Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sermon: Luke 13: 22-35 The Fox and the Hen

Well, today is Mothering Sunday, the day when we thank God for our mums, and also say thank you to our mums for all they do for us. When I was growing up, my mum would read loads of nursery rhymes. Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the three bears, and so on. There was always some moral, some point to the story. We cheered when the baddies got found out. It was great to hear at the very end, 'And they all lived happily ever after.' The danger was passed, the hero had won, and all was well.

This morning, our Bible reading sounds a bit like one of those nursery rhymes my mum used to read to me. It's the story of the fox and the hen. Now there is a nursery rhyme called the Fox and the Hen, where the Fox tries to take the hen home for his dinner but it doesn't work out. But this isn't a made up story. What we're looking at this morning really happened. If you jumped in your time machine, you could go back and see this happening right in front of you.

Ever since January, we've been following Jesus as he journeys towards Jerusalem. Have you ever been on a long journey in the car and you ask 'are we nearly there yet?' Every so often you'll see another signpost pointing to your destination. Last night, we were coming home, and every few miles on the motorway there was another sign saying that we were on the right road for Enniskillen. The signs say, 'you're going the right way, you're getting closer, here's where you're heading.' In Luke's gospel, several times along the way, we've been reminded that he's on his way, and we get another reminder in verse 22. 'Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.'

Have you ever been diverted? You're trying to get somewhere but the road is closed. You can't get through. You have to turn around, and go a different way. That's what the Pharisees try to do to Jesus in verse 31. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and they try to turn him around. 'At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."'

They might think they're helping Jesus, trying to save him from danger. Or perhaps they don't want Jesus to get to Jerusalem at all. They use Herod to scare Jesus away. Either way, they're trying to stop Jesus from doing what he's meant to be doing. Jesus won't be turned. Nothing will keep him from Jerusalem. Nothing will keep him from the cross. How did Jesus describe Herod? 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.'"'

Herod is called a fox - he's a danger, he's cunning, he's tricky, but no matter what he is, he isn't going to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem. Jesus has work to do, casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow. And do you see what Jesus says? 'The third day I must finish my course.' Jesus will finish all on the third day.

Nothing will keep Jesus from Jerusalem. Yet the mention of Jerusalem brings a sorrow to Jesus. This was God's city, the place where the temple stood, the place which should welcome Jesus. Yet look what they did: 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you...'

The people of God have turned away from God. They reject the messengers sent to them. So Jesus describes himself in a remarkable way. Shout out some of the ways Jesus talks about himself in the Bible... Jesus, who talks about himself like a shepherd, like the bread of life, here talks about himself as a hen. 'how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!'

Have you ever seen a mother hen gathering her chicks underneath her? She protects them, gathering them close to her. And that's what Jesus wanted to do with the people of Jerusalem. He wanted to bring them close, to gather them together and give them protection. But they refuse. They turn away. They refuse a mother's care.

Imagine the children turning away from their mother. Yet that's what the people of Jerusalem did. They turned their back on Jesus. They don't want to come in under his wings.

But in the first part of the passage, Jesus says that although they have left, there is an opportunity for us to come in. The narrow door is open, the way of salvation is there. The door will eventually be closed, and then it will be too late.

Imagine a party, the best party ever, the party everyone wants to be at. Abraham and the prophets are at it. It's the kingdom of God, the ongoing, never ending party. And Jesus says that people will come from east and west and north and south, from all over the world, coming to God, joining in his party.

Jesus puts it in verse 30: 'Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.'

Imagine a big queue at heaven's door. The people who were first in line, the people who thought that they were definitely getting in are last, put to the back of the queue and turned away. The people who were at the back, the no-hopers, the people no one expected to get in were actually welcomed in.

Jesus turned things upside down as he journeys to Jerusalem. He was warned to get away to somewhere safe, but he chose to continue to Jerusalem, to die on the cross for us. He wanted to gather in his people, but they chose to turn away from him. He brings us in from the outside to eat with him in the kingdom of God, even though we were at the back of the queue. The Fox and the Hen - nothing will stop Jesus from saving us and gathering us under his wings.

As Jesus brings in the kingdom, we find the only real, true, 'all lived happily ever after'. Will you be gathered to the mother hen, our Lord Jesus and find safety under his wings?

This sermon was preached at the Family Service in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 15th March 2015.

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