At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you – you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (New International Version)
King Herod of Judea, who was in the pocket of the Roman Empire, was issuing threats against Jesus. And those threats had some teeth behind them. Herod had recently beheaded Christ’s friend and cousin, John the Baptist (Luke 9:7-9). Yet, Jesus seemed unconcerned by the warnings. He made it clear that he was going to keep doing what he was doing, unfazed by Herod’s bluster.
Jesus had no intention of halting his travels, even because of a credible threat by the governing powers. Christ emphasized his words by assuring his listeners that the work he is doing will be done today, and the next, and the day after that—building ultimately to his greatest work of securing redemption through his crucifixion and resurrection.
I hope to be always journeying towards Jerusalem with a heart full of compassion that will not waver in the midst of violent killing and injustice. That isn’t easy, yet I know that my humble pilgrimage with Jesus will be worth it all, in the end.
A pilgrimage is an apt description for the Christian season of Lent. Believers journey with Jesus, making the slow trek with him through his earthly ministry and to Jerusalem, up the Mount of Olives. There Christ is crucified – and we with him:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
So far, we have made a stop in Bethlehem, following the star to the place where the newborn king was laid in a simple stinky feeding trough. The juxtaposition of that reality could not be more pronounced. The rightful Lord of all, far more powerful than old King Herod or the Roman Emperor, comes to earth not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45)
In our walk with Jesus, we observe him deliberately posturing himself as a lowly servant throughout his earthly ministry. Whereas Herod acted the predictable part of a power hungry worldly ruler, squelching all rivals to the throne, Jesus shared his authority with others, along with a promise of continual presence. (Matthew 2:16-18, 28:16-20)
There is nothing romantic about this journey, this walk with Christ. It is often a hard road, and many count the cost of discipleship and choose to walk away.
Yet, Jesus is down for the struggle. He knows that injustice and systemic evil must be carefully rooted out. He understands that hearts and minds aren’t changed overnight. It will take time. So, we walk slowly with our Lord because Christ is in it for the long haul. We see Jesus is patiently, and sometimes imperceptibly, using divine power and authority to preserve the good and weed out the bad.
Dealing with human sin and the awful fallenness of this world will take a while. It will be an extended process because there are so many hard hearts. Jesus was ready, willing, and able to gather people together, as a mother hen gathers her chicks – yet there was an unwillingness to it.
And Christ, the heavenly ruler, isn’t in the business of twisting arms and manipulating others, like Herod, the earthly ruler.
Instead, Jesus invites. He doesn’t squeeze people like an orange to get their juice. Christ carefully prepares a meal. He sets the table himself. He gives of himself. Like some wildly potent superfood, a bit of wine and morsel of bread is more than enough to fill the hungry soul and the thirsty spirit.
With Jesus, there is always room at the Table.
There is room for you and for me. There is room for every kind of person – from every nation, race, gender, ethnicity, class – no matter the distinctions and no matter the past. It is the love of God in Christ, not the judgment, which brings people peace and salvation. It comes through a baby who grew and learn and suffered, just like us, and not through some wily old fox of a ruler.
Eventually, the phrase will be uttered, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus pulled this phrase from the Old Testament psalms. He did this, knowing quite well the context surrounding the verse:
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. (Psalm 118:22-26, NIV)
The chicks may scatter and refuse to be gathered. The builders might reject the crucial cornerstone and still try to build. Yet, it will not always be this way. As we journey with Jesus, eventually along the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, the road to Calvary, with an eye to where this will all culminate at an empty tomb and a great celebration of new life.
We will not be looking down at our feet forever in sorrow but will lift our faces toward the clouds. Just as we see Jesus ascending, we shall see Christ coming again. The time is near….
Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
And everyone will see him—
even those who pierced him.
And all the nations of the world
will mourn for him.
Yes! Amen! (Revelation 1:7, NLT)
The triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday is followed by a triumphal entry into my heart, and the hearts of many. And there is coming yet another triumphal entry, back to this earth. All things will made new….
“There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.” Then the one who sits on the throne said, “And now I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:4-5, GNT)
May it be so, to the glory of God.
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls so that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.