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JESUS’ SORROW FOR JERUSALEM

Luke 13:31-13:35
Key Verse: 13:34

In the last lesson, to the question, “Are only a few people going to be saved,” Jesus said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many will try to enter and will not be able to.” This is a shocking statement. But may we believe the words of our Lord Jesus and live accordingly. Today’s message is entitled “Jesus’ sorrow for Jerusalem.” In this study we can think of Jesus’ sense of mission and his heart for sinners.

First, Jesus’ sense of mission (31-33). The background of this passage is that Jesus was teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. He particularly told about the seriousness of entering the kingdom of God, and what will happen at the feast in the kingdom of God. At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” What an interruption! At this time, Jesus was on the eastern side of the Jordan, in Perea, which, along with Galilee, was Herod the tetrarch’s jurisdiction. This Herod Antipas had started his reign in the year 4 B.C., and was going to continue in that capacity until 39 A.D. These "some Pharisees" seemed to care for Jesus’ safety, bringing the warning of Herod’s conspiracy for Jesus' murder, and recommending that he depart from the Galilee-Perea region. In those days, Herod and the Pharisees would usually not get along because Herod was for Rome, whereas the Pharisees were against Rome. However, their position to Jesus was the same: anti-Jesus (Mk 3:6). So it is most likely that they were Herod’s agents, whether witting or unwitting. After his experience with John the Baptist, the tetrarch may not have wanted the murder of another prophet on his conscience; but he did want to be rid of Jesus. So he used the Pharisees to pass on a death threat. They may have been ready to cooperate in the hope of frightening Jesus into moving out of Perea into Judea, where they had more power.

How did Jesus respond at this? Look at verse 32. “He replied, ‘Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”

Jesus saw through Herod’s trick: making use of others to try to scare him away from the territory under Herod’s control, and suggesting that they give him a “friendly” warning, while, all the time, Herod himself remained in the background! Jesus called Herod “that fox”. To the Jews, the fox was symbolic of a sly man, and more often of an insignificant or worthless one (Neh 4:3). Herod is the only person Jesus is recorded as having treated with contempt (cf 23:8f).

Of course, Jesus had no fear at Herod's threat. Rather, he articulated his sense of mission. He had to keep his mission given by God. He said, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” We had learned that Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. But Jesus replied here, “I will drive out demons and heal people, most probably, to express his shepherd heart for people who are suffering under the power of demons and all kinds of diseases, in contrast with Herod, who did not care for them at all although that was supposed to be his role. Jesus’ work was genuine and spiritual and had nothing to do with the politics to which Herod, as a cunning politician, must have been sensitive. Jesus knew his today’s task and tomorrow’s plan and his goal. His goal was to die on the cross in Jerusalem for the salvation of mankind. He would leave Perea and go to Jerusalem in Judea according to God’s leading, not in fleeing Herod’s threat. Jerusalem would be his final destination for his life of mission in this world. He would go there to complete God’s given mission. Nothing, and no circumstances would stop him from completing his mission. He stressed this, saying further, “In any case I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day.”

We learn from Jesus that one needs a clear mission from God. Without mission, life is going nowhere. We can have a mission as we accept God’s calling. When God called Abraham, God told him, “Leave your country, your people and your household and go to the land I will show you.” From the beginning God gave Abraham a clear life direction. He wanted him to leave all human dependency and depend on God alone for his future life in God. The author of Hebrews described Abraham’s response at God’s calling in Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” In this way Abraham began his blessed life of mission. Last Friday, Rebekah graduated from U of T after 8 years of study. She remembered and shared Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.” Right after the ceremony, there was a sudden outpouring of rain, so we could not meet at campus. Our prayer for Rebekah is that she might trust in the Lord even at sudden outpours of rain in life, with the faith that the sun always shines even above the cloud of rain. May she live by faith like Abraham, who obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going. Isaiah despaired in life at his youth because of the declining national situation and his own unbelief and fatalism. But when God forgave his sin and he heard the voice of God, calling, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” he responded, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa 6:8) From that time on his great life of mission began. Luke in his gospel wrote Jesus’ calling of Simon Peter very meaningfully. Peter was a very sincere, hardworking, and faithful man. He was not afraid of working hard the whole night in order to catch fish. Although he did not catch even one fish after a whole night of fishing, he was preparing the net for the next day. When he experienced the great catch of fish through Jesus, he could see Jesus as a holy God and himself as a sinful man. He knew he could not stand before this Jesus and that he was totally unworthy. At that moment of the holy fear in him, Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” This calling was the wonderful grace of God that came to a man, Simon, through Jesus. Simon Peter accepted this calling grace and began his life of mission to catch men based on the word of Jesus’ promise. He described the meaninglessness of life without mission in 1 Peter: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall…” (1 Peter 1:24-25). But according to 1 John 2:17, “the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

