Preached by Jason Abbott
Often we make the mistake of thinking about Jesus as we think about a hero, but Jesus was no mere hero. Jesus was beyond heroic. Heroes are men and women just like you and I are. They, however, unlike you and I, will oppose some evil power and conquer against all odds. Heroes are people who stand up to something terrible, something that seems insurmountable, and win freedom or change social opinion because of their courage and sacrifice. Heroes are people like the founding fathers and mothers of our country, people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Junior. People who believed in something noble and fought for it and eventually transcended because of their strength and compassion and courage.
These people deserve our recognition—to be honored and remembered by us for all that they did. Yet, Jesus isn’t like them. Jesus isn’t even in the same category with these people. Jesus is beyond them. Jesus is beyond heroic. He doesn’t deserve to be merely honored by us, and he doesn’t deserve to be merely remembered by us. Jesus deserves and demands to be worshiped by us.
He’s beyond heroic!
Let’s look at this text and see how beyond our mistaken thinking about him Jesus actually is. Let’s adjust our natural views concerning Jesus and see our Lord as he really is—truly beyond us.
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
In these five verses, we see an extraordinary Savior: (1st) we see that Jesus is beyond control; (2nd) we see that Jesus is beyond compassionate; and (3rd) we see that Jesus is beyond courageous. Let’s look at each of these.
1. Jesus is beyond control (vv. 31-33).
As I was reading through the commentaries and was studying today’s passage, I found a number of people who described Jesus as brave—when he makes his reply to the Pharisees and, therefore, to Herod. And, while I do think there’s great bravery being demonstrated in this text. I don’t think his reply to the Pharisees and to Herod is the best example of it.
No doubt, it would be courageous for you or for me to make such a response to some crooked dictator or political leader. If we were Russian citizens right now, we would have to be very brave, indeed, to say such things about Vladimir Putin. People get thrown in prison—and perhaps even worse—for saying things like this in Russia, and in many other places around the world. You see, in such nation-states, the people have no real power; they have no real protection. If they cross a leader, he or she can lock them up with little to no opposition.
We, consequently, are tempted to see the situation between Jesus and Herod as something like that. It, however, is nothing like that. Look at this interaction again. Consider Jesus’ response. Consider what it indicates about power, and who has it. Luke records:
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem…’ (vv. 31-33).
The Jack Reacher book and, now, film series is about a larger than life man, who roams the country fighting for the helpless. The beginning of the second film, Never Go Back, portrays a corrupt county sheriff arriving at a diner to find four men laying outside badly beaten-up. The sheriff asks someone nearby what has happened, and the guy tells him there was a fight—those four on the ground against one guy. His friend then leans over and says: “He’s still in there; that’s him.”
Once the sheriff gets backup, he goes in with his gun drawn to arrest Reacher. Reacher allows him to put him in handcuffs, and the two sheriffs begin to flex a bit, feeling now like they’re in control. As one arrogantly tells Reacher about the fifteen to twenty years he’ll get for assaulting those four guys laying out in the parking lot, Jack says: “Two things are going to happen in the next 90 seconds. First, that phone over there is going to ring…. And, second, you’re going to be wearing these cuffs, on your way to prison.” The corrupt sheriff laughs, condescendingly, then replies: “That is one magnificent prophecy, Mr. Reacher.” But, then, the phone starts to ring. And, within a minute, both of the crooked sheriffs are being led away in handcuffs for human-trafficking. 1
That scene lays the groundwork for the rest of the film. It establishes Reacher as calm and cool and collected. He’s fully in control. It seemed like the sheriffs were in control. It seemed like they were calling the shots. But, they never were.
In the encounter with the Pharisees, it seems like Jesus might be in real danger. It seems like Herod might swoop in, as he did with John the Baptist, and kill Jesus; however, like the sheriff in the film, Herod truly has no power. Jesus is the one who’s in control. Jesus is not helpless. Jesus is not vulnerable. Jesus is a man on mission—a mission to undo crooked foxes like Herod. A mission ordained by God the Father! A mission no earthly king or ruler can foil!
We should certainly remember this about Jesus, for Jesus surely recognized it about himself. What does he say about his life?
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father (John 10:18).
What does he tell Pontius Pilate while on trial? John records the conversation:
Pilate said to [Jesus], “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above (John 19:10-11).
Friends, Jesus is in absolute control. Herod is no threat to him. Nor is Pilate! Nor is Caesar! Now, while there is something brave demonstrated in this passage, Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees isn’t it. Where there’s no actual threat or danger, there’s no actual courage or bravery. Since the Lord is sovereign and since Jesus is in control of his own life, Herod’s threats are empty. And, this has real implications for us and for how we live.
You see, Jesus was not simply in control during his earthly life and ministry. Jesus is currently in control as well. He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). For this reason, we can trust ourselves and our situations to the Lord Jesus. He is sovereign over all.
