February 21, 2016

Rev. Mark Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Jeremiah 26:8-15

Epistle Lesson; Philippians 3:17 – 4:1

Sermon Text; Luke 13:31-35

The scritpure we will look at today is taken from Luke, chapter 13, verses 31 through 35 and reads as follows in our Savior's name.

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 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 hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 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!''

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Oh, I bet it was about 15 years ago or so, we had this little student here at Holy Cross. Out on the playground I heard him say this phrase a number of times. (I think he got it from a cartoon called Ed, Ed, and Eddie.) I would walk around him, and I would hear him say, “I am a chicken.”

I always got such a big kick out of that, because most of us would not want to be identified as a chicken. But, he seemed to take some pride in being identified with a chicken.

If you think about picking a mascot, usually it is something like a tiger, a bear, a lion, a panther, or an eagle. But, how many teams call themselves The Chickens? It just doesn't happen, because when I call you a chicken, you are usually thinking, “Well, that means I am afraid. I don't have any courage. I am going to run away.” And yet, this little guy seemed to find pleasuer in calling out, “I am a chicken!”

It is very intriguing that of all the animals Jesus could have used as a picture of Himself, the one animal He chose to compare Himself to was a chicken. In fact, Jesus compared Himself to a female chicken, or a mother hen.

We are going to get to that, but before that, you need to understand a little geography in order to understand what was going on in today's scripture reading. So, here is a really quick geography lesson.

In Jesus' day, the land of Israel was basically divided up into two major geographical areas. There was an area to the north, known as Galilee. Then, there was an area to the south known as Judea. Two geographical areas.

       -One of those geographical areas, Galilee, was where Jesus grew up as child. He grew up in Nazareth, which was in Galilee. That was where Jesus' headquarters were for His ministry. It was on the Sea of Galilee, in a city called Capernaum. Jesus did a lot of His ministry in the area of Galilee. One geographical area.

       -Then, there was an area called Judea. Judea was to the south. Judea had cities like Bethany and Jericho, but the primary city in Judea was the city of Jerusalem. It was down in Judea.

Jerusalem was The City of God. Jerusalem, at 1,000 BC, had been captured by King David. It was built on two mountains – Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. It was surrounded by heavy walls, so it was very difficult for enemies to penetrate the city of Jerusalem. And, it had an internal water supply.

Jerusalem was referred to as The City of God, the Holy City of God. Jerusalem was where the Temple of God was built. Jerusalem was where the sacrifices happened.

Jesus' family traveled down to Jerusalem, when He was a little boy. As a matter of a fact, every year they would make the pilgrimage to the temple, in Jerusalem. This is where, when Jesus was twelve years old, He went to Jerusalem, and was talking to the Teachers of the Law. Jerusalem, Judea was where the center of religious worship was.

That is the geography.

We are now, well into Jesus' ministry, as it is His third year of His ministry. So, you also need to understand some politics and religion in those two regions.

       -Galilee was pretty safe for Jesus. The vast majority of the populous in Galilee really was intrigued by Jesus' ministry.

       -But down in Judea there was a problem. In Judea was where the religious leaders were concentrated, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Teachers of the Law. Jesus, in His ministry, had threatened their authority. He had threatened their traditions. These religious leaders did not like Jesus, to the point that by today's scripture reading they were secretly plotting to actually kill Jesus. Now, in order to kill Jesus they felt they needed to get Him out of Galilee, and into Judea, into Jerusalem. That is where they were headquartered. That is where they had control. That is where they could capture Him. That is where they had the ability to manipulate things so they could kill Him.

In today's scripture reading, Jesus is in Galilee. So, the Pharisees come to Him. It sounds like they are trying to help Him, when they tell Him, “Herod is seeking your life. Get away from here.”

Now, Herod Antipas happened to be the ruler of Galilee. Herod could be a very cruel man. Herod had divorced his wife, and married his brother's sister. Then, he had John the Baptist beheaded. So, he was not averse to putting to death great, religious leaders. They were telling Jesus, “Herod wants to kill you, so get away from here.” That is, “Get away from Galilee.”

