Text: Luke 13:31-35
There is something seriously wrong in our Gospel reading for today, and you probably didn’t even notice it: “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”” This doesn’t sound like any of the Pharisees we know, for they weren’t concerned about Jesus’ wellbeing, but rather of getting Him out of the picture before He does any more damage to their powerbase. So why would they warn Jesus of what Herod wants to do? Were these Pharisees really concerned about Christ’s welfare? Was their warning concerning Herod sincere? Or did they want to get Jesus to go to Jerusalem where it would be easier for them to get rid of Him?
Perhaps there was some danger as far as Herod was concerned. Certain threats against the life of Jesus had been made. The Herodians, the supporters of Herod, were plotting with the Pharisees to kill Jesus. At the same time the Pharisees were using such threats to serve their own evil purposes. They were not friends of Jesus. It was likely they wanted Jesus to go to Jerusalem where they would have more people on their side because He would not be so popular as in Galilee.
Despite whatever their intentions with this warning, it seems very much out of character for them. For a group of people who despised Jesus as much as the Pharisees did, it seems completely illogical for them to warn Public Enemy #1 of the Pharisees of a desire to have Jesus put to death. Regardless of their intent, Jesus doesn’t give them any satisfaction with their warning. Rather, He goes after Herod over the Pharisees: “Go and tell that fox…” The Lord made no reference to the hypocritical show of concern by the Pharisees, but answered them by expressing His contempt for Herod and any danger which that “fox” could present. In fact, by openly referring to Herod as a fox, that is a cunning person, Jesus publicly defied him.
Jesus wanted Herod to know that He would continue His work and miracles “today and tomorrow,” that is for a certain definite time. Then “on the third day,” at an appointed time, Jesus would bring His entire work to completion. His goal, which included death and resurrection, would not be reached while Jesus is in Herod’s territory. Therefore Jesus said He must continue His journey to Jerusalem which has the reputation of killing the prophets sent by God.
You see, nothing would keep Jesus from His date with the cross; not the Pharisees and not Herod. Nothing under creation would keep Jesus from His saving creation. Despite whatever plan the Pharisees might have cooked up with regards to killing Jesus, it would never come to pass. Whatever Herod had in mind would not come to pass because Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s not in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is where He must be. That is why He says, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”
Thus, as He goes to the cross, no one can keep Him away from Jerusalem-not Herod and all of his soldiers or the Pharisees with all of their plans. This is the Son of God going about His Father’s will, and He will not be diverted from the journey. He is going to Jerusalem. And because He is going to Jerusalem, Herod and the Pharisees will work out the details for His death. If He isn’t going to go away, they will make Him go away.
But bear this in mind: They don’t make Him go away. The Lord is still in charge. He does not die on that cross because of Herod’s strength or the plottings of the Pharisees. Nor is He scourged and crucified because of the power of the Romans. He goes to that cross only because He goes willingly, because this is God’s plan for your salvation. This is the all-powerful Son of God, and He will not be denied your redemption.
This is your comfort and hope: Your Savior is not a weak man who is overpowered by evil men who seek to put Him to death. No matter the hatred of His enemies, He goes to Jerusalem. No matter the plots and plans of man, nothing keeps Him from suffering the full judgment for your sin. Nothing could deter the Son of Godfrom that mission of salvation. No one, not Satan and his seductive attempts to buy Christ from His mission; not even Christ’s own disciples could dissuade Him from going to the cross with the hopes of Him staying with them forever; not even His enemies who threatened Him with suffering and even death; nothing in this world could side-track Him from that for which He came into the world. He came to be a ransom for many. He came to die that we might live. He came as Redeemer and ushered in the full meaning of God’s eternal love.
And so we say again: Jesus goes to the cross and dies only because He wills to. He did it willingly. He submitted to the suffering and the nails and the death because He willed to do so for you, in accordance with the Father’s will.
Jesus’ heart for His people will send Him to Jerusalem, for her and for us. Once more, on Palm Sunday, Jesus would come to Jerusalem and be acclaimed by words of praise, but He will still be rejected and crucified. This is precisely why He would come. This had been Jerusalem’s purpose throughout her favored history: this would be where the Son would God would give His life for the Church. Jerusalem will be saved and so will you, as will all those who repent and are gathered into Christ.
As Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem His ministry focused on those upcoming events. He taught and healed as He usually did on these journeys, but He also spent more time preparing His followers for His upcoming suffering and death in Jerusalem.
After He arrived in Jerusalem, His journey would continue. At the end of that journey, He would carry a cross to Calvary. He would also carry our sins. Jerusalem is the place He would complete His journey. It is the place where He would proclaim, “It is finished,” as He finished His mission to pay the penalty for our sins.
For you, Christ was led like a lamb to the slaughter, not by Herod or the Pharisees, but of His own accord. He was despised and rejected by men because He was seen as a challenge to their authority rather than the means of their salvation. Despite the acts of those who sought to put Him to death, He lays down His life for them and He lays down His life for you in order to redeem you. It is because of Christ that we are able to say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.