Sermon on Luke 13:31-35 for the Second Sunday in Lent, March 17, 2019
In the Lord’s Prayer, we say “your kingdom come,” and “your will be done.” There are two angles on both of those petitions. First, if God’s kingdom is where God rules, then God’s kingdom is everything, right? There’s nothing beyond his control. And if God’s will is what God wants done, then God’s will is always done because God is all powerful. If he wants something done, nothing can stop it. But—second, if God’s kingdom is where God rules, our hearts present a problem. St. Paul said, “The mind-set of the sinful flesh is hostile to God, since it does not submit to God’s law, and in fact, it cannot.” That’s our broken human nature’s reaction to God’s rule. And God’s will has the same problem when it meets the human heart. God’s will is supreme. He knows what he wants done. Our broken human nature, the flesh, the Old Adam wants to do as it pleases, not as God pleases. That’s why we say “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That means, “Father, help us to be just as obedient as the angels are.” The way God has to work in the human heart is different from the way he works in all the rest of his universe. In our hearts he has to work against hardness of heart, human willfulness, sin, selfishness. In other words, he has to convert us—bring us to faith—and then getting us to accept his kingship and do what he wants is still a struggle. That’s why we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
I. No One Can Resist God’s Plan
- Jesus was doing his work, spreading the kingdom of God east of the Sea of Galillee. He is slowly making his way back to Jerusalem for the last time, and the Pharisees come to Jesus and say, “Leave, and go away from here, because Herod wants to kill you.” This is the son of the Herod that wanted to kill Jesus when he was a newborn baby. This Herod was evil, too—but a different kind of evil. Not an ambitious evil. It’s likely that Herod had no intention of killing Jesus at all. In fact, on Good Friday he was pleased that Pilate sent Jesus to him because he wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle. The Pharisees were simply harassing Jesus to interfere with his work because they wanted to be the teachers of Israel.
- Jesus answers harshly. “Go tell that fox, ‘Look, I am going to drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In our culture, “fox” means someone who is sneaky and clever. In the Song of Solomon, foxes are spoken of as pests that get into the fields and mess things up. I’ve also heard that calling a king a “fox” was also an insult because it would be flattering to call a king a lion. In Revelation Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). “Go tell that fox” would be like saying, “Go tell that pest… (maybe even) go tell that rat… I am going to do my work until I am finished, and you can’t stop me.” Jesus was going to spread his kingdom by proclaiming his gospel. He was going to do his will by completing his plan.
- There are Herods and Pharisees today—only by different names. There are people who are “enemies of the cross of Christ.” In our Second Reading, Paul said, “Their god is their appetite, and their glory is in their shame. They are thinking only about earthly things.” Think of what you hear in the news, when people praise things that are awful and complain about things that are good. Cheering for things that are clearly against God’s will. Putting obstacles in front of those who want to do good or spread God’s kingdom. I think of a couple states that removed restrictions on abortion, and then their representatives stood up and cheered. I think of people who speak and witness their faith, and then other people try to silence their free speech because it has to do with the Christian faith. No one can resist God’s will. If God has his plan, nothing can go against it. You will see people fighting God’s will, but ultimately, God will have the victory in the course of time, and finally at the end of time.
- Today is also St. Patrick’s Day—and I like to think of the history of Patrick and Ireland. Before Patrick, Ireland was a violent land, ruled by chieftains who were really local warlords who would go to battle over property, cattle, or even on a whim. The religion was Druidism, which was a worship of ancestors or spirits in nature. A worship of the creation rather than the creator. And that worship involved human sacrifice. Patrick grew up in western Scotland or Wales, and was kidnapped by Irish pirates and was made a slave of one of those Irish chieftain warlords, watching over his flocks and cattle. After many years, he fled, ran across Ireland and escaped on a boat. Returning home, he also studied the Christian faith more carefully, became a priest, and then felt the need to go back to Ireland to spread the Christian faith in a hostile land that was full of darkness and superstition. God’s will overcame Patrick’s will and moved him to go back where he had been a captive. God’s kingdom overcame the kingdom of the chieftain warlords. It took time—but it happened. God’s will was done.
- What we see in our world is distressing. The devil rages, and the people of the world rage against God’s kingdom and will. We need to remember, it is still God’s kingdom and God’s will. In faith, we hold on to it, in spite of what we see the world doing. Forty years after the Pharisees and the Chief Priests caused Jesus so much trouble, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. God’s purpose for Jerusalem had been complete, so he no longer protected it. And about three hundred years later, the Roman government that persecuted the Christians fell. God’s kingdom spreads. God’s will is done. No one can resist God’s plan. Not in Jerusalem or Rome. Not in Ireland. And not here. It may be a bumpy ride—but God is still God. His kingdom is still over all. His will is still supreme. So—we should continue to hold on to him and his Word, because he has told us his plan. His plan doesn’t change because the world doesn’t like it. His plan will be supreme.
II. No One Should Resist God’s Grace
- Patrick was heading across Ireland, going back to where he tended sheep and cattle for that chieftain-warlord. Patrick was getting a reputation for being a strong leader, working with the different chieftains and converting them and their people to the Christian faith. When Patrick got closer to his old master, the chieftain locked himself in his house and set it on fire. He chose death rather than face his former slave. Think of what that chieftain-warlord really chose. He chose to end his life instead of finding a new life in Christ in the gospel Patrick was preaching. He rejected God’s grace. The shame of being bested by his former slave was really nothing compared to the shame of being apart from God’s grace forever—hell! That’s what rejecting God’s grace really meant.
- That’s why Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem 300+ years earlier—because the people of Jerusalem were rejecting God’s grace. Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” He was there, in Jerusalem, teaching in the streets and in the courts of the Temple. Instead of welcoming him, the priests and Pharisees arrested Jesus and put him on trial and handed him over to the Romans to be killed. Jesus knew this was coming.
- I was once told by someone who works with chickens that if you put your hand out, baby chicks will automatically go under your hand for shelter. It’s like a reflex or an instinct. So what Jesus says here, “I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing,” means that their nature had become so broken and so twisted, so turned in on itself that they wouldn’t seek help or refuge, even when it was offered.
- What does Jesus offer you and me? What does he offer us here? His holy Word. His gospel of love, mercy and forgiveness. His law to warn us and guide us. His body and blood with the forgiveness of sins, with his own invitation, “Do this often.” All these are the shadow of his wings. All these are Jesus, holding out his grace to us. What happens when we turn away from his grace? It will be just like the Irish chieftain, setting his house on fire rather than hear the gospel of Jesus from Patrick. It will be just like the people of Jerusalem when their “Hosannas” faded into “Crucify him!” God holds out his grace. When his grace is rejected, the guilt falls on the people who rejected him.
- Jesus said of Jerusalem, “Look, your house is left to you desolate.” “You may have a city, Jerusalem, but it is no longer full of God’s people. You may have a Temple, but it is no longer God’s dwelling because you have turned him away.”
Conclusion: I’ve heard it described this way—God’s grace is infinite. He will welcome anyone. There is no one whose sins are so enormous that God would not forgive. While God’s grace is infinite, the time and the opportunities he gives us are not infinite. He gives you his grace now. There are opportunities to hear the gospel and grow in faith now. Enjoy his grace. Receive it. The Holy Spirit wants to do his work in your heart and set up his kingdom in your heart. He wants to work in you and with you to do God’s will. Now is your time of grace.