Luke 13:31-35 — 31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 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. 33 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.’ 34 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! 35 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!’ ”
As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, it is often helpful to pause and remind ourselves what this is all about. The Gospel, after all, isn’t really fully intended to be read in small little bits but the original readers would have devoured it from start to finish. It is easy to lose the forest because we’re busy looking at the trees.
Luke is recording history for sure but he has a deeper agenda. In this history is the revelation of the Person and work of Christ. He’s writing these things so that we may be certain in the things we hear and, by our certainty, come to know the saving power of Christ.
We’re in a section of Luke’s Gospel now that is underlining for us the call to discipleship. We cannot rightly understand this passage without considering what Christ has just said. Christ has been warning us to enter by the narrow door. Christ has been calling people to repentance and faith.
Suddenly, the text records that at that very hour, some Pharisees came and told Him to get away from here because Herod wanted to kill Him. This is the same Herod that had put Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, to death by beheading.
On the surface of things, it seems that these wer Pharisees who were trying to help Christ out. They’re worried for his safety. Christ’s response seems to indicate that their intentions may not have been completely pure as He tells them to “Go and tell that fox…” as if they might have a relationship with him.
The Pharisees hated Herod and the Herodians. The Herodians were secularists and opportunists. This Herod was the son of Herod the Great who had gained great power through collaboration with the Romans. This Herod Antipas, who supposedly wants to kill Jesus, was ruling the region of Galilee where Jesus primarily taught throughout His ministry.
You may be unaware of the fact that most of Christ’s ministry was in the region of Galilee. Though it is clear He spent time beyond Galilee and went to Judea and Jerusalem, He primarily centered His ministry in Herod’s region. Christ, as we know, had repeated disputes with the Pharisees and we know from the other Gospels that, at one point, the Pharisees began to plot with the Herodians as to how they might destroy Christ.
This is a long way of saying that even though the Pharisees generally hated the Herodians, both groups hated Christ even more and had teamed up to destroy Him. It’s one of those “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of things. When it comes to Christ, all institutions of this age want to team up against their common Enemy.
Why then warn Christ about Herod? Because the Pharisees reasoned according to the wisdom of this world. Christ had great influence in Galilee. It was His “hood”. It was His region of influence and power according to their reasoning. If they could scare Christ out of Galilee into Judea then the Pharisees had more influence and power in their region and would be in a better position to destroy Him.
Psalm 2:1-3 — 1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
But Christ’s response is unexpected and He basically destroys their logic. He responds, in so many words, that He had come to the earth for the very purpose of dying. Christ was not afraid of death for that is the very reason He came. He would finish His course of ministry and move to Jerusalem at the pace that the Father had set for Him. He would not die one second before or after the Father had appointed for His death.
Have you ever read any of the accounts of Christ’s life from the Gospels and thought: He barely escaped with His life that time…. In fact, if Christ had a denarius for every time some crowd wanted to kill Him, He would have a lot of denarii.
God determines the courses and seasons for things. Christ knew and trusted when His time would come. He had come for such a time and He had nothing to fear in the preaching of the Gospel. He would continue the mission that the Prophet Isaiah had foretold as He delivered men from the bondage of sickness, demon possession and, ultimately, sin and death itself.
Ligon Duncan recounts a story from the Luzon Missions Conference he attended last year. Christian missionaries came from around the world to testify of the work of the Gospel in some of the most dangerous regions of the world to preach the Gospel. One of the speakers at the conference testified of a missionary friend’s work in a Muslim land.
This missionary drove to a store with his wife and saw a man on the corner with a gun. The missionary went in to the store to buy some supplies and was followed into the store by the armed man. He bought his supplies all the time under the careful gaze of the armed man. As he was driving away, he told his wife what had happened. His wife asked him if he had given the man a Bible.
The missionary answered his wife as many of us would: “Are you crazy?”
As they argued, his wife began to pray: “Oh Lord, please do not hold my husband guilty for the blood of this man….”
He turned the car around and drove back to the corner store and found the armed man still waiting at the corner. He approached the man thinking “I’m going to die” and then handed the man a Bible in his native language.
The man embraced him and exclaimed that he had a dream three nights ago to come to this corner because someone would give him a book with the words of life in it.
That missionary saved a man alive because he feared God more than death. The same missionary was later martyred for his faith.
We talk of countries that are closed to the Gospel in this country only because of our little faith. But, Beloved, there are no countries closed to the Gospel if we’re willing to die for the Gospel.
That narrow door that Christ spoke about earlier in Luke 13 is that we would follow Him and die to ourselves. That narrow path transforms us to consider that men can only harm the body but the God Who makes peace with men through the Gospel has power over life and death.
In fact, many at the same missions’ conference were in dangerous countries. When they learned that Ligon Duncan ministered the Gospel in America, their reaction was to pray for him. Why? Because, in their minds, we are in a land that is hard ground for the Gospel.
Oh, we may have religious freedom. Certainly, we are blessed to be free of persecution and threat of death but ours is a very hard soil. We are rich and do not consider ourselves poor. We are proud and do not consider ourselves objects of wrath. We are strong and do not see our weakness. We are healthy and do not see our need for the Physician.
