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.'”
In Luke (9:51-19:28), Jesus is resolutely on the “way” from Galilee to Jerusalem to face the cross and death. The Pharisee’s, who are normally at odds with Jesus’s teachings and constantly seeking ways to discredit him, come and warn him of Herod’s intentions to kill him. By warning Jesus, they offer him a “way” out of the trouble in Jerusalem that awaits him.
It’s difficult to determine the intentions of the Pharisees for warning Jesus. Did some among the Pharisees genuinely care for Jesus’ well-being? Did they intend to intimidate and drive him away? Or, were they colluding with Herod in a scheme for Jesus’ death? Whatever the case, Jesus sends them back to King Herod rejecting their way out of impending trouble with a strong message stating that his work of liberation and healing would continue unabated and uninterrupted despite tensions and death threats.
Jesus’ grounded his mission in what he could accomplish through the way of his life on behalf of others and the salvation he would ultimately accomplish on the cross, the third day when his work would consummate (v. 32). For him, the mission to live and die in a way that liberated and healed people outweighed his human desire to live a long life. The Pharisees offered Jesus a way out of trouble with the opportunity to extend his earthly life by running away from Herod and the region. Jesus instead invested himself in freeing and healing those living in the grip of social isolation, fear, violence, and death, even when staying in the area and doing so put his life at risk. He stood firm and continued his mission, confident that God who sent him on the mission would uphold him in the mission with strength, security, and salvation.
The Lenten gospel reading for this week calls us as Christ followers to decidedly – I must be on my way (v.33) – go on our way toward the mission where we live in our rural, urban, suburban, and exurban communities. That is where we as individuals, churches, and community citizens must work – today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow (v. 33) – to make possible and visible the favor and reign of God in the places where people are feeling hopeless and forsaken. In so doing, we experience the fullness of God’s grace as we participate in our Christian mission to promote and announce, Christ, the Blessed One, who comes in the name of the Lord is with you and for you.”
God of our strength, confidence, and hope, you bid us listen to your Son, your beloved. Nourish our hearts on your word, purify the eyes of our mind, and fill us with joy at the vision of your coming reign and glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.