Read Luke 13:31-35
Some who had been listening to Jesus told him of what Pilate had done to a group of Galilean pilgrims, mixing their blood with their sacrifices. Surely this Roman Governor had stepped over the line and Jesus would lash out at him. He didn’t.
He asks if one set of sins is worse than another. He confronts the judgmental attitude of those reporting this apparent atrocity and tells them to repent of their own sins.
Then we come to the Pharisees. Jesus had many confrontations with the Pharisees and we might think that they just want to get Jesus out of their hair for a while so they tell Jesus that Herod will kill him if he sticks around. So are the Pharisees genuine in their concern for Jesus or not?
In the next chapter of Luke, Jesus joins a group of Pharisees for a meal on the Sabbath. He is still very direct in his teaching, but he is not persona non grata. We know that later on some Pharisees come to believe in Jesus.
And then we come to Herod. This is not the Herod that ordered all the baby boys killed hoping to eliminate the King of the Jews in this broad sweep. This is the Herod that imprisoned and killed John the Baptist. This is the Herod who set aside the law and any cultural norms to take his brother’s wife.
Jesus called him a fox. Now if you were a German tank commander in North Africa in WWII, the term might denote a skilled tactician. If you were a somewhat unscrupulous king in the first century world the term might mean that you were an unscrupulous king. The term low life was not in common use at that time, so fox would work just fine. The fox was considered both crafty because he was not strong and malicious at the same time.
But did Herod really want to kill Jesus? Could he have been misrepresented by the Pharisees for their own purposes? Some think that Herod was more curious about Jesus than opposed to him. This wasn’t the first time that the Pharisees tried to leverage Herod in an encounter with Jesus. The gospels may list these encounters in different sequences, but this dynamic had played out elsewhere.
Consider the 19th chapter of Matthew. The Pharisees come to test Jesus and ask, “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife for just any ole reason?”
Let’s ask another question first. Who comes up with these questions? Is there a Pharisee think tank that sits around trying to figure out how to stump Jesus? OK, the paying taxes thing didn’t get us anywhere. We were taken to school on the greatest commandment in the law. What can we use to stump him?
The Sadducees were bested with their 7 brothers question. What can we use to get this guy? Perhaps one guy raises his hand and proffers, what if we stopped trying to test him and see if we can trap him. It seems like he has all the answers anyway, but what if one of the answers gets him in trouble with the political authorities? Let’s say with Herod?
What would get Jesus in trouble with Herod? Asking Jesus if it is ok for a man to divorce his wife for any ole reason? That’s the ticket. That same sort of criticism got John the Baptist locked up, and we know how that came out.
The Pharisees are bested here again as well as Jesus talks about the hardness of the hearts of men. You think they would have learned that Jesus would have the right answer and not fall into their political traps from the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes?”
So we return to our selection from Luke’s gospel realizing that the Pharisees are not beyond leveraging the names of political leaders for their own purposes.
So Jesus is going around the countryside preaching and teaching, healing and performing mighty acts, and the Pharisees tell him that he had better hit the road before Herod comes and kills him.
If the world ever runs out of soap opera material, they can just turn to the first century world where the top level governors taunt the local religious leaders by making an abomination of their practices. The local governors steal wives and behead prophets. And the religious leaders try to play these political masters as leverage in their less than noble practices.
But what does Jesus do when the Pharisees tell him that Herod might kill him?
He says go tell that fox that I am busy.
Jesus told them but they did not understand that he was in the middle of his ministry but soon his ministry would cease and his sacrifice would be made. Jesus had places to go, people to see, and things to do and he would not be distracted from what he came to accomplish.
The pettiness and power plays of those all around him were not his concern. He would heal the sick and cast out demons and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor for just a bit longer. Then he would come to Jerusalem for that’s where God’s prophets and messengers were killed.
Jesus rebuffs the Pharisees and through them Herod as well, that he has ministry to do now and he will die where he is prescribed to die, nowhere else.
And then we get a glimpse of the sadness in the heart of Jesus as he considers Jerusalem. The heart of Jesus is to gather his own people together and care for them, but the story of these people is that they again and again reject God’s message and his messengers, and soon would crucify his greatest Message.
Then Jesus explained or perhaps chastened is more accurate, that Jerusalem remains under judgment until they proclaim the Messiah. They will be blind to the Christ until they proclaim, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
These are God’s Chosen People. These are people that God delivered from slavery and oppression in Egypt and returned to their homeland from captivity in Babylon. These are the people that gave us Jesus. These are people that still have prophecy to fulfill through the end of the age. But at this time, in these final days, these people remained blind to the Christ who stood among them.
Now we know that many Jews, including the teachers and Pharisees did come to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Most of these believed following the resurrection, but the whole of the nation rejected him. The greater part of God’s Chosen People were blind to the One they should have recognized and proclaimed in their very presence.
It seemed that Jesus was keeping busy so he wouldn’t have to sing this sad song. For while the Jews were blind to what was happening and perhaps to their part in the greater picture; Jesus longed for them to come to him and share in his blessings and protection and loving kindness.
But still, there was sadness for Jerusalem.
But we do not need to sing this sad song.
We have been given eyes to see and ears to hear. We know the good news. We proclaim Jesus as the Christ and as our Lord and Savior.
We have heard the good news.
We believe the good news.
And we live in a world that very much resembles the one described in the first century. There is always a struggle for power. There are always underhanded ways at work somewhere. One person or group is always trying to leverage one group for their cause or pit several groups against each other.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
So as we consider our polycentric world—a world with many centers and causes and counter causes—we should consider the approach that Jesus took before it was time for him to die.
He was busy.
He was not busy with busy work but with purposeful work.
He was not busy as we are busy in today’s world.
He was not anchored to appointments, emails, phone calls, forms to complete, and deadlines that hung over him. He had one appointment to keep.
Until that time he would be about his Father’s business. He would heal and teach and preach and cast out demons and dine with sinners and with Pharisees. He would equip his disciples for what was to come. He prepared them to go into a lost word with a message of hope for all.
But amidst all of the worldly controversy, Jesus said to tell those who are being clever that he is busy caring for those who need it the most.
The Psalmist reminds us to number our days. Jesus had numbered his and would make them count, not by pleasing any worldly master, support any cause, or by sorting out any worldly case or controversy; but by taking the Kingdom of God from village to village, from hillside to riverside until it was time to atone for the sin of the world.
But where do we stand with being about our God-given business?
Are we too busy for Jesus?
Or do we tell the controversies of the world that we are too busy for them because we are following Jesus.
We are feeding the hungry and clothing the poor.
We are taking the good news to our community and to the world.
We are living our lives with Jesus as Lord.
The world will be the world with all of its troubles and controversies and power plays, but we are children of God and commissioned by Jesus to bring good news to the world.
Will we get sucked and suckered into the power plays that have no eternal value or will we do what is important for all eternity.
Loving each other.
Forgiving one another as God has forgiven us.
Being God’s light in the middle of this darkness.
Adding some God flavor to a world that otherwise tastes sour and bitter. We are the salt of the earth and we bring God seasoning to a secular palate.
Speaking the truth in love.
We know what to do. We know exactly what to do!
The question is will we be about the business that our Father in heaven has given us through Christ Jesus, or will be play petty little games of power and position with our precious little time.
Let us learn to number our days.
Let us proclaim that as for me and my house, we serve the Lord.
Then let us live like we don’t have much time and that the work of the Lord is all that matters.
Let’s tell a busy world, “I’m busy working for the Lord.”