their own,
fortunately though for maybe both them and me did these thoughts of re-actions only come in hindsight and when it was too late to do it.
Hindsight that gives us the time to remember or even realise, that just as for us, so it is for them.
As with us, God comes for them and not against them like the hen gathering her chicks.
We might like to punish them.
He comes to set them free
and to bless them.
The grace of God is breathtaking,
and fortunately so,
because if it wasn’t
then there would be no hope for us either.
we do thank and praise you for your loving kindness to us;
that you haven’t turned away,
but come to redeem us and embrace us as your beloved children.
And so we pray,
That in the days we have left,
That you help us
to grow in faith, hope and love of yours eternal,
and serve and love
regardless of actions, colour or creed,
serve and love those you place before us, as you have most certainly have too us.
In Jesus name, and for Jesus’ sake do we pray. Amen.
AND The peace of God
which passes all human understanding
keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
With thanks to Pastor Keith McNicol from which this message has been provided (with alterations)