When silence is not golden – Thursday, 30th week in ordinary time – Luke 13: 31-35
In Luke 9:51, Jesus began his long march to Jerusalem, a march that ends in chapter 19:28, referred to as Luke’s “Journey Narrative”. In this five verse pericope Jesus seems to be receiving some unsolicited advice from the Pharisees. They inform him that Herod is out to kill him and the best thing he should do is to get away from there.
There is no clarity as to what is the real motivation of this advice from the Pharisees. Luke in his Gospel and the Acts has also portrayed some of the Pharisees in good light; a case in point being Gamaliel and at the same time exposed their narrow mindedness and hypocrisy (Luke 11:37-53). One is left a bit perplexed as to why they would insinuate that Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Luke 9:7-9 and 23:8 does not indicate that Herod wanted to kill Jesus but then again we have Herod who executed John the Baptist3:19-20 and 9:9
In any case, Jesus was not one to be dictated to nor does he seem overawed by the threat posed by Herod. Jesus has clearly set his own timetable and God and not Herod is in charge of who dies when. Jesus does not run away but rather sends a stinging message back to Herod calling him a fox. His integrity was his strength against those who relied on their ability to be violent. As he told Pilate, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’.
Jesus took his orders from God, and he would not shorten his work by one day to please or to escape any earthly king. He refuses to be distracted from his mission of exorcism and healing. Christ clearly has his work mandated for him and divine will must prevail over local politics. The fact that Jesus views it more urgent to go to Jerusalem because of God’s will than to heed warnings about Herod, seems to indicate that the ultimate concern is theological.
Yet it is the same city of God’s habitation (Deut 12:5) that becomes the seat of violent opposition to God. Jerusalem in not only the place of Jesus’ murder but also its agent. It is for this city that Jesus has both words of fierce denunciation yet one senses a vulnerability in his compassion. It is this city that killed the prophets and stoned those sent to it. Verse 35 is clearly a reference to the events of 70 AD when the Romans finally destroyed the city and burnt down the temple.
The voice of God however is still crying out in compassion. Jesus bares his vulnerability in the face of opposition even for a city and her people that have rejected the prophets and will finally reject him. Throughout salvation history, God through the prophets, has attempted to gather together the children of Jerusalem like a hen gathers her chicks when danger is sensed but they refused to accept God’s love.
What then is our takeaway
- We must persevere in doing good even in the face of great difficulty. This is a great grace that God gives to us. Often our lives, like the Lord’s, is faced with several hardships. Jesus accepted the cross not only in his crucifixion but in the many small choices that led him to Jerusalem.
- Pastorally we have to wear many hats and play many roles. The heart of Jesus had to speak in two voices; a voice of courage, facing down Herod the king as a fox, symbol of destructive cunning; and a voice of grief when he weeps over Jerusalem.
- Often we do not speak up as Jesus did against Herod because we are afraid of what we will lose much. Ironically when we live in the fear of what we might lose we become even more vulnerable and open to threats.