3/4/07, Lent 2-C

“The City that Kills the Prophets”
Luke 13: 31-35

31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”32He said to them, “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. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem .’ 34Jerusalem, 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! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (NRSV)

s a political leader Herod Antipas could be placed on a level with Saddam Hussein. He was a regional ruler of the Roman Empire. He was one of three surviving sons of Herod the Great who was the one who slew the Innocent baby boys, born around the time that Jesus was born; thus, committing one of the great atrocities of all time. Herod the Great also had killed his two older sons.

Until Herod the Great died, Herod Antipas must have lived in fear that his father would kill him if he did not create an image that would cause fear in the people over which they ruled in this small province of the Mighty Roman Empire.  However, Herod the Great’s will called for the division of Israel into four parts with each of four sons to be rulers over the smaller areas. Herod Antipas was given Galilee, the smallest and poorest of all. Antipas was visiting Jerusalem when Jesus’ trials began so Pilate placed Jesus under Antipas rule since Jesus was a Galilean.  Luke does not say so, but it is generally assumed that Herod Antipas must have found Jesus innocent and sent him back to the Roman Governor, Pilate. Pilate seemed glad to see that Jesus had been found innocent asking, Jesus to perform a miracle, as perhaps his wife had seen him perform. Pilate’s wife had asked her husband to set Jesus free, having herself become a secret disciple, and this is the reason that Pilate “washed his hands” of the innocent blood of Jesus.

However life had been cruel for so many years under the various rule by different outside forces. It was a wicked and hard time in which Jesus had ushered in the age of the new era of Grace. Fortunately we Americans have had a long time of peace and feel secure. We all hope that our freedom and security might last forever, but history points out the insecurity of even great and powerful nations like ours.

Jesus knew that terrible things had been done to faithful prophets who had proclaimed God’s words in Jerusalem. This is the reason for his fatalistic words in verse 34 of our text: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.”

Jerusalem was a symbol for the small nation of Israel. And in addition to Herod, Jesus faces his natural enemies, the Pharisees. They had tried to trick him many times into breaking some Jewish law, but he did not allow it to happen until he was ready to allow himself to be arrested and condemned to the Cross.

Indeed, all of the terrible things that happened to Jesus in his arrest, condemnation, torture and crucifixion, were permitted by Jesus. He could have called ten thousand angels at any time to destroy his enemies and set him free, but he had to suffer in order to fulfill God’s plan to extend salvation to every person who lived then and ever since. There would have never been what we now call “Christian Civilization” if, at the last minute, Jesus had said no to his Passion, or if Herod, Pilate or the throngs had allowed him to go free. All of the rulers, good and bad, have been allowed to run, or ruin their part of the world, because Jesus said yes.

Saddam Hussein had his years of power that ended with a hangman’s noose. Adolph Hitler took the coward’s way out when his capture seemed inevitable. Finally the Reign of Red Terror ebbed surprisingly peacefully when Russia ceased their seeking world domination.

Some feel that the threats of aberrant Islam’s cry of world domination might be the next Herod. And it may lead to another war even worse than the Iraq War. Osama Ben Laden seems to be sticking his head out of his cave toward the end of last week. I remember well the words of my world religions professor at Emory who said in class, “If a cry for Jihad is ever made then the world will face its fiercest test.

But, our good news today is that God will make a way in the face of no-way.

I grew up hearing war stories from World War II.  I remember well the veterans who would speak quietly about how they never thought they would prevail. The odds seemed against the free world back then, but God silently stepped in and turned things just so. Then Korean vets cam home with a sense of hopelessness as they faced a fresh enemy from several fronts. Even church people seemed hopeless. Vietnam was one of the worst debacles ever. My high school and college friends died there for very little. And still in the daily press we hear hopelessness again.

But the Good News is that hope is just around the corner, as close as five weeks away on Easter Sunday! And we will sing, “Halleluiah!”

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
3/4/07, Lent 2-C