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Second Sunday of Lent

Today’s Readings

Psalm 27, Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-end

Every organisation seems to be risk conscious or averse these days. This is nothing new – risk assessment has been around for a very long time. In the gospel passage today, we see Jesus doing a bit of risk assessment. Jesus and the disciples are already working their way towards Jerusalem. The Pharisees come up to him and say “Get away from here, Herod is after you to kill you”.

We have to remember that Jesus knew what the future held for him, but he also knew it was probably not yet. So he did a risk assessment – “Hmm – now, Pharisees I have work to do and I need to do it now and you are getting on my wick and in my way. And the fact of the matter is that it is very unlikely that a prophet would be killed anywhere except Jerusalem, so I judge that the risk to me is pretty remote just at the moment. I will continue with my work. You can go and tell Herod what I am doing and what results I am getting”

I suspect they may have done so, for later in Luke 23:6-12, after Jesus had been before Pilate, he sent him to Herod and it says that Herod was pleased as he had heard about Jesus and wanted to see him and actually hoped Jesus might perform a miracle in front of him. This does not sound like someone who was initially murderous, more someone who was at that stage simply curious.

So why did the Pharisees say this to Jesus? Did they do so just as a ploy to stop him teaching or were they genuinely worried about his safety. It is difficult to know for sure. The Pharisees were a group within the Jewish hierarchy that paid particular attention to the detail of Jewish law and adherence to it. They must have found some of Jesus’ behaviour a bit challenging. But in St Luke it does not appear that they are directly against Jesus – if they were, why would they have invited him to dinner, which we can see in the gospels that they did often? And it is at some of these occasions that he delivers some of his most important teaching, for example, about doing good, being humble and generous. So the truth is that Jesus and the Pharisees had quite a lot in common and they agreed with each other about many things.

So even though Jesus could be challenging, even exasperating to them, I think a lot of the Pharisees actually enjoyed having him around and discussing things with him. Dinner with Jesus was always going to be a lively event, especially if you didn’t mind a bit of controversy. So, I don’t think they wanted to see him get killed. At least not all of them. At least not yet.

So when those Pharisees warned Jesus, it may well have been from a genuine concern for his safety and survival. They weren’t saying anything the disciples weren’t already saying. Every time Jesus told the disciples that he would go to Jerusalem and be rejected and killed, but would rise on the third day, they told him not to go.

Luke today shows us the heart of Jesus. Shows us what’s motivating him to keep moving into the city where he will die. Luke records Jesus lament over Jerusalem. And for Jerusalem we can read the whole World. God must look at the World especially today and many countless times over the millennia and think, what a hopeless mess they are making of it all, what cruelty, what greed, what ignorance, what senseless brutality. And what is Jesus’ solution for that – not cruelty for cruelty, not hate for hate, but his wish to hide all humanity in the shadow of his wings. To gather us all into his arms.

So despite the threats, Jesus went on preaching God’s word. And very shortly, as we know, he would be riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, defenceless as a hen in a den of foxes. And people will be chanting: “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord”. Just the sort of thing to upset the authorities!

And those authorities are going to eat him alive. And they are going to try to destroy him and they will think they have.

But on the third day he will be raised. All is not said and done until the third day as Jesus presages in the reading today. And that’s the good news. Out of it all Jesus will emerge victorious.

We will all be battered by awful things in this life. They may be different challenges and problems, but we will all have them. But Jesus would have us know that God never lets the World have the last word, even though it sometimes appears that it might. Today, and tomorrow God is at work in our lives, and God’s work is not completed in us until our lives are over.

And no matter how bad we are, how many times we have pushed God away, rejected his love, refused to listen—God’s deepest desire remains to gather us all to him like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Not only the good, but also the bad and the downright evil can all be gathered under God’s wings if they accept his love and change their lives. It is never too late. And God wants them to repent and make amends, so that he can gather them to him. There’s always room for everyone and anyone there if they make the right choices and stand firm in the Lord. For which, we should all be glad.

Richard Austen

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