There is an old phrase that goes something like this: “Don’t let the fox guard the chicken coop.” No kidding! Everyone knows that foxes like chicken for dinner. The phrase has the same merit today as it has throughout the generations. No one would obviously put the chickens at risk by letting the fox run the place. No one would want political leadership to take advantage of the people they are entrusted to protect. Yet this is the situation the reading is taken from for today.
Herod was in charge as the appointed ‘King of the Jews.’ He was a sly fox. Herod tried to appease the favor of the people by the many building projects he oversaw, including the Temple. Herod was also very brutal as he crushed any opposition which kept him in good standing with Rome. Herod was a sly fox. He knew how to work the system for his benefit and not for the good of the people.
A few Pharisees came to Jesus and told him to get out of town. Herod was there and wanted to see Jesus killed. Jesus called Herod a fox and then defined his position. The Kingdom of God was near with him. This kingdom would not be pushed aside for the likes of Herod. Do you want proof? Demons are cast out. People are healed of their diseases. Jesus was bringing the presence of God’s reign to the people. He was going to be busy doing this today, tomorrow and on the third day reach the goal. This work will be finished in Jerusalem. Too bad if Herod objects.
There is comfort in knowing Jesus would not be deterred from his goal. There is also sadness from the reality of how many times have I sided with the fox. How many times have we let a sly fox deceive us into our own destruction? The result is that the place where we should be most alive and feel the most secure is empty. We are left with a world that we have handed over to the foxes.
Jesus lamented how he longed to gather us together under his protective wing like a mother hen does to protect her chicks from the fox; the hen willing to sacrifice herself to satisfy the fox’s hunger. For now Jesus must be about his work today, tomorrow and finish on the third day. This will come into focus when the people shout, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” We observe that moment as Passion Sunday.
Temptation is often treated like a joke. We joke about the temptation of the box of jelly donuts a co-worker brings to the office and proudly announce we kept to our diet. We make light of the reduced price of an article of clothing on Amazon and how we resisted the temptation to buy it. We keep the level of our engagement with temptation at a superficial level. If we probe any deeper, we discover that temptation is really about the lie. If we probe any deeper, we see how easily we are taken in by it.
Lying is so much a part of our culture right now and we are having a hard time facing that reality. In the world of politics, one lie is followed by another which is then countered by a stretching of the truth on the other side of the spectrum. When a corporation is caught in questionable behavior, spin is applied to deflect the challenge and denial of responsibility. Temptation is to fall for the distortion of the truth, the lie.
The Spirit is leading Jesus into the wilderness where the devil will have at him. After, forty days of eating nothing Jesus was famished and at his most vulnerable. The devil began the lies. What is interesting is that Jesus knew his identity. The devil knew who Jesus was too. Yet, the lies began.
The first was about making bread out of rocks. The lie was about independence from God the Father. Jesus knew his oneness with the Father. He was not going to declare that he was separate. Jesus didn’t go for the lie. If only we knew better than to declare our independence and face the consequences. This is our sin.
The second was about getting all the kingdoms of the world by simply giving adoration to the devil. Question, when did God cede his rights over the world to the devil? This is the lie. With the Spirit at his side, Jesus would have nothing to do with the lie. How often have we bought the lie of worshiping that which has nothing to give in return?
The third lie was to doubt the Father’s life sustaining presence and jump off a building. The devil even used Scripture to support the test. Jesus knew well enough the lie of doubt the devil was trying to instill. He wouldn’t test the Father’s care.
The testing was done for now. The devil would try his best at future opportunities. With the Spirit at his side, Jesus would face more lies the devil would throw at him. Thankfully, he remained true. This is how and why we can call him Savior and Lord.
Temptation is much more than resisting a piece of chocolate. Temptation is all about the lies that come each day. The lies are many. They work to deny what Scripture says is true about life and loyalties and worship and identity and so on. I can only wish that I and we as a whole were far better at seeing the lies for what they are… quit participating in them.
If you wanted to be a radical that really wanted to change things, whether it be in your church or community or even the world, what steps would you begin to take?
Would you start a blog to refute ‘fake news’ or what you consider to be ‘fake news?’
Would you grab a sign and join in with others to form a protest march?
Would you become politically active to support the candidates that share your views of how the world should function?
Jesus gave some radical ideas from this reading out of Luke. The type of ideas that are guaranteed to get push back. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” But if we do this, who will we hate? Who will we demonize and use to scare others into following our political views?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is a wimpy idea. How are we ever going to end up on top if we are looking out for the benefit of others?
