Devotion for March 7, 2022

Luke 13:31-35
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “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.'”

This passage about the role of Jerusalem is ultimately a reflection point for followers of Jesus to consider how we continue his kingdom building work, especially given Jerusalem’s unfortunate history of dealing with prophets. However, I want to look at a different point that has been rattling around my brain. Why are the Pharisees warning Jesus? On the surface it seems as if they are issuing a sincere warning.

As noted college football commentator Lee Corso says, “not so fast my friend.” The reason the warning has not sat with me well is that it appears to be in conflict with what we know of Herod from Luke’s gospel. In Luke 9:7-9 Herod is curious about Jesus, and, as we will see later, in 23:8 Herod does not send Jesus back to Pilate with a death sentence. Certainly, I do not intend to paint Herod as a kind figure. His curiosity is framed around John’s beheading and his final interest in giving Jesus over to Pilate is an abdication of his responsibility, but this still does not answer why the Pharisees used this language. Perhaps they urgently wanted Jesus to leave because his teachings were upending theirs. Maybe they knew his teachings threatened their power in the Roman system. Maybe the really were sincere. We cannot really know their motive here, but we can be left to ask ourselves about our own motives and ways in which we seek to spread the message of Jesus.

During Lent, we focus on what we can sacrifice, but I wonder if this passage calls us to reflect on the nature of why we sacrifice. Are we doing something to be seen like the Pharisees would have done, or are we seeking to better understand the sacrificial life Jesus calls us to?

This Monday devotion is brought to you by Campbell University’s Center for Church & Community.