February 16, 2016: Gnaw on This

Second Sunday of Lent – Luke 13:31-35 Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”


The Backstory – What’s Going On Here?

This passage comes in the middle of what is often referred to as the “travel narrative” in Luke — Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem from 9:51-19:28. Immediately prior is Jesus’ teaching the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast, followed by an apocalpytic passage (9:22-30) where Jesus is asked “Lord, will only a few be saved?” … to which Jesus replies “strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” He then describes the scene of even those who ate and drank with Jesus being “thrown out” amidst “weeping and gnashing of teeth” when the door is closed. He closes (right before this passage) by saying, “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”


Immediately after this proclamation, we have this commentary on Herod and Jerusalem … certainly an example of “those who would be first.” Jesus sets himself in the role of the Old Testament prophets, who were rejected in Jerusalem … an act which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the exile of the people in Babylon. Jerusalem thus is both a symbol of God’s dedication to the people of Israel and the people’s continual turning away from God. It is in Jerusalem that Jesus will once again play that role.


A few things to chew on:

*Jesus uses a feminine image for himself as the Christ here — something not unheard of in scripture, but certainly not common. We have appropriated this language in one of the Enriching Our Worship Eucharistic Prayer 2 “Yet as a mother cares for her children, you would not forget us.” What language do you use for God? What are you comfortable with? What makes you uncomfortable? Try praying to God using different gender language than you are used to. Try praying to Jesus using a different ethnic image than you are used to. What do you notice?


*The Herod referred to here is not the Herod of the birth narrative (Herod the Great) but his son, Herod Antipas. Jesus calling him “that fox” has multiple meanings. In addition to meaning “crafty,” there is also the connotation of inferiority (think of a fox compared with a lion). Jesus is at once acknowledging that Herod is good at playing the game but is yet not a threatening opponent. Herod has the formal authority of position, but Jesus refuses to give him authority over him. Think of the relationships of authority in your life. Whom do you give authority to because of their position? Where do you have authority because of your position? In each, where does Jesus’ words that “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” come into play?

Try This:

Sorrow for the poor choices of others is a part of life. We all have friends and family who have made poor choices and the pain they cause is not limited to themselves but to all who care for them. This week, take some time to think about who has caused you pain by their poor choices … and also whom you have caused pain to by your poor choices. Think and pray about what a small act of love and reconciliation might look like in those relationships … and then do that one, small act.

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