Now, the obvious place then to go would be down to Judea. They thought Jesus was 'a chicken'. They thought He would flee, and run down to Judea to stay safe. They were trying to trick Him into going to Judea.

Was Jesus 'a chicken'? Well, not in that sense of the word. Here is what He replied to them. “Go tell that fox,” (talking about Herod. Foxes chase chickens, don't they?) “Go tell that fox, that I am going to drive out demons. I am going to heal diseases. And, tomorrow, the third day I will reach my goal.”

What was He saying? He was saying, “Go tell Herod I have power over demons. I have power over diseases. Do you think an earthly ruler is going frighten me, or scare me?” So, He was saying, “I am going to set my own agenda. I will heal people. I will drive out demons. And tomorrow, or whatever day, I will reach my goal.” But then He said,

“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.”

So now Jesus tells these Pharisees, “I am going to Jerusalem. I am headed there. That is where I am going to die. That is where I have to die.” In fact, in Luke chapter nine, before this it says,

“When the time of His departure drew near,

Jesus set His face resolutely toward Jerusalem.”

He was no 'chicken' in the sense He had any fear. In fact, He was heading right into the danger of Jerusalem, knowing what was coming.

That is when Jesus uses this amazing picture, when He refers to Himself as 'a chicken'. Here is what He says. He is thinking about Jerusalem, as He is going to go, and approach Jerusalem. He says,

“Oh 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 (chicken) hen gathers her (chicks) brood under her wings,

and you were not willing!”

Now, most of us didn't grow up in an agricultural home. And maybe we haven't seen chickens, and their little brood, and how they act. So, let me describe that for you.

There is a big difference between what we use as mascots - panthers, lions, tigers, eagles, and a mother hen. Those animals are out for themselves, and they are looking for prey. But, mother hens are just the opposite. They don't think about themselves. All a mother hen thinks about is her little chicks. These little chicks are just little, fluff balls with legs, and they are easy prey to any enemy that is out there. All a mother hen is thinking about is, “How can I keep those little chicks safe?” She doesn't care about her own safety. When a mother hen sees a dog, or a fox near her little chicks, she will run right up to that dog, or fox, put her wings out, and do whatever she can to try to scare that enemy away from her little chicks. It doesn't matter about her own safety.

If it appears that fox, or dog is not going to run away, that mother hen will start to frantically, “Cluck, cluck, cluck”, and gather her little chicks under her wings. They will run under her wings, and she will spread her wings over them, so that enemy can't see those little chicks, anymore. And, those enemies aren't smart enough to know the chicks are hiding under her wings.

Once the chicks are under her wings, she can't move. If she moves, the chicks won't be safe. So, she will just sit there, even if that fox, or dog bites her neck, and kills her. She is just thinking about keeping those chicks safe.

So, why did Jesus head to Jerusalem? It was because He saw His 'little chicks' were in grave danger. He saw the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Teachers of the Law. He saw their enemy, the devil, was prowling around, seeking to devour them. He headed to Jerusalem like a mother hen trying to protect her little chicks. He wanted to warn them of the danger they were in.

As He headed to Jerusalem, of course the biggest danger they were in was Satan was going to lead them astray, and destroy them, eternally.

When Jesus got to Jerusalem, what did He do? He ended up spreading His 'wings' over all of His people. All of the people. There, He spread out His 'wings' on the cross. Once His 'wings' were nailed to that cross, He wasn't going to move, because He knew if He moved, those 'chicks' wouldn't be safe, anymore. He let that 'fox', that 'lion', the devil, 'bite Him in the neck'.

That 'fox' thought He had killed Jesus. Of course, we know, the 'fox' ultimately 'choked' on Jesus, because Jesus rose from the dead.

Now there is absolute safety 'under the wings' of Jesus. Anybody who is 'under the wings' of Jesus has sin forgiven. It is gone. Safe from death, because you are 'under the wings' of the One who destroyed death. Safe in any circumstance in life, because this is the One who has power over all things.

During Lent, it is so important for us to really apply these passages to ourselves. Jesus says to the people of Jerusalem,

“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem...

