Tag Archives: Luke 13

Opposite Instinct

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
Luke 13:31-33 (NIV)

This past Sunday I gave the message among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. I made the simple observation that in almost every story, television show, or movie the protagonist is trying to avoid, escape, or solve death while attempting to cling to, extend, and/or enhance life. Life is such a basic human desire we hardly even give it much thought.

I found it fascinating that in today’s chapter Luke continues to foreshadow Jesus’ death. Both Pilate (an official of the occupying Roman Empire ruling over the region, who would eventually sentence Jesus to die by execution) and Herod (a regional monarch who killed John the Baptist and before whom Jesus would stand trial). Both of these rulers were known for their violence and cruelty.

Herod’s family, in particular, had a long history of holding onto power by killing anyone they saw as a threat. It was Herod’s father, Herod the Great, who upon hearing from the three wise men that a prophetic sign told them “the King of the Jews” had been born in Bethlehem, proceeded to have every baby in Bethlehem under the age of two slaughtered in an effort to prevent Jesus from growing up and threatening his reign. His son, Herod Antipas, who is referenced in today’s chapter, carried on his father’s bloody, corrupt legacy.

At the end of today’s chapter, Jesus is warned that Herod is attempting to have Him killed. In yesterday’s chapter is said that Jesus has been attracting stadium worthy crowds so large that people were trampling one another to get near Him. This would have rattled Herod. Any person with that kind of popularity was a threat to his position and power, and Herod learned from his father that clinging to power required killing anyone who was a threat to take it from you, (even if that threat is just a baby).

What I found interesting is that Jesus expresses neither fear or concern. Rather, Jesus doubles-down and tells the messengers to return to Herod and tell “that fox” that He would press on:

[Jesus] replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

Beyond the attitude of courage and perseverance in Jesus’ reply, there is also an important subtext that is lost on many readers. Jesus references three days to reach His goal, foreshadowing the three days in the grave before His resurrection. He then offers a puzzling statement about no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem.

Back in chapter 9, Luke stated that Jesus was “resolutely” fixed on going to Jerusalem. Jesus has consistently been criticizing the religious leaders and their ancestors for killing the prophets sent to them. He has also been making consistent, metaphorical references foreshadowing His own death. Jesus is on a mission and He can see how it is all going to play out. He isn’t the victim, but the instigator of events that He knows will lead to His death.

I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words to His followers in previous chapters:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?

Luke 9:23-25 (NIV)

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.

Luke 12:4 (NIV)

Everything Jesus is doing runs contrary to our most basic human instincts. Humans want to avoid and escape death at all costs. Humans want to cling to this life as long as we can along with everything we can possibly acquire within the finite amount of time we’re given. Luke offers his readers Pilate and Herod as exhibits A and B in today’s chapter. Two men at the top of the heap who will kill anyone who threatens their position, wealth, and power. Jesus, however, is the antithesis. He’s moving in the opposite direction and telling His followers that they must follow if they want to experience the Kingdom of God.

In the quiet this morning I find myself reminded of a passage I referenced in last Sunday’s message. Jesus’ friend Lazarus is dead. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, tells Jesus that if He’d have arrived sooner then her brother would not be dead. Jesus replies:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

He then asks her a question:

“Do you believe this?”

Do I believe it?

And, if I say that I do believe it (and I have been saying it for almost 40 years), am I willing to follow Jesus in the opposite direction of the basic human instincts of this world?

Have you missed the previous chapter-a-day posts from this journey through the Gospel of Luke? Click on this image and it will take you to a quick index of the other posts!

Seed, to Sapling, to Shade

source: Ikonotekton via Flickr
source: Ikonotekton via Flickr

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19 (NIV)

I am notoriously bad at growing things. I often feel ashamed of this. When you are born and live in Iowa nearly your entire life you tend to think that a green thumb should naturally be bred into your DNA. My paltry attempts at gardening and growing houseplants over the years have been an endless string of dismal failures (not unlike the Cubs attempts to win a World Series).

I am, nevertheless, increasingly appreciative of the time and patience it takes for things to take root, grow, and develop over time. I have observed over my lifetime how our culture has become focused on things happening instantly. I marvel to think how fast thing happen. We have fast food, faster downloads, a library at our fingertips, digital photos without developing, news from around the world popping incessantly on our smartphones, video calls with loved ones on the other side of the world, and on, and on, and on.

Along life’s journey I have come to realize that, unlike our consumer society, God is not a slave to the demands of the market He serves. He remains concerned with seasons of cultivating, planting, growing, pruning and harvest. God’s Kingdom is less about instant gratification and more about perfect timing. Chained to this concept we call time, I observe that we are incessantly focused on striving to pack in as much as we possibly can, as quickly as we can make things happen. Existing omnisciently outside of time, present in all moments at once, the Creator affords a perspective we can’t quite grasp in the moment.

I find this dilemma affects even how we want things to happen spiritually. I watch the effects with my fellow Jesus followers in our institutional churches. We want quick decisions, instant repentance, immediate life change, and the fruit of the Spirit produced post haste. We want attendance to explode in our services or we consider it a failure.

This morning I am reminded that God’s Kingdom is comparable to a tree that is grown from a small seed. A tree requires time to progress from seed to root to sapling to fruitful maturity when many can benefit from the shade of its branches. It requires patience and must persevere through difficult seasons and less than ideal circumstances. It will suffer from branches that don’t make it. I am encouraged by this truth. Progress, not perfection, is the prescription of the day. It gives me reason to have a little more grace with myself and to extend a little more love and mercy towards others.

Chapter-a-Day Luke 13

mojo ingredients
Image by chotda via Flickr

Then [Jesus] said, “How can I picture God’s kingdom for you? What kind of story can I use? It’s like a pine nut that a man plants in his front yard. It grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches, and eagles build nests in it.” Luke 13:18-19 (MSG)

When I read these words of Jesus, it reminded me of the message we heard in worship yesterday. In a world in which “instant” this and “convenient” that is marketed to us incessantly, I find it easy to want my spiritual maturity to be a simple recipe:

Instant Christian
1 part Jesus
1/2 part prayer
Pinch of knowledge of God’s Message
Dash of church

Directions: Add ingredients into a soul and stir.

I’m reminded this morning that God’s kingdom is not about a moment, but an eternity. It is not a destination but a journey. I look back and see how far I’ve come, but then I look to the horizon and see how far I have to go.

So I begin another hour of another day within another week in another year of the journey. God, have your way in me as I press on.

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