And, trusting Jesus and his sovereignty is among the most empowering things we can do. As a pastor, I have the honor of often visiting people in various dangerous and threatening situations. And, many times—when I come away from those visits, when I come away from pastoring those individuals—I’m the one who’s been served and pastored and encouraged. When I visit someone, who is dying but isn’t bitter and is even joyous in the midst of suffering, because he knows Christ is in control, my spirits are lifted, and my faith is strengthened. Now that’s truly profound power when even death cannot squelch your hope, isn’t it!
And, it’s precisely why Paul celebrates—by singing this:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” / “O death, where is your victory? / O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
Friends, Christ has defeated death and has rendered death powerless over us. In the end, when our faith is in Jesus, the threat of death is empty. The sting of death is impotent. In Christ, we are beyond death’s control. Amen!
Well, next we see that:
2. Jesus is beyond compassionate (v. 34).
In a sermon over this passage from Luke, Alistair Begg pointed out how often, when we think about cities, we think immediately about some physical characteristic or some physical structure—some building within it. 2
So, let’s prove his point together:
– If I say Golden Gate Bridge, you say? (Answer: San Francisco)
– If I say Eifel Tower, you say? (Answer: Paris)
– If I say Big Ben, you say? (Answer: London)
Now Begg goes on to point out that the same is true of certain historical events and the cities that hosted them. And, for the city of Jerusalem, it was the persecution of the prophets whom God had sent. Jesus eludes, here, to this tragic historical fact. He laments over it:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing (v. 34)!
For about the first twenty-five years of my life, Missouri sent its football team over to Nebraska to get executed in one way or another. Often, we lost in a blowout. Other times, it was close and, therefore, extra heart-wrenching. After all the losing, after decades of losing, I hated Nebraska football. So much so that if you asked me who my 2nd favorite college football team was, I’d say whoever is playing Kansas. But, if you asked me who my 3rd favorite was, I’d say whoever is playing Nebraska. Simply put, I had no compassion for the Cornhuskers.
In sharp contrast to that, our Triune God had sent his prophets to Jerusalem over the centuries only to see them scoffed-at and persecuted and thrown into prison and executed. After all that, here stands Jesus—the second member of the Trinity, God in the flesh—lamenting, with great grief, the hard-heart of this city, Jerusalem. He’s heartbroken over its rebellion.
And, note the compassionate imagery. Jesus has longed to gather its little-ones like a mother hen gathers in her chicks. Jesus is not bitter. He doesn’t hate Jerusalem. Rather, he is beyond compassionate toward this rebellious city.
When my children do something bad, they’ll go out of their way to confess it to my wife and avoid confessing it to me, because they know how compassionate toward them she is. Natalie is more gentle and understanding and protective of them than I am. And, friends, this is the compassionate picture Jesus gives us of our God. He loves you! Turn to him and experience his compassionate protection!
Well, before we close, we need to unveil the bravery of Christ in this passage, we need to see how:
3. Jesus is beyond courageous (v. 35).
The last verse of the text highlights it. Here’s what Jesus says of Jerusalem:
Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (v. 35).
Remember that, in Luke’s gospel, from chapter nine on, Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. So, he’s still on that journey here. He’s heading toward that city and toward his cross. He knows this. He’s told his disciples this. That’s the context for his teaching here. His impending crucifixion is the context.
So, now, he tells Jerusalem it stands forsaken. It stands beneath the judgment of God. For its history with his prophets, for its rebellion against him, for its sin, Jerusalem stands under the impending wrath of God. His right and just punishment against their unrighteousness is approaching…even as Jesus is approaching that city and approaching that cross.
(Remember that Jesus is in total control and that he longs to compassionately gather Jerusalem! So, he heads to the cross.)
At this point, we might be tempted to think that Christ demonstrates courage by heading toward his crucifixion. But, that would be to see the shadow of the threat or the danger, by which he shows his bravery, rather than the threat or danger itself. Friends, Christ’s cross was ultimately the sign of a far worse reality. The crucifixion of Jesus was awful, painful, and physically excruciating; but, it was merely the shell of an infinitely more terrible execution taking place.
The real threat, by which we see Christ’s bravery, as he goes up to Jerusalem, the real danger which proves that Jesus is beyond courageous, as he walks steadily toward his execution, is the judgment and the wrath of God that will be poured-out upon him there. That’s what made Jesus tremble. That’s what made him sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s what made him pray for the cup to be taken from him (Matthew 26:39). And, that’s what demonstrates his tremendous courage as he prays: Not my will, but your will Father (Luke 22:42).
Friends, Jerusalem stood condemned and forsaken. And, all of us also stand—but for the Lord’s grace through faith in Christ—equally condemned and forsaken. None of us could satisfy God’s wrath. None of us could pay the price sin requires. So, our God, in the person of Jesus, did it for us. He accomplished it with control and with compassion and with courage that are beyond us. And, Christ did it so that, when he returns, we might sing with many from Jerusalem: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen.