A Great Sorrow: A Greater Joy (Luke 13:31-35)

New’s can be difficult to take; I wonder what the most challenging thing you have had to hear is? I wonder what you might consider as the most difficult news to receive; imagine standing and listening to someone who told you that all you had assumed and been taught as accurate for your entire life was wrong? Not only was it wrong, but unless you changed from believing it and counting it as accurate, it would have eternal consequences. Over the last few chapters in Luke, Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of God and what membership of it looks like, teachings that have been hard for the people of God to hear as he confronts them that salvation comes not through ancestry but through faith alone. Instructions that lead one person to ask just how many would enter into the Kingdom of God.

“How many will be saved?” asked someone as Jesus made his way through the villages and towns, teaching on his way to Jerusalem, the city of faith and where the God of these people dwelt among them. It was a question that revealed something of the tension that you could imagine the crowd feeling as they wondered who among them would enjoy the salvation of God to come. What would prompt such a question? Perhaps that the commitment of the followers of Jesus had been waining, probably that all of the recent teachings of Jesus had almost seemed designed to discourage those who were listening about committing to follow him and joining in his work, and as he taught, he made clear that the Kingdom looks nothing like this world.

This coming Kingdom of God was not like any political or military Kingdom that the world had ever known; what then was it like? “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree…” (13:19). So the Kingdom looked nothing like the world; in fact, to the world, it would have the significance and power of the tiniest of seeds until the point that it would reach its fulfilment. Hence if this Kingdom conforms to no notion of the world, then what it means to belong to the world will look nothing like it. Thus, to the concerns of the question asked, Jesus, beckons all to make every attempt to pass through “the narrow door.” How many will be saved? Entreated someone? “Man, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (13:25) said Jesus in response.

Many will think about the Kingdom of God and what it means to belong to it not through the eyes of faith but through the lens of the world; many will consider their following and citizenship not as gifts of grace but as aspects of their own effort. In short, Jesus was saying that many think they will be saved because they have lived “good lives” and because they spent time in the presence of God; as verse 26 puts it: “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” Yet, to them, the owner of the house to which the narrow door belongs will say: “I do not know you or where you come from, away from me, all you evildoers!” Then they who thought the Kingdom of God belonged to them will watch as their spiritual fathers dwell in it, and people come from north, south, east, and west to sit at the heavenly banquet in place of those who thought their seat was guaranteed. This Kingdom of God will look nothing like the world, and nothing like the people expected it to look because those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be final (30).

The Foundation of Sorrow

This is important because it lays the foundation of our verse today. Understanding what Jesus had been teaching about the spiritual state of the people of Israel and their understanding of what it means to belong to God helps us understand these difficult verses. That as his Ministry moved to its fulfilment in Jerusalem (to the Cross), he wanted the world to grasp that that which he would inauguration by his enthronement (crucifixion) would look nothing like they would expect; that this great act of God would open the Kingdom up to all people few faith rather than restrict it to those looking to be of right decent.

It is a confrontation of two approaches to God: Those who had been taught by the religious establishment of their day that by birth and religiosity they would be okay, that though such things they could associate with God; and the teachings of Jesus, that salvation comes not through blood or human effort but by faith alone in God alone. There is no greater literal place that represented the old view and the folly of its ways than the city of Jerusalem, the nation’s capital and the Spiritual home of the people of God. Where God had dwelled among them in the temple and where the people worshipped him with empty rituals and acts while their hearts were far from him. Jerusalem as a city represented the folly of the old way, the way that Jesus came to confront – hence, we wept over her.

When Two Worlds Collide (13:31-33)

If Jerusalem as a city is the representation of the old way of faith, people think that they are safe by their adherence to religious practice and by their birthright. Then there are no better representative of those teachings than the Pharisees – the religious leaders of their day. Men who delighted in how religious they were and who lorded their birthrights over everyone around them. Men who would have burdened those listening to them with the expectation of morality and what it meant to be pious and faithful unto God, not as a matter of the heart but adherence to man-made rules. Hence, it is hardly surprising that such people who derived their worth from their morality; and their power from getting people to adhere to and believe in their way of approaching God would be upset by the teachings of the outsider Jesus. Jerusalem represented the people of Israel and the Pharisees as they confronted Jesus and told him to go somewhere else describe the Spiritual problem of the people of God; they identify with him but are far from him!

