A sermon delivered by Randy Hyde, Pastor of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church Little Rock, Ark., on Feb. 28, 2010.
Psalm 27:1-14; Luke 13:31-35
Go and tell that fox for me, ˜Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work…’
Jesus was being kind to Herod, calling him a fox. In truth, Herod was nothing but a cold-blooded killer, more reptile than mammal… a stinking, lousy murderer. It was Herod, I will remind you, who had had John the Baptist beheaded, so when Jesus gets word that Herod is looking for him, you would think he would be filled with dread. But no. Jesus has a message for the old fox, and it basically says, Mind your own business. My time has not yet come.
Of course, Herod thought himself more a lion or a tiger than a fox. He threw his weight around because he thought he had the authority to do it. He fancied himself a leader of the Jews, having some Jewish blood himself, but his heart pumped pure, cold Roman, for he was in the government’s pocket.
They gave him the title of tetrarch, which no doubt sounded important to him, and certainly looked good on his business card. But he was nothing but a Roman toady, and now that he has dispatched the Baptist he is going after the Nazarene.
The Pharisees, of all people, come to warn Jesus. Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you. And Jesus responds by saying, Go and tell that fox for me…
The fox has always had the reputation of being sly, cunning, destructive, and basically worthless. No more better description could be used for the evil Herod than this. But it is exactly because Herod is sly, cunning, evil, and worthless that it took real courage for Jesus to call him such a thing.
You want to make somebody really mad? (I’m sure you don’t since you’re such nice people, but I’m going to tell you how to do it anyway.) Somebody who is sly, cunning, evil, and worthless? Describe him as he really is. That is what Jesus did with Herod. The grapevine is quick and strong in the land of Herod, and it won’t take long for word to get back to Herod as to what Jesus has said about him. But evidently, Jesus doesn’t care. Why? Because his time has not yet come and Jesus knows it. With Jesus, it is all about the time.
Hugh Latimer. Latimer was a sixteenth-century Protestant minister who was burned at the stake by the queen for what she considered to be heresy. Latimer was once preaching in Westminster Abbey when the king was in attendance. During his sermon he said, Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The king of England is here! Then he went on, Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The King of kings is here.
Jesus is not beholden to king Herod any more than Hugh Latimer was beholden to the king of England. His obligation is to his Heavenly Father, the eternal King. Herod will not get Jesus. Jesus will not die out of season, and he will not die outside Jerusalem. As far as Jesus is concerned, the sly, cunning, evil, and worthless Herod ” Herod the fox ” is a non-issue.
Okay then, what is the issue? Jerusalem, the city that kills its own prophets and stones those who are sent to it, is the issue. It is in Jerusalem that Jesus’ time will come, and he, more than anyone else, knows that.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Strange, isn’t it? Jesus has called Herod a fox. You would think that Jesus would then depict himself as an animal which is the natural enemy of the fox “ something bigger, quicker, stronger, and smarter than a fox. But he doesn’t. Instead, he refers to himself as a vulnerable hen guarding and protecting her brood. What is more powerless than a hen? When a hen is confronted by a fox, the fox wins hands down. But not this time. Not this time.
And not in Jerusalem.
When we hear the name Jerusalem, it may mean nothing more to us than the major city of Israel. But it was, in Jesus’ day and even now, more than just their most important city… at least to the Jews. It symbolized the heart of the their religious faith and experience. It stood as a beacon of their unique relationship to the one true God, a privileged relationship that belonged only to the Jews. It was the place of the temple where God had his abode, where God’s presence was celebrated and sacrifices were given to the One who had led them through all the difficult times in their history as a people. It was their Mecca, if you will.
Jerusalem was all that was holy to them. It was much more than just a city. It was their spiritual home, and they would do anything to protect it, even slaying those who would claim to be their prophets.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Do you hear the pain in Jesus’ voice? There is no greater agony than offering yourself completely and totally to someone in love, only to be rejected and scorned.
Allow me to repeat that, and then consider it in light of how God must feel. There is no greater agony than offering yourself completely and totally to someone in love, only to be rejected and scorned. Does that make you understand, just a little bit, how God must feel when God is rejected?
Jesus didn’t go to Jerusalem, not right away. Even though we’re past that point in Luke’s gospel where we are told that Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem, he circles around, teaching here, teaching there, healing folk, casting out demons… in other words, conducting his ministry. Jesus will get to Jerusalem in his own time.
We ought to be able to understand that. No one is in a hurry to get to the gallows. But that isn’t it. Jesus is well aware that the confrontation will come when the time is right. Not sooner, not later… in his own time. No one else was going to determine when it would happen. Not Herod, not Pilate, not the High Priest. Only Jesus. And in his own time.
Well this is our time, and we mark it with the bread and the cup. They serve as remembrances of that time when Jesus finally let the fox have his way. It is at the Lord’s table that Jesus gathers us under his wings and protects us, sometimes even from ourselves.
He is willing, even now, to reach out for us and bring us into the kingdom fold. We accept that invitation by eating the bread and drinking the cup.
Is this your time to accept the invitation Jesus extends to you? Is this your time?
May our time be now, O Lord, to accept the grace you offer us. And at the table you have prepared may we find the redemption we seek. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.