“And he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
Luke wrote that in the 9th chapter of his 24 chapter gospel. But then, he tells all about Jesus’ life: loving, living, praying, telling stories, blessing people, teaching, arguing, and healing for the next ten chapters before he actually enters Jerusalem. According to this Gospel, Jesus spends ½ his life ‘heading to Jerusalem.
Why does Luke let us know this so far ahead of time? Apparently, ‘going to Jerusalem ‘is a big deal. Jesus arrives at the Passover, a huge feast when Jews gather from all over the country to celebrate their most holy, most ‘Jewish’ holiday. All their feasts were holy, but Passover is when the Jews were freed from slavery and become transformed into their own people, the people of God, deserving of their own country.
And the Romans, were not fond of these people. They had lots of laws that treated them about a ½ step higher than slaves. If a Roman soldier got tired of carrying anything, he could grab any Jew off the street and force him to carry his load a mile. Jews were known to incite riots against Rome, and each time, Rome would squelch it, killing thousands of men, women, and children over the years. When Jesus was six Rome had destroyed Sephora, the town next door, killing all the men and taking the women and children into slavery. For years, they crucified anyone suspected of plotting against Rome, or anyone for pretty much anything they wanted. Rome thought leaving the bodies of dead Jews hanging outside of towns would was a good deterrent to anyone committing a crime, and especially to anyone thinking of protesting Rome. When Herod died in 4 AD, two thousand Jews were crucified.
Knowing that Jews were converging for a major holiday where they celebrated their Jewish identity put Rome on Red Alert. Herod brought in extra troops at Passover each year and had a big parade to celebrate his military power. This was the situation Jesus knew he would face when he ‘set his face towards Jerusalem.”
And then, he spent almost all the rest of the Gospel living his regular life. Why does Luke tell us that? It’s almost like bookends framing how Jesus lived his life. It also changes the definition of how Jesus ‘saved’ us.
For many years, the church taught that somehow, the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus saved us. In fact it did, in that Jesus never caved from his commitment to strongly loving, and he never gave in to condemning his enemies, killing them off, using his power to conquer people, or denying his values and trying to save himself. He remained true through to the end, and he won. Evil, selfishness, lust for power, hatred, and meanness had no power over him. He never gave into it, and even death lost out in the end. He was transformed and he is just as alive now as he ever was.
That’s part of where the foxes and hens come in. The symbol for Rome was an eagle. Big, powerful, predatory. You don’t mess with eagles. Herod, the king of the area that was appointed by Rome, Jesus called a fox. Sneaking around, sly and also predatory. And when he looked at Jerusalem, where he was headed, but under Roman control, Jesus likened himself to a mother hen. Not even a rooster, who has some fighting ability, but a mother hen. “Oh, Jerusalem, how I long to gather you under my wings like a mother hen shelters her brood.” That’s the image Jesus projects of himself. That’s His way of life, as opposed to the Roman, imperial way of life. And hens don’t have a lot of protection for themselves. That’s not their job. That’s not what they’re designed for. They are vulnerable, and they do what they are supposed to do. Produce life, nurture life, and protect it. A mother hen protects all her chicks, not just some of them, and that inclusion is how Jesus also lived his life.
We heard how God promised Abraham that he would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky.’ The Jews are Abraham’s descendants, and spiritually, so are the Christians.
But Muslims are also his descendants. When Abraham and Sarah couldn’t have children, Abraham fathered a son by his maidservant, Hagar. That was Ishmael. Later, Sarah became pregnant, and they had Isaac. When Sarah saw Ishmael and Isaac playing together, she got crazily jealous and was afraid that Ishmael might get Abraham’s inheritance, rather than Isaac, because he was the first born son. She convinced Abraham to send Hagar off into the desert, which he did. Eventually, Hagar and Ishmael settled in Saudi Arabia, and became the ancestors of Mohammed. Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah are the ancestors of all the Jews, and, of the Christians. Today, in a time of the rise of white supremacy and the bombing of mosques, it is important that we know that all three of us are branches off the same tree.
Luke is also showing us that Jesus’ life saves us, not just his death. Even when Jesus knows he is ‘going to Jerusalem,’ and what is likely to happen there, he still heals, loves, is kind to children, brings outcasts back into the community, welcomes people who are criminals, includes those who have disabilities, welcomes those who live lives other’s look down on, he invites them to supper and calls them his friends, he argues with anyone who puts limits on God’s love, and he keeps teaching anyone who will listen. This is also how he saves us!
He teaches us the attitudes that lead to fullness of life.
‘Be honest. Be humble. Don’t take the highest positions and put yourself forward all the time. Take care of the vulnerable, because they are the most important, not the ones who have everything. Don’t put on airs! Be genuine, be real. Don’t base your value or the value of others on what you can do or what you produce. You are each holy because God made you holy. Love and treat the earth and other forms of life like they are holy too, because they are. This is how you are saved. Not just by death, but also by how you live!” And for another ten chapters, Jesus showed them how to do it.