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Gospel according to Luke 13: 31-35 (NIV)
31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
32 He replied, “Go and tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
This reflection focuses on Jesus’ emotion-filled plea: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
Jesus did not address these words to the city’s buildings and infrastructure. He spoke to the people who lived in that city. He spoke to those who visited for Jewish holy festivals. He spoke to residents of hundreds of years ago, long before their exile to Babylon. He spoke to rulers, to people of power. He spoke to crowds of ordinary citizens.
Jesus spoke these words in evident frustration as Son of Man. He also spoke with deep feeling as the merciful gardener in the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13: 6-9), the one who had interceded lest Jerusalem be cut down, removed from the owner’s garden, “leave it alone for one more year …”
Since the children of Israel had crossed the River Jordan and entered the land promised to their fathers Jesus, in the deep relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, had tried to draw them as one into a loving relationship with their Creator.
Jesus applied the image of the hen gathering her brood under her wings. Here was Jesus, desiring so often to gather the children of Jerusalem, of Israel, together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. Jerusalem, Israel, was not willing.
There is a sobering aspect to this plea. The Pharisees fully believed they were on the right path to godliness. The priests and Levites firmly believed they were on the right path to godliness. The teachers who taught the law of Moses, the Law of God, were convinced they were on the right path to godliness.
Those of us who gather in places of worship and in small groups in the name of Jesus each week are, I expect, similarly convinced that we are on the right path to godliness.
We say that we believe him, we believe in him and we put our full faith in him for our salvation.
Are we totally and utterly committed to him? Do we deliberately repent on every occasion that we fail to love as he loved. Do we live as redeemed people, grateful for every day we have on earth and grateful for every opportunity to be a blessing to other people, no matter what they believe?
Is Jesus calling us to do something differently? Of what must each one of us individually repent? Are we willing to allow ourselves to be gathered under the master’s wings?