A Greater Authority (32 -33)

To the “request” or Threat from the religious leaders to the life of Jesus, if he was to continue on his trajectory toward Jerusalem, Jesus responds by pointing to a greater authority than this King Herod. Specifically, he shows he is not threatened as he tells the Pharisees to turn on their heel and go back to their Fox (a slight that would connote deceitful cunning and insignificance) that rather than stopping, he will continue to do what he has been doing. Especially, he will continue to demonstrate this coming Kingdom of God and the spiritual authority that accompanied it by honouring those the earth Kingdom might reject – healing the sick and restoring those under the Kingdom of Darkness. Jesus intended to continue his Ministry and inaugurate the Kingdom of Heaven until such a time as God would set, it would continue for a while: “Today and tomorrow” representing not literal days but metaphors of time until the “third day,” which for the readers of Luke was meant to draw Images of the resurrection. Rather than flee from Jerusalem and her human authorities, Jesus continued under the guidance of the Authority of God, proclaiming the message of repentance and inaugurating the Kingdom of God until the fulfilment of his earth Ministry when rising from the tomb death would be defeated. The Cross would be the fulfilment of what Jesus had been ordained to do by a greater Authority than any human authority, and there was nothing going to stand in his way.

The Cross was the consummation of the Kingdom of God and the ultimate Display of just how otherly God’s way would be to the world because they would not even notice it. The Cross was the ultimate display of the power of God, the Glory of God, the Love of God and the Grace of God – the very thing that Jesus had come to do and no power or purpose of humankind was going to stand in the way of what God had ordained! Thus, to the warning of the Pharisees, Jesus not only tells them to go back and tell Herrod the Fox what he thinks but that he will continue doing what he is doing until such a time (today and tomorrow) that God ordains it to stop. Additionally, that it will be only by the direction of God that he will stop: the line “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” does not mean that Jesus believed no prophet was ever killed outside Jerusalem but that the greatest Threat to Jesus lay in the city that was the centre of the worship of God, “for it cannot be” (ESV) showing Jesus confidence in the sovereign plan of God, that no scheme of Herod could interfere with it. That plan was for him to go to Jerusalem and dow hat he had set out to Do.

A Sorry State of Affairs: Jersulam (34-35)

Jerusalem was the centre of the nation both politically and Spiritually, as the seat of the Davidic throne and the place where Solomon built his glorious temple for the Worship of Yahweh. It was the city that the people of God looked to for their assurance that God was with them because of its History and with its History their History. Yet, History was all it was. There was no assurance, no promise in the things of old – there was nothing to trust in bu God. What mattered for God (and what the teachings of Jesus revealed) was not who your father was; what people ground you belong to but where your heart was in Light of God’s Grace and saving work. We approach through Faith: Not through might. Thus, Jesus bemoans the fate of Jerusalem was her some 250,000 inhabitants as an indictment against the wider nation and her spiritual Apathy and distance from God. The people of God have lost sight of their God, his way and Kingdom, and they are far from him! Such a state is not without the tried intervention of God, who, like a Mother hen, has sought to gather his chicks under his wings (a common metaphor for love and care ), yet, they refused. Hence, out of love, God respected their choice and left them to their own devices, their own forsakenness. Their household is forsaken by God (13:35), and they will not see God again until they recognise the folly of their ways and Christ as Lord, his saving work on the Cross, and his authority over their lives. A recognition summed up in the concluding deceleration: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Lord.”

Jesus here quotes directly from Psalm 118, a Messianic Psalm and while some might interpret the words in the negative sense; that Jesus might be saying these people will never see him again because they will never declare blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord the context of the Psalm is not an adverse inference but a positive one. Specifically, the context of the Psalm is the right worship of the Lord. Thus, the phrase “Blessed is he” would imply worship. A context would lead some to claim this as a prophecy/prediction from Jesus that there will come a day when again the people of God (by birth) will know the right way to commune with God (through faith). The house (of Israel) might then have been far from God, yet, there will come a day when even they will see and declare Christ as Lord and receive all the benefits consummate with such truth.

Conclusion: Lament And Joy

Consider your own State

Lament is always tricky, I think this narrative is especially difficult for us to read when we consider the context and what it means for those who reject the way of Christ: that those of us who would rather trust in our own efforts that the Grace of God will ultimately reap the rewards of such a decision – a life apart from God. Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem is complex for us to consider because it confronts us with the price of our own sin and stubbornness in light of God’s grace and reading into the world. His tears are for the sins of the people and the price it will make them pay; his tears call us to consider the weight of our own sin and the orientation of our own lives – What is trusting and what are we living for? If the answer is God, then there will be no tears for us, only grace upon grace as we bask in the beauty of life with God now, yet, only as a glimpse of the life to come. Jesus lament over the State of Jerusalem is challenging to hear, yet, it is also good news because of what it means for those who stand with him through faith – they will no more lament, no more pain, no more tears, only the fullness of joy that comes through communion with God.

