Saturday, March 03, 2007

Second Sunday in Lent, March 4, 2007, Luke 13:31-35

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Howard, SD

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Luke 13:31-35, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What’s really going on in this text… I mean the first thing we see is the Pharisees trying to protect Jesus’ life. Can we really believe that they’ve had a change of heart after all that Jesus had done and said about them? Do they really care that Herod wants to kill him? More likely they’ve egged Herod on to get him riled up. Luke tells us that members of Herod’s household were following Jesus, and Herod wanted to see him. The Pharisees had plenty of reason to want Jesus dead. He called them foolish, hypocritical, greedy, rotten, dead men (11:39ff). He told people not to listen to what they were teaching. I don’ think these guys are going to have Jesus’ best interest at heart in telling him to leave the area. Maybe they think if he goes somewhere else they can go about there business in peace. But of course Jesus won’t have any of that he’s on a mission. He said before.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22, ESV)

He says it in a different way this time,

And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ (Luke 13:32-33, ESV)

It’s that third day part that interests me today, but we’ll get back to that in a moment. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that Jesus tells the Pharisees “No! I’ll not be distracted from my purpose.”

I think the voice of the Pharisees is a voice that we’ve heard before in this Gospel. In fact, Luke has us considering this voice as a critical beginning to Jesus ministry. The very first words Our Savior speaks in this Gospel are in response to this voice. It’s back in Chapter 4. After Jesus was baptized, he was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan. It’s an odd kind of statement, that Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan. You’d think that the Spirit would lead him to avoid that stuff altogether. Instead, out there in the desert all by himself Satan comes after him with an attack of words. “If you are the Son of God, make these stones bread and eat.” He means something like this. “You’re hungry. Eat up. You don’t have to go through with God’s plan. You can make up one of your own. An easier one. One without pain and trouble. One without suffering. One without hunger. These people aren’t worth it.”

When he says, “I’ll give you everything you’ve ever wanted, just worship me.” He means something like this: There’s an easier way to get the whole world. You don’t have to follow this plan of suffering. Set it aside and I’ll give you what you are looking for.

And when he says: “If you are the Son of God jump off the top of the temple. He’ll rescue you from death and every one will see that you really are who you say you are.” There’s an easier way. You don’t have to suffer and die for these people who won’t believe in you anyway.

Make no mistake Satan doesn’t have Jesus best interest at heart. Neither does he have yours and mine at heart either. He simply wants Jesus to fail in his mission. He just wants his control of the world to go on forever. All he wants is for Jesus to set aside God’s plan to save the world, to save you and me. When the temptations are all over Luke writes these words:

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13, ESV)

If you’ve ever wondered what he meant by a more “opportune time” listen to the words of the Pharisees again: “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” Sound a little like Satan, “Don’t go to Jerusalem. Don’t do what God has planned for you to do. These people aren’t worth your death. It’s not worth all this trouble.”

And that’s when Jesus says,

“Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”

In other words, “I’ll not step aside from my plans to go to Jerusalem to die, and you Satan can’t stop me.” And thank God that’s exactly what he did. He “set his face to go to Jerusalem” even when he knew that it would mean his death. But that’s why we are here today, isn’t it; because Jesus went to Jerusalem; because he wouldn’t be turned aside from God’s plan; because it was the only plan that God had made for our salvation.

If it had been me or you, we’d have been turned aside long before this. You know what happens when Satan brings temptation before you. You fold up like a dying flower. You know God’s plans for your life, they’ve been very clearly laid out for you in the Ten Commandments. We don’t have to go through them step by step to find your fault (although it is a very good practice). Remember Jesus says you don’t have to do anything against them to actually break them they are already crumbling in your heart when you just want to do what they tell you not to do. Jesus didn’t avoid temptation because he could handle it. Jesus stood up to Satan’s clever words because he had a bigger and better plan in mind, God’s plan, the one that would benefit the whole world. We can’t. We don’t. When Satan tempts us with the riches of the world we can’t wait to open our hands and grab hold of them. When Satan says eat this bread we eat it with gusto regardless of the consequences. When Satan says “just check it out and see if God really means he’ll defend you in everything. Go ahead put God to the test.” We complain when our world crumbles and we’ve got a little trouble in our lives instead of smooth sailing. We wonder why it fells that God has abandoned us to illness, and pain when the trouble in our lives is often self-inflicted. “I don’t deserve this!” We say, when we well know what we deserve is much worse.

It’s what we deserve that sent Jesus to Jerusalem to die. It’s what you deserve that made Jesus set his face to Jerusalem to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.

St. Paul describes it well,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV)

He was talking to a group of Christians just like you and me.

That’s what Jesus death on the cross changes for you and me, forever. We go from being children of wrath to being beloved children. Jesus didn’t just defeat Satan in the desert. He totally put away his power over people when he died on the cross. Satan scowled at him there too. “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross. Save yourself. These people aren’t worth the trouble and the pain and the sacrifice.” But in Jesus eyes you are worth it. He did suffer for you there. He put away the punishment for your sin. You’re tempted and fail every day and Jesus blood covers that sin. He died instead of you. He suffered God’s anger, instead of you. He was rejected by God, instead of you. Your sins, no matter how great, can’t stand up to the blood of God spilled out on the cross.

That’s where we get back to the third day thing I told you we were going to talk about. Well, it’s actually Paul who gets to the point.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5, ESV)

Alive together with Christ… the third day… get it? He’s talking about his resurrection from the dead. He’s talking about Easter. He’s talking about new life. He’s talking about victory over Satan’s words. He’s talking about a new life in him. In Paul’s words:

[God] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7, ESV)

And just to make sure we get it:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)

It’s a good thing it is God’s free gift, isn’t it? ‘Cause you and I both know where we’d be left it were left up to you and me… wallowing in Satan’s promises… Satan’s lies… living our lives as if we were the only ones who mattered… well, that still happens doesn’t it. And that’s where that forgiveness comes in again. Ah, Jesus saves us from that, too. He brings forgiveness that rebuilds and restores. He gives forgiveness that lets us set aside the hurt and start again. It’s all there for you at the cross… the cross in Jerusalem. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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