So it is that we return to Christ in this Gospel as He points out in verse 33 that it was Jerusalem that killed the prophets. Respectable, religious Jerusalem considered itself strong. Jeremiah lamented for a people who wanted prophets to preach prosperity and peace when the judgment of God was at hand for their hard hearts.
Christ would not die outside of Jerusalem. He was appointed to die there for a people who despised and rejected Him. He would be put to death by and for the hard-hearted and, through His sacrifice, would conquer sin that held men’s hearts captive.
Luke 13:34-35 — 34 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! 35 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!’ ”
Christ uttered a curse against the city of Jerusalem because she refused to repent before the inviting anger of the Lord. Throughout her history, God had been as a patient Father warning His children, through the Covenant, of the consequences of forsaking Him.
She had been a tender virgin whom God had taken under His wing and betrothed. He had clothed her in beautiful garments and been kind unto her. The people of God were to be a holy nation, a people set apart, a people transformed by the Word that was very near to them.
But they had, instead, whored after other gods. They had prostituted themselves by worshipping idols and trusting in their own strength. They considered themselves great even though their greatness was found in the shelter of His wings. God intended that they be a light to the Gentiles who were groping in the darkness of their own idolatry. Instead, they had become blind just like the nations around them.
So Christ echoes the condemnation of the prophets. Those who forsake the Lord will perish in the way lest they turn. Even as the leaders plotted His destruction, the Son of God has come to establish His reign:
Psalm 2:4-9 — 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
We might be tempted to see in this a military strength but the truth is that this begotten Son came to conquer by His death. His Kingdom was to be established by walking into the teeth of sin and dying on a Cross.
He wept aloud for this city.
You see this pattern, again and again, in the Prophets as God announces judgment and then He breaks away in tears thinking about the everlasting love He has for His own. He speaks of His own as toddlers that He taught to walk by holding up their arms and He longingly cries out: “How can I destroy the object of my affection?”
God’s ways are inscrutable. This simply means that He is so far above us that we can only understand Him as creatures through what He has revealed. On the one hand, God must judge sin and rebellion and hardness but, on the other, He weeps for those who must be judged for their rebellion.
How can a sinful people be rescued from the holiness of God? How can God stand to be in the presence of sin?
Jesus Christ is the answer.
Very God of very God veiled in human flesh.
Every man’s sin and rebellion will be met with the fire of God’s judgment. The world was already condemned. Yet Christ came into Jerusalem and offered Himself upon the Cross and became a Curse for those who look upon Him.
On that Cross, the Father said: “I will judge the rebellion of those I love. They deserve eternal wrath and death. Take it for them. I place their condemnation upon you.”
And as Christ hung there, He became an utter stench in the nostrils of the Father and became Sin for us. He became everything unworthy and unholy in us. He became ugly in the sight of the Father that we might become fair. He became weak that He might take away our weakness. He died forsaken that we might be remembered by the Father. As He died, the power of sin and condemnation was broken for His own.
Eternal justice – Satisfied!
Eternal condemnation – Judged!
Christ’s lament over the children of Jerusalem was not a sentimental longing but a purposeful love that drove Him to Jerusalem that He might fulfill His course for us. His love drove Him to die and rise that we might have life.
And so it is, Beloved, that the situation today is as it was in Christ’s day. God has revealed Himself in the world all around us and within us that we know that He upholds the world and everything in it and we owe Him obedience and fear. Yet, in our rebellion, we refuse to obey and exchange the truth for a lie. We measure the world and reality as we desire to see it. We set up institutions to our own glory. We live lives to our own purpose. We would die in our sins with the command: “My will be done.”
But Christ has appointed a Day, calling it “Today”. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts!
The Pharisees and others who rejected Christ would die in their sins lest they repent and turn to the One Whom they afflicted. Many did repent and turn in the Acts of the Apostles. Yet some still refused to bow the knee to God’s Son. Many still arrayed themselves in rebellion against God: too proud and convinced that they possessed life and holiness apart from Christ.
These were religious men and women who went to Church every week. They tithed. They had zeal that outstrips our own. They memorized and meditated on the Word of God.
They even believed in a kind of grace that allowed them to be holy in their own strength. They thanked God for grace that they were righteous unlike other men. They believed their cooperation with grace and religious duty earned the favor and reward of God.
Christ is an enemy of the religious man who believes he is already righteous for the duties he performs. He is an enemy to those who are insulted to think that their hearts are deceitful and wicked and blasphemous before a holy God. He is an enemy to those who refuse to bow the knee and see the despair of their sin as they are trapped within the idolatry of the worship of their own wills.
Today, Beloved, Christ yet weeps and says to you and me that He longs to gather you unto Him. His Gospel goes forth in power. His Gospel conquers His enemies and causes them to die of their self-esteem and see in the Savior a beautiful redeemer. He is conquering those who forsake the wisdom of this age as He reveals to them the wisdom of the age to come that is breaking into the world.
Hear the voice of the Savior. Cry out to Him: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Psalm 2:10-12 —10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The Son has died that you might have life. Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand! The Son stands before you. Kiss Him in faith and take refuge in Him!