The Second Sunday in Lent – Series C – Luke 13:31-35
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Pharisees aren’t trying to be helpful.
When they say to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” They are not offering a positive word of concern.
Rather, and whether the Pharisees, themselves, fully realize it or not, they are taking on a position that is very familiar to us in the Gospels, a position held at times by St. Peter, and held all of the time by the devil himself.
The Pharisees, in Luke chapter 13, have become the voice of temptation to Jesus, those seeking any and every way to divert his journey to Jerusalem, to bar his course from coming to completion.
St. Peter rebuked Jesus when he spoke about his death, out fear and trembling. The devil tempts Jesus away from his death out of malice and hatred, and the Pharisees, today, make use of this scare tactic out of nothing more than petty jealousy.
In response to this, Christ doesn’t shake or tremble, he doesn’t fear Herod’s anger, or the Pharisees empty threat, instead he proclaims with all power, control and authority, “Go and tell that fox”
Tell that animal, who although he is tricky, conniving, sly and cunning, is actually, when you think about it, not at all dangerous, not at all in control, and not at all powerful.
Go and tell that fox, that today and tomorrow I preach, teach, cast out demons and cure diseases, and the THIRD DAY, my course is finished.
One thing is perfectly clear to us in Luke 13, it is the theme of the day, the Gospel hope, the comfort that we are to receive, and that is quite simply that, nothing stands in the way or stops the Son of God from going to Jerusalem.
The jealousy of the Pharisees does not delay him, the wrath of Herod does not startle him, the rejection by all of Jerusalem does not keep him away,
And even, and this is perhaps the most important reality to us gathered here, even the disbelief, doubt and fear of his own disciples, does not stop him from going to the cross to die.
Not the fear of death, not the rejection of his own people, not even the unbelief of his church keeps the Christ away from his crucifixion.
The day that Jesus dies he is surrounded by those who reject him.
Indeed, he is found alone as the faithful one, surrounded by the faithless.
We might ask, as we should ask, where are we found in this text, and where are we found in the days of Holy Week?
For any answer that we come up with brings to us a rather bleak picture of what we are.
If we say, we are found with crowds, the ones shouting, “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” on Palm Sunday, then we must also answer that we are found with the crowds shouting a few days later, “Crucify Him, may His blood be on us and on our children.”
And if that answer does not strike at the naked truth of who we are, then perhaps we would move and say that we are found with the faithful disciples of Christ, the ones who believe…yet even that answer, turns out to be just as bleak.
As confident as Peter proclaims his devotion to Christ to be, all of the disciples fall asleep, they flee from him in the garden, and they hide themselves in fear in the upper room. They turn to sorrow and despair when he dies, believing the savior to be defeated.
The day Christ dies, he alone is the faithful one, he alone is righteous. All of humanity surrounds him, all of humanity rejects and flees from him, all of humanity has nothing to offer.
But even that does not stop him from going to Jerusalem.
For that is precisely the point.
You and I, and the whole of humanity have nothing to offer…we are faithless and we constantly falter.
Like the disciples our own devotion is quickly scared away, like the crowds we may shout our hosannas at one moment, but we daily hear and believe the lies of world and turn our praise into condemnation.
Jesus dies for a humanity that rejects him, for a creation that has nothing to offer, for this is what his death and third day now does.
He reconciles the dead as living in him, he redeems his enemies as sons of God, he forgives the sinner and calls him by his own name.
Jesus does not wait for his disciples to have a perfect faith, or for humanity to have something of its own to offer, he goes to Jerusalem because there truly is nothing but sin for us to give.
Here in this truth and comfort of the Gospel we find how the Christian confesses this text.
We confess that we do indeed have nothing to offer, that our faith in ourselves constantly fails, that our hearts continuously seek the lies and rejection of the world.
We have nothing, and in that confession, we see true faith, which in turn receives from Christ all things.
He gives life to those who are dead, he forgives the sinner, keeps steadfast the one who falters and fails, and sustains the one who has no hope in himself.
Not even this, not even your sin, not even your lack of faith, stops him from finishing his course in you.
He who plants, keeps and sustains your faith, remains with you and for you to finish it.
Indeed, you the Christian, are found in Christ, today and every day, and even then, even on Good Friday, you are found in Christ, the faithful one, the righteous one, given to you.
Indeed, nothing stops the Christ from finishing his course, nothing delays his mercy, nothing halts his forgiveness.
And in that, and in Luke 13, we find still more comfort.
Christ, who is not kept away from his crucifixion by Herod, the Pharisees or the devil, is also not overcome and overpowered by them in his death.
He remains in control, in authority, even as he is nailed to a tree, even as Pilate washes his hands and the crowds mock him.
Everything that happens in Holy Week, does not happen to Jesus as if he is being overpowered or overtaken. Nothing happens against his own will.
Rather, his journey, the course that he finishes, he alone walks, he is not sent to the cross, he goes there of his own accord, through the Father’s will, and by his mercy alone.
Herod’s anger is not vindicated in his death, neither are the Pharisees plans completed; his will is to die, and his mercy is to do so for you.
By appearances, this doesn’t seem to be true.
And indeed from Good Friday to Easter morning, the disciples don’t really believe it, they are found fearful in the upper room, locked away behind closed doors.
The appearance, the convincing case that is made to their eyes, hearts and minds is that the devil has won, the world has the upper hand and Jesus has gone away for good.
Like the disciples before Easter morning, you and I, in Christ, yet found in this fallen world, exist with such appearances. A convincing case is found all around us, arguing to eyes, ears, hearts and minds that the devil is winning, that the world has the upper hand, and that Jesus has gone away for good.
When we look out at war, famine, disease, death, violence, and chaos all around us, it seems, or at least it appears, that all of these things have the upper hand.
Yet the words of Christ in Luke 13, call us to see and believe differently. Indeed, to see and believe by the faith that he has given, that faith that we do not have to offer on our own, but that he has planted and made alive by his death and resurrection.
Where the enemy may take your head or final breath, it can never steal away from you your true head in Christ Jesus.
Where disease may surprise you and cut your life in this world short, it has no authority on the life everlasting that is already yours.
Where violence and hatred may cause you to tremble and shake, it is not the end of your road. That road, that course has already been made secure.
In life, in death, and in eternity, Christ has finished his course.
You are his, and by his mercy and work you remain in him, faithful and righteous unto life everlasting.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.