Lent 2 • Luke 13:31–35 • February 21, 2016
By Paul Sieveking
This week’s lessons are confrontational. The Old Testament lesson is a confrontation between Jeremiah and the people of Judah. In the Gospel we hear of the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees. They confront us with a “prophetic word” that our people and maybe we, ourselves, may not want to hear.
In Luke 13 Jesus warned the people to repent or they would perish (v. 3). He told them to strive to enter through the narrow door or they would be shut out (vv. 24–28). How did they react to his word?
“Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Get away from here for Herod wants to kill you.’” This wasn’t a friendly act of concern. The Pharisees always looked for ways to discredit him or trap him because he often confronted their self-righteousness. This time they tried to intimidate and scare him away.
Herod didn’t like the message Jesus preached. He had heard it before. John the Baptizer had accused him of adultery. Herod didn’t want to hear that, so he arrested John and beheaded him. Jesus knew he was dealing with a tyrant when he said, “Go tell that fox, ‘Behold I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my course’” (v. 32).
Herod’s threat would not deter Jesus. He had come to proclaim God’s word, to do his Father’s will, and to die on a cross and rise again. He would fulfill God’s plan of salvation.
Why be so confrontational? Because that’s the prophet’s job. A prophet is sent by God to faithfully speak his word. The people in Jesus’s day were comfortable in their sin. They didn’t want to be called to repent. So, the prophetic word has to be confrontational.
Does the church today still speak a prophetic word? We, too, have become comfortable with our sins. Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, violent crime, pornography, and profanity are cabled into our living rooms and called “entertainment.” Coveting and greed are seen as the only way to survive. No, people don’t want to hear a prophetic word calling them to repent.
Perhaps, the church has grown fearful of speaking it. We’ve allowed Satan and the world to intimidate us and convince us that it is more loving to overlook than to confront and more like Jesus to permit people to remain in their sin. So, the church is tempted to speak a word that people want to hear, but it’s not God’s word.
The world, the church, and you and I need the sure prophetic word. The church must say once again, “Thus says the Lord!” It doesn’t matter what the law of the land will allow, or society permits, or others are doing. God says, “Amend your ways and obey the Lord” (Jer 26:13).
This is the message we are sent to proclaim in our vocation as parent, friend, neighbor, or preacher. We can expect opposition, but we simply cannot become comfortable with sin. That’s not the Christ-like thing to do. For then, we would empty his cross of its power to save. Without the prophetic word people will never know God’s mercy and grace and never truly hear the gospel.
Faithful prophets love their people. Jeremiah is called “the Weeping Prophet,” and you hear his anguish, “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people” (Jer 9:1).
In the Gospel we hear Jesus lamenting, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to it. How often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” He loved them and longed to save them, but they weren’t willing to hear the word and repent of their sins. They rejected his love and crucified him.
Can you hear Jesus lamenting over the world today? Do you hear his great mercy and love for you? He was willing to suffer and die on a cross to save you.
On the road to Emmaus two disciples told a “stranger” about “Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet powerful in word and in deed before God and all the people. We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:19–21). What a surprise when the risen Savior revealed himself to them!
Yes, Jesus is a prophet, and more than a prophet. He is our crucified and risen Savior. He promises us life and salvation. Hear him calling today “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . O (your community . . . and you) how often I have longed for you.”