As for Jesus, from his boyhood, he had in mind God’s business. When his parents were searching for him who was in the temple in Jerusalem, he said, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t know I had to be in my Father’s house (in KJV, I must be about my Father’s business)?" (Lk 2:49).During his boyhood, he grew in wisdom and stature. And, when he was about thirty, there was a clear start of his public life. At the time of his baptism, a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am pleased.” From this point he launched his messianic ministry. We can see in the gospels how he lived his daily life. Even after a night of hard work, at day break Jesus went out to a solitary place and had time with God and renewed the direction for his life of mission (Lk 4:42-43). Mark wrote it this way, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35). In any situation, even when his opponents were present, he kept going today and tomorrow and the next day. He carried his mission to the end. While he was dying on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished,” (Jn 19:30) and called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” and breathed his last (23:46). As for Apostle Paul he said, “I die every day” (1 Cor 15:31). And about his mission, he said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Ac 20:24). And even after accomplishing many great works of God, he said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” May God help each of us to have a clear mission from God and live with a sense of mission, carrying out the task today, tomorrow and the next day unto the completion of each one’s personal mission.

Second, Jesus’ sorrow (34-35). In verse 33 Jesus said, “...for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.” When Jesus was a baby eight days old, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (2:22). When he was twelve years old, the boy Jesus along with his parents went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (2:41). On the transfiguration mountain, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared, talking with Jesus. They spoke with Jesus about his departure, which he was about to bring fulfillment at Jerusalem (9:28-36). Being aware of God’s will for him he had resolutely set for Jerusalem (9:51), and now he was coming close to dying there. He knew that he would be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law and be killed there (9:22).

Now Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you…” Here, Jesus' calling , “Jerusalem” repeatedly shows his intense emotion and much affection. When Jesus came to the home of Martha and Mary, in helping Martha, Jesus had said, “Martha, Martha,” expressing his love for her. Also, at the Last Supper in helping Simon Peter, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon…” out of his deep care for him (22:31). When King David found out that his son who had rebelled against him, yet whom he hoped would be safe, had died, he said, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you…” (2 Sam 18:33).

Historically, Jerusalem was the fortress of Zion of the Jebusites, which David had conquered and made the city of David, the capital of the nation (2 Sa 5:6-7). And God had a great hope for Jerusalem. It is written in Isaiah 2:3, “In the last days…Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” God had such a great hope and purpose for Jerusalem. Yet, ironically, Jesus would be killed at Jerusalem by the hands of religious leaders. What Jesus did was to show them the love of God through his life, teaching and ministry, but in their pride and jealousy they rejected him and would kill him by the help of the Romans. Here Jerusalem can refer to the whole nation, his chosen people.

In verse 34, Jesus continually expressed his love and sorrow for them: “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” A hen gathers her chicks under her wings to protect them from any harm and any danger. Definitely, the mother hen is ready to endanger herself to protect her chicks. With such a life-risking spirit, she would not be afraid of any ferocious animals. As for Jesus, he came to rescue his people from sin and Satan and gather them under the wings of God’s love. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is depicted as a horn of salvation, salvation from the hand of Satan, the enemy of mankind (1:69-71). Jesus is stronger than Satan and overpowers him and takes away his armor and rescues people one by one from his possession (11:21-22). One excellent example was Jesus’ setting free a crippled woman from Satan’s bondage. In John’s gospel Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me…no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:11,27-28).

Jesus wanted to show such love for his chosen people. But as a nation they, especially the religious leaders, rejected him. Then Jesus said in verse 35, “Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” This prediction refers to the imminent destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army at 70 A.D. and to Jesus’ coming again as the Judge. Rejecting the love of God brings unspeakably tragic destruction.

Jesus’ love for Jerusalem here can be considered his love for his church and each of his people. In Revelation 21:2 is written, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” We learn that we should stay under his wings of love and care. Especially, his death on the cross, his arms outstretched by the nails in both his hands, shows how much he embraces us, bearing all our iniquities. One criminal crucified beside Jesus found this love of God and repented, but the other criminal was blind to see this love of God and died in unrepentance and misery (Lk 23:39-43). The whole point of God’s message in the Old Testament is “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Zec 1:3). His heart's desire for his people is well shown in the story of Hosea. In obedience to God, the prophet took an adulterous woman as his wife. She, however, went after one lover upon lover. But God commanded him to love her as the LORD loved the Israelites. So he bought her back for the due price and then told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you” (Hosea 3:1-3). In Luke 15, in the parable of the lost son, the younger son could not stay under the wings of his loving Father, because of his desire for the free, pleasure-seeking life in the world. Also, the older son, although he stayed in the Father’s house, could not stay under the wings of his loving Father, because of his self-righteousness and slave mentality, that is, victim mentality. In Revelation 2, the church in Ephesus was commended for their hard work and perseverance. Yet, Jesus said, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (2:4-5). Here we see that what Jesus wants from us most is our love relationship with him based on his redeeming love, and dwell under his wings of love and grace.

We thank and praise Jesus who longs to gather his people in this world together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. May God help us to dwell under the wings of his love and in this grace, may each of us have a clear mission from God to lead others to the wings of God’s love, and live with a sense of mission today and tomorrow unto completion.

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