As you may know, the fox and the hen are natural enemies. There is a story called “The Fox and the Little Red Hen”. In the story, Papa Fox sneaked up quietly behind the little red hen, grabbed her, and put her into his bag. Then he quickly ran off down the hill toward his home to eat some chicken dinner. Inside the fox’s bag, the little red hen remembered that she had some scissors in her pocket. So, when the fox stopped to rest, she cut a hole in the bag, slipped out, put a large stone in the bag, and ran away. When the fox got home, all he had in his bag was a stone. The little red hen was too smart for the sly old fox!
In Luke 13:31-35, a group of religious leaders went to Jesus and said to him, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!” Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must go about my business. It just wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed anywhere but in Jerusalem.”
Then Jesus went on to compare himself to a mother hen. “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”
What a beautiful picture of Jesus. The fox couldn’t defeat him, but like a mother hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings to protect them, Jesus willingly gave himself to save his children—even though they had rejected him time and time again. Jesus still loves his children today. He still wants to gather them in his arms and protect them and care for them. Sometimes we stray away, but Jesus still loves us just the same.
The Scriptures don’t tell us if the Pharisees mentioned here were genuinely concerned for Jesus’ welfare or simply wanted to scare Him away. In any case, Jesus declared His intention to continue His kingdom ministry but implied that its days were growing short, despite the intrigues of “that fox”. The mention of “the third day” may imply a period of suffering followed by vindication or may be meant to remind readers of Christ’s resurrection-or both.
Jesus was very popular, and Herod might not have dared openly to put Him to death, but Herod wanted to remove Jesus. Consequently, Herod might have sent the Pharisees to advise Jesus in a friendly way to leave. Jesus knew what type of man Herod was. Jesus died because of people like Herod. Jesus died because He paid attention to those the world deemed to be insignificant. Jesus died because He proclaimed a God who loved everyone and embraced everyone. His resurrection is a story of triumph of sacrificial love over death, hatred, injustice, bigotry and everyone and everything that opposes God.
Jesus was determined to complete the work God sent Him to do. He would be ready to go only when the work was completed. He refused to be intimidated. The time of His death was approaching, and He wanted to reach as many people as possible before He died.
When He faced down the Pharisees, Jesus showed us how to act courageously. He didn’t flee from the challenge. He met it head-on. This shows Jesus’ character. Jesus shows us that vulnerability is essential for courage. Courage gives us strength to be open to the needs of people around us. Jesus uses the image of a hen gathering her brood of chicks to her for protection and safety to illustrate God’s love and concern for His people.
Although Jesus is much more than a prophet, He is connected to the prophetic tradition He inherited-a tradition that continues today. Prophets come in many shapes and sizes and they speak about many different ideas, but according to Jesus the one thing they have in common is that their truth is quietly rejected by those who have a stake in maintaining power and the status quo.
Prophets challenge the status quo. They speak God’s truth, and that threatens the world’s power structure. They challenge the world’s power structure. Prophets teach others about God’s Word, but teaching happens everywhere. People are looking to those around them to decide what to do and how to live. If we want to be prophets-if we want to show Christ to the world-our lives have to be grounded in the truth of Christ. God calls us to make our voices heard no matter how small the act of love or the witness of hope.
Those of you who are parents have probably seen many situations where your children defied you. You probably wondered how you could get them to learn. Jesus knows how you feel because His children-the Israelites-pushed Him away and defied Him.
Jesus lamented how far the Israelites had fallen. Satan saw the power of worship and pilgrimage the Israelites had, and he concentrated his forces to defeat them. Satan does the same thing today. He concentrates his forces at the point of our greatest strength. If we are tempted, it is a sign that we have become close enough to God that Satan has decided to target us. When that happens, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God loves us and He will help us resist the devil.
In the original Greek, and in Luke’s Gospel, the word “Jerusalem” occurs three times in a row at the end of verse 33 and the beginning of verse 34. Luke focuses his readers’ attention on that city and the events about to happen there. Jesus warned the Israelites that they would face God’s judgment. They rejected Him, and Jesus knew that God was going to abandon them and leave Jerusalem open to its enemies. The “desolate” house anticipates the destruction of the temple. The result of the hardness of their hearts was their destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD.
Jesus sadly accepts the fact that there are people who will reject Him. The agony He had over the Israelites and their hard hearts is the same agony He has for people who reject Him today. He grieves over those who don’t accept what He is offering,
What will happen in Jerusalem-the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ-will take place exactly as God ordained. The stubbornness of the city’s religious officials did not take Jesus by surprise, nor would their actions leading to His execution.
There are several lessons in this passage that we can apply to our lives today. First, we need to have a spirit of calmness and confidence about things that have yet to happen. This doesn’t mean that we become irresponsible and do nothing. We should try to follow Jesus’ example. Second, we must remember God’s compassion towards all people. We need to follow Jesus’ example and show patience and compassion for those who are not at the same stage on their spiritual journey as we are.
When it comes to our relationship with God, no amount of building materials, covenant neighbourhoods, fresh-fruit markets medical services or technology can repair it. We’re no different than the chicks in Jesus’ illustration. The season of Lent invites us to realize that we’re a lot more dependent on God than we realize. Lent is a time to realize that, just like the chicks in Jesus’ illustration, we’re helpless on our own.
Lent is the time in the church year when we practice the spiritual gift of letting go. One of the ways we let go is through lament or weeping over the things that stand in the way of becoming new beings. Lent is the moment to shed tears over the losses we have experienced. Lent is a time of feeling that things will never be the same again.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1414)
- “The Fox and the Hen.” Retrieved from Sermons4Kids.com
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 222-224)
- David Mainse, “Luke 13:34.” Retrieved from www.100words.ca
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Herod’s Death Threat.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Dave Wyrtzen, “Crying Over Jerusalem.” Retrieved from TruthEncounter.com
- Pastor David J. Risendal, “As A Hen Gathers…” Retrieved from OneLittleWord.org
- The Rev. Christopher Girata, “Your Prophetic Voice.” Retrieved from day1.org
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for Luke 13:31-35.” Retrieved from lectionary.org