Comfort, Conflict, and the Cross
This week’s sacred story comes from Luke 13:31-35 where Jesus laments over Jerusalem, but also makes a bold and sassy declaration of his work, even in the face of power. Read the full story here.
Guest Preaching this week is one of +KINDRED’s own, Kinnon Falk.
We often use the Bible as a source of hope and relief. We highlight positive little verses that give us strength in the time of trial. Platitudes that act as spiritual comfort food (kind of like the soup we share in worship). And while these things are in scripture, the reality is that much of the Bible’s contents are Discomfort Food. The gospel does not always bring reassurance or ease of mind; it’s usually high conflict.
There is high conflict in this passage. Jesus is threatened with death, and yet, he persisted. He knows that the path he is on is going to be uncomfortable and (spoiler alert!) ultimately lead to his death.
His dogged persistence in the face of resistance is admirable. Nobody likes discomfort, least of all, me. I’m the kind of guy who takes the max dosage of Advil as soon as I feel a headache coming on. I’ll get up in the middle of the night and fix the sheets if they’re messed up and tickling my toes in a weird way. I will go way out of my way to avoid the slightest physical discomfort. And if I do experience discomfort, you’re probably going to know about it. I gave up carbs for lent, and most of you probably know that already. If you know me well you might understand that I live by the adage of “I can survive pretty much anything, as long as I get to bitch and moan about it constantly.”
But Jesus wasn’t intimidated by the difficulties he saw ahead. He said, “I must be on my way.” He wasn’t a whiner like me. Not about his own suffering anyway. He does make some complaints about how he wants to gather the children of Jerusalem under his wings like a mother hen gathers her chicks, but they just won’t cooperate. Like any parent, Jesus knew what it was like to herd cats.
Lots of prophets have had this issue. Think of Moses trying to gather the scattered tribes of Israel. Moses is the prophet who suffered for the sins of his people and stepped into the breach between them and God. This is a scriptural trope: God’s people mess up; God has to send someone to save them.
Now it’s probably not a coincidence that Jesus uses this chicken metaphor here after just calling Herod (who is the embodiment of the Roman Empire) a fox. The Romans were pretty tolerant of local religions. They only demanded that people’s first allegiance be to the emperor. Then, they could do whatever they wanted.
But Jesus had a different, contradictory message. He taught that only God was worthy of praise. And that, right there, was a threat to Rome. As a prophet, Jesus knew this threat that Christians posed would lead to much pain for his followers. And so he was offering to be like that divine feminine image of a mother hen, willing to die to protect her offspring from the fox.
Jesus wasn’t scared of Herod or the discomfort that the Empire would ultimately cause him. His journey in this passage is not about his encounter with authority, but about his ongoing ministry of liberation from demons and disease that demonstrate the presence of a different empire, the Empire of God.
Jesus was on a journey of love, but he knew the road would not be easy. And he sees the need to protect his followers from this. To experience Jesus’ ministry and his compassion one would have to operate contrary to the prevailing domination system that was guided by coercion and control.
The question for his followers was “is that what we want? Do we want this transformative life if it is going to cause us suffering and pain? Do we want to follow the example of Christ, even though it might lead us into uncomfortable situations? Do we want to do God’s work, even if it doesn’t give us clear rewards? Do we want to swallow that discomfort food, or would we rather just have the mashed potatoes and gravy?”
And so now I have some questions for you. I want you to take a few minutes and answer these questions:
Who am I?
What do I LOVE to do ?
Who do I do it for ???
What do they need ??
How will they change or be transformed- when I do what I love to do ?
These are the types of discussions that Jesus’ early followers had as they struggled to live in their tumultuous world… A world that Jesus knew all too well.
As Jesus went about his daily work of healing and deliverance, he was also keenly aware of his destination. He knew he was headed to Jerusalem and to his death. While Herod wants to kill Jesus, it is clear that Jesus is in charge of his own timetable. Today and tomorrow Jesus will continue his daily work, and Jesus is the one who will complete that work on the third day. (sound familiar?) Throughout Lent, we are preparing ourselves to experience Jesus’ cross. This passage calls us to do so by considering whether our lives lead appropriately to that cross. But Jesus’ work of healing and deliverance does not end with his crucifixion. No. It is made perfect and complete by his resurrection.