Jesus said, “Do not judge.” This is ridiculous. How are we ever going to feel superior to others if we don’t judge them as lesser? How can we justify the lousy ways we treat others if we don’t first judge them worthy of such treatment? How can we be confident of our salvation if we don’t judge other certain for damnation?
Jesus’ words in Luke seem so ridiculous. They are too far out on the fringe. They are too radical to be taken seriously in the world and how it works. This is precisely the point. Jesus is speaking about the reign and the coming rule of the kingdom of God. The ways of God require the endless cycle of hate and abuse and manipulation, etc come to an end. Jesus didn’t come to bless what we bless but came to redeem and make all things new in the resurrection.
So Jesus is inviting us to be radicals for the kingdom of God. It sounds impossible but he isn’t let us off the hook. If we long and hunger for the reign of God to be over us, then we need to be Jesus kind of radicals. In the end we are promised that life will be known that is truly overflowing. The measure of life we grant to others is the measure of life we’ll receive in return.
When talking about being blessed, what comes to mind? Don’t we usually default to what is normally defined by blessing in the world? Normally, blessing involves having big numbers in the checking account at the bank. Blessing is being free from much of life’s trials and struggles – life goes easy. Blessings are what we call all of our friends and family. This is what we consider being blessed.
So we come to the words of Jesus and we are confused because he says just the opposite. He is teaching that blessed are the poor, those who mourn and weep as well as those persecuted because of him. Furthermore, Jesus announces ‘woes’ to those who are rich, happy and regarded with a good reputation by lots of people. Jesus is obviously out of sync with what the world values and we so often define as being the blessed by God.
This reading is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. What makes Luke’s version different is that Jesus comes down to the level plane. He isn’t sitting like a teacher on a hill as a teacher did instructing the students. He came down to the level plane to share with us in the flesh. He came down to stare directly face to face with our humanity and our reality. The good news of the incarnation is that God has not abandoned us in our sin and death but has come to us in Christ Jesus to bring us salvation and the resurrection.
What is important to notice is that Jesus didn’t speak these Beatitudes to the crowds amazed by the healing and casting out of their demons. Jesus was looking at the disciples. He was directing these words to the church. The people of the kingdom. Those who take to heart his ministry which he announced as good news to the poor and release to the captives and of the year of the Lord’s favor which emphasized forgiveness of debts and a rebooting of economic structures. Blessed are those concerned with the kingdom’s presence.
Blessed are the poor for they will know the fullness of the kingdom.
Blessed are those who mourn and weep over the lies and killing and race baiting and hate etc. because they long for the kingdom to be realized by all.
Blessed are those who speak like the prophet of old to the kings of old of the injustice and the trampling of the poor that defined their rule.
Blessed are those devoted to the kingdom. Blessed are those longing for the salvation that only Christ brings. Blessed are those seeking the new life of Christ’s resurrection to be known by all of creation.
Have a blessed day.
This has been called by many as Jesus’ inauguration speech. He is setting the stage for what his work and ministry will be in the future. He was in the synagogue and reads from the prophet Isaiah about good news preached to the poor and freedom to the prisoners and the recovery of sight to the blind and release of the captives and the year of the Lord’s favor. As the eyes of all were fixed on Jesus, he announced that this Scripture was fulfilled in their hearing of it.
Their eyes were fixed on Jesus but I wonder if they were thinking this was good news for them. I am wondering if we also look at the same reading as good news for today? After all, what do we think about when the idea of the coming of the Lord is talked about? Don’t we think about blessing. The Lord will bless us and the blessing is defined as keeping our positions of power and control in society. We think about wealth. We think about maintaining what is or a possible return to an idealized glory of the past. We think we know what the coming of the Lord will be like but the Lord’s thinking is not always in tune with ours.
The Scripture Jesus read was nothing less than the rebooting of society. The year of the Lord’s favor (Jubilee) was the cancellation of debts and return of even the land to previous owners. The poor and imprisoned are no longer under the boot of the powerful. This is the Lord’s way of bringing blessing to society.
Now those present spoke well of Jesus. In other words they were trying to get on his good side and graces. However, Jesus told of how God’s graces reached out to a poor Gentile widow and Naaman the Syrian, not to Israel. They were enraged and tried to throw Jesus off a nearby cliff to kill him. Jesus didn’t fit with their thinking of blessing.
Jesus announced the start of his ministry by reading from Scripture of the rebooting of society. The rich are brought down with the poor raised up. All debts are cancelled. This is how society will be blessed in his ministry. What do you think about this?