...How often would I have gathered your children together

as a hen gathers a brood under her wings,

and you were not willing!”

How that tore at Jesus' heart. It tore at His heart that these 'little chicks' weren't willing to come 'under His wings'. He continued to reach out to them, and call out to them.

The end result of a chick not coming under the wings of its mother hen is very tragic. So is the result of not coming 'under the wings' of Jesus.

So, today, where are you? Jesus says to every one of us,

“Oh (and then your name), how often, how often I have longed to gather you together under my wings, like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”

Would He say this about you?

“But you were not willing.”

Jesus died for everybody, everybody. It is safe for everybody 'under His wings'. And, like a mother hen, He frantically continues to 'cluck', and call. If He sees you are not 'under His wings', He is 'clucking', and calling, because He wants you to be safe. Maybe He does that through The Word.

Maybe you are in church every Sunday, but you have strayed out from 'under His wings'. You have gone after some sin, or you have gone after the cares and pleasures of this world, and you are not 'under His wings', anymore.

Today, He is calling and 'clucking'.

Maybe a pastor calls you on the phone, or writes you a note, or someone talks to you. It is the calling, 'clucking' voice of Jesus to come 'under His wings'.

Maybe He does it like He did it with Peter. With Peter, it was the crow of a rooster that got Peter to turn and repent. Maybe with you, He is calling and 'clucking'.

Maybe your mom or dad died, and here you are at a funeral for your mom or dad, and there is the 'clucking' voice of Jesus saying, “Come back 'under my wings', because you have strayed away.”

Maybe you have fallen into some sin, maybe a drinking binge. And now, your conscience is 'clucking', and it is Jesus calling you back, “Come 'under my wings' where there is forgiveness, and you are safe.”

Maybe you have had an affair. Your conscience troubles you, and you hear the 'clucking' voice of this 'mother hen' calling you back 'under her wings' where there is safety, forgiveness, and guidance.

Whatever the case, may all of us listen to the voice of Jesus.

I love this little verse my mom and dad taught me, when I was a little kid. At the time, I didn't understand the depth of this little, hymn verse, but here is how it goes.

“Lord Jesus, who does love me.

Oh spread Thy wings above me.

Shield me from all harm.

Though Satan would assail me,

Thy mercy will not fail me.

I rest in Thy protecting arm.”

May all of us find ourselves 'under the wings' of Jesus.

I want to close with this thought. Sometimes I get a little sappy, and sentimental over little children's things. The other day, as I was studying for this sermon, I read a little poem, a children's poem. I actually got a tear in my eye, and that doesn't happen to me very often. Here is how the little poem went.

Five little ducks went out one day,

Over the hill, and far away.

Mother duck called,

“Quack, Quack Quack”.

But, only four little ducks came back.

Four little ducks went out one day,

Over the hill, and far away.

Mother duck called,

“Quack, Quack Quack”.

But, only three little ducks came back.

Three little ducks went out one day,

Over the hill, and far away.

Mother duck called,

“Quack, Quack Quack”.

But, only two little ducks came back.

Two little ducks went out one day,

Over the hill, and far away.

Mother duck called,

“Quack, Quack Quack”.

But, only one little duck came back.

One little duck went out one day,

Over the hill, and far away.

Mother duck called,

“Quack, Quack Quack”.

But, no little ducks came back.

Whose heart hurt more for? The little ducks? I wonder what happened to them? What prey did they find themselves vulnerable to? Or, the mother duck, who is so sad, and longing for her little ducks to come back?

Who do you know who has gone over the hill, and far away? Is it someone in your family? One of your children? Someone you were confirmed with? Somebody you went to school with? Someone you work with?

Can you be the voice of Jesus, who 'clucks', and calls them back? Can you write them a note? Can you send them an email? Can you give them a phone call? Can you ask if you can sit down, and talk with them? Jesus says,

“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”

That is Jesus' heart.

That little poem ends this way.

Sad mother duck went out one day,

Over the hill, and far away.

Mother duck called,

“Quack, quack quack”.

And, all five little ducks

came back!

Let's pray for all those who have gone over the hill and far away, that through the calling voice of Jesus, they all come back.