This is the sermon I preached at St. Mark Lutheran Church. The text was Luke 18:31-35. At St. Timothy, we had a wonderful cantata entitled "Once Upon a Tree." The music is beautiful and the theology is rich.
We often think of the Pharisees in negative terms. They are mostly portrayed as enemies of Jesus and his mission. However, that was not true of all Pharisees. In Luke's gospel, there are many Pharisees that seem open to Jesus (7:36; 11:37; 14:1).
It was some Pharisees that brought the warning to Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. How does Jesus react? He does not seem bothered at all. Now, don't take Jesus as being naive. Jesus was simply working from a different timetable--God's.
I love the way Jesus talks about his plans and how this news regarding Herod is going to change them. He acts like he didn't even hear what the Pharisees had told him. Jesus would be following God's mission for him, in God's time, not human time. Jesus did not give into fear that Herod was plotting his death. Jesus contrasts the violent threat coming from Herod with his own work of liberating and healing people.
Jesus speaks directly of a brief, limited time that he has to complete his ministry and indirectly of his death and resurrection, which are in God's desire, the finish of his course.
Jesus will leave Galilee and go to Jerusalem, but in God's time. Jesus said he must be on his way. This must literally means "it is necessary." This the divine imperative in the Greek, which shows whose hand is behind that must. Neither friend nor foe could dissuade Jesus from his task of obedience to the Father.
There is a contradiction in this passage which is only evident to those who followed Jesus after his passion. Jesus' death will not be an end to the threat he poses to either Roman or religious authority. What began with 12 disciples, grew into a worldwide faith which cannot be contained by God's enemies.
Following his exchange with the Pharisees, Jesus goes into a lament for Jerusalem and how the inhabitants used have missed the opportunity to let God protect them and hold them. Sundays and Seasons explains the imagery in this way:
Jesus' desire to gather God's people together in safety, love, and
protection is reflected in the feminine imagery of a hen gathering her
chicks under her wing. This motherly, passionate desire--rather than
the resistance we or others may show toward it lies at the heart of
the gospel message in this text.
Jesus speaks of the impossibility of a prophet being killed outside of Jerusalem. Here, Luke affirms the designation of Jesus as a prophet as a means of declaring his messianic role. Suffering and death had already become traditional in Jerusalem as the mark of the true prophet. Although Jerusalem was a holy city, it had played a key role in the persecution of God's messengers (11:49-51, Acts 7:52).
"Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord'" (Psalm 118:26) closes this gospel lesson. Early Christianity interpreted these words as applying to Christ, the "coming one."
At Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus' disciples cry out in those words. But the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not raise such cries in praise of Jesus. The Jewish leaders considered it scandalous (19:38-40).
Jesus' prediction also points beyond that present period, to the time when Jesus returns, all, including his enemies, will acknowledge him as "the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
What does this mean to us?
Things happen in God's time, not our time. Do we realize that God can be in our midst and we don't recognize him or if we do recognize him, we accuse him of being a false prophet. We recognize he is who he is, but we don't want to believe it.
Did you ever realize how a simple thing can impact the lives of others in the community? A good example of this is St. Mark's funeral outreach. No one I could think of had ever taken the time to coordinate with a funeral director to provide a place for families without connections in the community to come and have a meal together following the funeral. Whether you realize it or not, this can have a lasting impact on a family that you may or may not know. Is God there when we as a congregation do this? You bet he is. All we need to do is look for opportunities to share our stories and to help those when the need arises. Sometimes you may get a nagging feeling that God or "someone" wants you to do something. We have to learn to go with the flow because this may be an opportunity God was putting in place for us to touch someone and the choice is did we follow God's plan or our plan?
Fred B. Craddock, Preaching Through the Christian Year C
Fred B. Craddock, Interpretation: Luke
Beverly R. Gaventa, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV-Year C