A Lost Opportunity

As I read through this passage, I found myself confronted by the contrast of broadness between that which Jesus proclaimed and incarnated about God and his Kingdom and that which the Pharisees (as the religious establishment in Jerusalem) taught and believed. The Message of Jesus was fierce in terms of its demands but was broad and inclusive in that it was open for all to respond to! All they had to do was acknowledge their sin and their need of God, then receive all the blessings of Grace through faith. Yet, the message of the Pharisees was fierce in all that it demands but so narrow in its reach; it was a message that limited the Grace of God to a select group of people born of a specific blood and in a particular place. The people of God who were called to bring this light into the world had somehow limited it to themselves. Hence, I wonder if Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem as an indictment against the spirit state of the people of God was a lament over the narrowness of the salvation they had come to believe in. That God intended them to become bringers of Grace and instead they have become its keepers: hence, perhaps Jesus’ weeps over all who had lost out because of the lack of zeal for the cause of God from the People of God. God never intended his grace for a select few; no, he intended it for all who would enter the Kingdom through faith.

Weeping For the World

For me life has felt more difficult over the last two years than at any point in my memory. We are waiting for things to get better and every time they seem to be taking a positive turn right around the corner sits something else. Covid finally seemed to loosen its grip before we found ourselves wrestling with a cost-of-living crises, when as it worsens we find ourselves worrying any wondering how to respond to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The world is a difficult place and as we weight it up it can be hard to know how to respond, process or deal with the weight of weariness. Yet, what I love about our passage today is how Jesus models for us a good response to the state of the world – he weeps. Jesus is weeping for the Spiritual state of the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, a state that is the fruit of a world shaped and riddled with. Two thousand years later sin is still running rampant and I think our passage this morning simply gives us permission to respond by weeping for the world we find ourselves in and how far it is from God. Then perhaps responding positively like Jesus by seeking to incarnate the Kingdom through our lives so that all people realise that our hope is in something beyond this world. So let us acknowledge our feeling’s and then in response to them seek to bring the light of Christ into a darkening world.

Two Path: Which One Are We Walking On

The Lament of Jesus grounds for us that simple and often presented Biblical truth, there are two roads that we walk in this life: the road of self that leads away from God and to an eternity away from God; the route of the Kingdom that we walk through faith in the power of the Holy Spirit with Jesus the Son towards the father and the beauty and fullness of life with Him. There are two roads in this world: Our way and God’s way! Which one Are we waking?

A King and His Kingdom that look nothing Like the World

As Jesus has been proclaiming this coming Kingdom of God in the last few chapters of Luke, what has become clear is how this Kingdom of God looks nothing like the world because they who were being conformed by it could not comprehend the otherness of the message of Jesus and its way. This Kingdom of Christ is contrary to the ways of the world in every way, where the world promotes those who strive for power and positions: the Kingdom of God encourages those who are the least and humble themselves. Thus, if this Kingdom that we enter into through faith in the Crucified King looks nothing like the world, what does it mean for us to live in this Kingdom and live out this Kingdom of which we are part? Those who are Christ’s Disciples are they who live in the in-between: we know the blessings of Grace fully now, yet, we know there is more to come, and we live fully in the Kingdom now and know there is more of it yet to be realised. Thus, we must consider what does it mean for us to live out the otherness of the Kingdom of God where God has placed us. What acts of love or service might we do, what words or prayers might we speak that would make real where we are the beauty of Gods’ Grace and the majesty of life in his Kingdom. A Kingdom’s gates open to all who approach through faith, let us consider who might we invite and who might we be restricting as we live out the Grace we have received? What I love about Jesus in this passage is his commitment to bringing in the Kingdom of God while the time was right regardless of the challenges he faced. He made no excuse because of threats or obstacles. He simple trusted God and got on with the task anyway! As Disciples, we are those who sit at the feet of the Master and listen to his teachings, but we are also those who are called to carry on the work with the same eagerness and commitment. It is not to say that there will not be difficult in our contexts or opposition, yet, regardless we must take encouragement from the example of Jesus here and continue the work that God has called us to where he has placed us because we trust in Him and what he is doing. That is perhaps the most beautiful and world-shattering truth from this passage. This truth makes us realise the folly in trusting in anything other than God because Jesus trusted in the absolute sovereignty of God as he headed towards Jerusalem. Jesus was confident in his work and mission because he was confident that God was in control and working all things to his ends and purposes, so he kept going. Today the storms of life are many and every multiplying, yet, we can know the same assurance and trust that God is in control and working all things to His purposes and Glory. So today, as we consider Jesus’ lament over Jersulam, let us rejoice at his greater joy for all who turn to God through faith in Him and live in and out the Kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: