The Second Sunday in Lent
The Rev. George Pejakovich
Luke 13:31-35

THOSE OF US WHO TRAVELED TO ISRAEL THIS PAST SEPTEMBER SPENT A FEW DAYS IN JERUSALEM TOURING THE HOLY SITES, AND EVEN HAVING A FREE MORNING TO WANDER AROUND AS WE WISHED. HAVING BEEN THERE A NUMBER OF TIMES BEFORE, MY REACTION TO THE CITY WAS AGAIN AS I REMEMBERED IT. AT THE FIRST SIGHT OF THE CITY, ONE IS ALMOST OVERCOME WITH AWE, AND THE VIEW FROM MOUNT SCOPUS MAKES ONE THINK, “SURELY, THIS IS THE CITY OF GOD.” FOR WHAT ONE COULD ARGUE AS THE HOLIEST PLACE ON EARTH, ONCE ONE GETS INTO THE CITY, IT IS NOISY, CROWDED, CHEAPLY COMMERCIAL, AND DIRTY. IN SPITE OF THE CLAMOR AND THE CROWDS, THE MERCHANTS ALL TRYING TO SELL YOU THE SAME OLIVE WOOD CAMEL, THE TRASH AND THE SMELLS, THERE ARE MOMENTS WHEN THE CITY IS TRANSFORMED. AT DAWN AND AT SUNSET, THE LIGHT ON THE WALLS OF THE OLD CITY TURNS THE STONE GOLDEN, AND THE CITY SEEMS TO GLOW WITH THE PRESENCE OF GOD. IT IS AS IF THERE ARE TWO JERUSALEMS; THAT WHICH IT IS, AND THAT WHICH IT OUGHT TO BE.

WHY SOME PHARISEES WOULD COME TO JESUS TO WARN HIM TO GET OUT OF JUDEA BECAUSE HEROD WANTED TO KILL HIM IS A QUESTION DEBATED BY BIBLICAL SCHOLARS.
SOME HOLD THAT NOT ALL PHARISEES WERE CORRUPT; WHICH WE KNOW FROM THE EXAMPLES OF NICODEMUS, JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, AND OTHERS. JESUS EVEN WENT TO DINNER AT SOME OF THEIR HOMES. THUS, THE WARNING IS SEEN AS A SIMPLE CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF JESUS. OTHER SCHOLARS, MYSELF INCLUDED, SEE THIS WARNING AS SOMETHING MORE SINISTER; POLITICS IN ACTION.

THERE WERE ALWAYS PHARISEES HANGING AROUND JESUS, EITHER TRYING TO TRIP HIM UP, OR JUST HANGING BACK LISTENING TO HIM AND WATCHING WHAT HE DID. JESUS DID CALL THEM THE TEACHERS OF ISRAEL, BUT HE RARELY HAD A GOOD WORD FOR THEM BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT DOING WHAT THEY OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN DOING. HIS COUSIN JOHN CALLED THEM VIPERS; AND THAT SEEMS TO SUM UP JESUS’ ATTITUDE TOWARD THEM AS WELL. THE ACTIONS OF JESUS, HIS PREACHING, TEACHING, AND HEALING, WERE STIRRING UP THE WHOLE COUNTRYSIDE, WHICH REALLY WORRIED THOSE IN POWER, BECAUSE THEY LIKE THINGS JUST AS THEY ARE. JESUS’ PREACHING ABOUT HOW THINGS OUGHT TO BE WAS VERY DISTURBING TO THE PHARISEES, SO THEY WANTED JESUS OUT OF JUDEA, AND THE STORY ABOUT HEROD WANTING TO KILL HIM, WHILE MORE THAN LIKELY TRUE, WAS A DEVICE TO GET HIM TO GO TO THE GENTILE AREAS CONTROLLED BY THE ROMANS. THEY DIDN’T CARE WHAT HE SAID TO THE GENTILES, AND, IF HE CAUSED ENOUGH TROUBLE THERE, PERHAPS THE ROMANS WOULD KILL HIM.

JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THIS POLITICAL PLOY IS THE ONLY EXAMPLE OF HIS USE OF SACRED SARCASM; HE CALLS HEROD A “FOX,” A SNEAKY, WEAK, THIEVING LITTLE VERMIN. TELL THAT FOX, HE SAID, THAT I AM ON MY OWN SCHEDULE AND PURPOSE, NOT HIS, AND, WHEN I AM READY, “I MUST BE ON MY WAY, BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A PROPHET TO BE KILLED OUTSIDE OF JERUSALEM.” THEN, JESUS CRIED OUT HIS GREAT LAMENT OVER THE CITY OF GOD; “JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM, THE CITY THAT KILLS THE PROPHETS AND STONES THOSE 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!” THIS IS THE LAMENT OF GOD THE FATHER, EXPRESSED THOUGH THE PERSON OF THE SON OF GOD; THE LAMENT OVER THE LOSS OF WHAT OUGHT TO BE TO THE REALITY OF WHAT IS.

YET, JESUS MUST BE ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM; HIS FACE IS SET LIKE FLINT, HIS SCHEDULE AND PURPOSE IS SET, AND HIS PROGRESS TOWARD THE CITY OF GOD IS INEXORABLE AND UNSTOPPABLE. NOTHING CAN STOP HIM; NOT THE THREAT FROM HEROD, NOT THE PLOTS OF THE PHARISEES, NOT THE WEAKNESS OF THE DISCIPLES, NOT THE POWER OF ROME, NOT EVEN THE TEMPTATIONS OF SATAN. HE IS HEADING FOR THE CROSS ON WHICH HE WILL SACRIFICE HIMSELF FOR THE SAKE OF THE WHOLE WORLD; FOR IT IS ONLY ON THAT CROSS, WHERE HE WILL POUR OUT HIS BLOOD THAT THE PROCESS CAN BEGIN OF TRANSFORMING WHAT IS TO WHAT OUGHT TO BE. IT IS ONLY ON THAT CROSS THAT THE RESTORATION OF THIS WORLD INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD CAN BEGIN.

SO IT IS WITH US; IT IS ONLY THROUGH THE CROSS OF CHRIST THAT THE PROCESS OF TRANSFORMING US FROM WHAT WE ONCE WERE INTO WHAT WE OUGHT TO BE IS BEGUN. WHEN WE ARE MARKED WITH THE SIGN OF THE CROSS IN BAPTISM, WE ARE PLACED UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST, AND, AS WE GROW IN FAITH, TRUSTING IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST, THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST WORKS IN US BY GOD’S GRACE TO DAILY CHANGE US MORE AND MORE. IT IS ONLY BY OUR HOLDING FAST TO THE CROSS OF CHRIST, BY OUR TRUSTING IN THE SALVATION OF GOD IN THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS, THAT WE ARE TRANSFORMED FROM THE PETTY, GREEDY, SELF-ABSORBED CREATURES THAT WE ARE, INTO THAT WHICH WE WERE CREATED TO BE; SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE KING OF HEAVEN AND THE BODY OF CHRIST FOR THE WORLD. AS LUTHER SAID, WE ARE SIMUL JUSTICE ET PECCATOR, SIMULTANEOUSLY SAINTS AND SINNERS, BUT THE CLOSER WE CLING TO THE CROSS OF CHRIST, THE LESS THE SINNER AND MORE THE SAINT, THE MORE CHRIST-LIKE, WE BECOME.

NOW, IN THE SEASON OF LENT, IS THE TIME TO REMEMBER OUR BAPTISMS, TO MEDITATE ON THE SAVING GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS, AND TO DEDICATE OURSELVES ANEW TO THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. NOW IS THE TIME TO DEVOTE OURSELVES FULLY IN SPIRIT, MIND, AND BODY TO THE SALVATION OF GOD IN JESUS; TO SET ASIDE WHAT IS FOR THE SAKE OF WHAT OUGHT TO BE.

THERE ARE INDEED TWO JERUSALEMS, AND WHAT IS NOW WILL ONE DAY BE REPLACED WITH THE GLORIOUS NEW JERUSALEM WHICH WILL DESCEND FROM HEAVEN AND BE THE CENTER OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH. THAT PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION BEGAN ON THE CROSS OF CHRIST, AND THROUGH THAT CROSS, BEGINS NOW IN EACH OF US. THE SPIRIT OF GOD HAS COME UPON US FROM ON HIGH, AND WE HAVE BEEN MADE NEW CREATURES, NOT YET COMPLETE, BUT WELL ON THE WAY TO WHAT WE OUGHT TO BE: CHILDREN OF GOD AND CITIZENS OF HIS ETERNAL KINGDOM. THANKS BE TO GOD, THE FATHER, AND THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, NOW AND UNTO THE AGES OF AGES.
AMEN

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