Luke 13 31-35

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“not in my backyard”

2nd sunday in lent

luke 13: 31-35

Introduction: From time to time, we hear in the news about people that want to help people in need by providing special services.  These services may include counseling, health care and housing.  Most people are very supportive and agree that helping people in this way is important.  Most people applaud those people that are willing to serve their fellow man with such compassion.  That is until they hear that counseling service is for criminals.  That is until they hear that the clinic is a methadone clinic for heroin addicts.  That is until they hear that the halfway house will house the mentally ill or mentally retarded...and it is being built next door to their own home.  What was so right to do becomes very wrong for many people.  What was once a good idea is now rejected because it is taking place right next door.  Who knows why people feel this way?  Perhaps it is a fear for the children, who would want them to be exposed to people like those.  Perhaps they fear they will become victims of crime.  Maybe they fear that their property values will go down or their neighborhood just wouldn’t be as nice.  No matter what the reason most people, including you and me, are inclined to exclaim it‘s a good idea, helping people in need -- “but not in my backyard”.

            In our gospel lesson for today Jesus faces opposition as He ministers to the people of Galilee.  There He was delivering people from the oppression of evil.  He healed everyone that came to Him.  Jesus was proclaiming God’s grace to repentant sinners.  Deliverance from evil, healing, good news, those are good things aren’t they?  Who wouldn't want Jesus around?  Still, Jesus is rejected.  The Pharisees meet him.  They tell Him that Herod wants to kill Him, though that is debatable.  They tell Him to flee for His life.  They tell Him to leave their region.  What we know for sure is that they wanted Jesus to do what He was doing -- somewhere else.  In a way they were saying go ahead and build your kingdom of God -- but not in our backyard Jesus.

            In response Jesus tells them that He is in control.  He will continue His ministry of deliverance, healing and calling sinners home.  He tells them that He will die, but not at the hand of Herod.  He will die, at the appointed time, like the prophets sent before Him, in Jerusalem.  There in Jerusalem, on the cross, and in His empty grave His ministry would find its ultimate goal and completion.           

I.          Our Lord -- Forever Rejected

A.        As His Prophets Were.  God’s messengers have always been rejected.  The prophet Jeremiah is a case in point.  In our Old Testament lesson for today Jeremiah faces the rejection and the wrath of the people.  What did He do?  He speaks what God had told Him to speak.  He called sinners home.  He spoke to God about them saying, “In vain I have chastened your children; They received no correction”.  He told them to believe in God and not empty rituals that had been stripped of there meaning.  He told them to look to God and the Messiah that would come to take their sins away.  That was the problem though.  When you tell people that they are sinners, they don’t want to hear it.  When you tell them that what they are doing isn’t right in the eyes of God, you incur their wrath.  Jeremiah did incur their wrath and He was killed.     

B.        As He Was.  Just as Jeremiah was rejected Jesus was rejected.  It’s hard to imagine the rejection of Jesus.   When you consider the miracles that He had done, when you consider all the good that he was doing.  But His rejection wasn’t based on His miracles.  The rejection was based on His message, just like Jeremiah’s rejection.  Jesus said turn from wickedness and sin.  Cry out to God for mercy.  Believe in the salvation that God alone can give.  Jesus says believe in me.  I am the one that the prophets spoke about.  I am the Messiah that has come to be sacrificed, one sacrifice for all people.  The Pharisees didn’t want to hear what Jesus was saying.  They wanted to do things the way they always had done them -- trying to please God on their own terms with empty deeds and rituals.   

C.        As We Are.  As the prophets were, as Jesus was, now we as His body on earth, His Holy Church, are also rejected.  Oh, the people of the world don’t mind us Christians when we keep to ourselves.  They don’t mind seeing or even sharing in our celebrations of Christmas or Easter.  But that’s where their tolerance stops.  Don’t speak out about sin; That's not politically correct.  That’s not a happy message.  That’s not nice.  As soon as we start saying that there are things being done in this world, in this country, even accepted in some churches -- like abortion or inappropriate sexual intimacies -- that are detestable in the sight of the Lord, we Christians are labeled as intolerant.  When we say that Jesus alone is the savior of the world, we are labeled as being exclusive and unloving.  No matter how much good we have done in our communities in the name of the Lord, If we speak the truth, even in a loving way, we will be rejected.  In spite of this rejection we must remain faithful to God’s Word and our calling to faithfully proclaim it --  just as Jeremiah did, just as Jesus did.

II.        Our Lord -- Forever in Control - and Determined

A.        Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  In the midst of this rejection we can be confident that our Lord is in control.  When Jesus faced the opposition from the Pharisees He told them that He would continue to do what He was doing.  Our changeless God and His power remain the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.  We can be confident that nothing will get in the way of His involvement in our lives too.  Herod couldn’t stop Jesus.  The Pharisees couldn’t scare Him away.  Jesus is just as in control today as He was then.

B.        Reigning Victorious -- Power over Evil, Casting out demons and Performing Cures.  In control and with determination Jesus gives deliverance and healing to all that come to Him.  Jesus tells the Pharisees that He casts out Demons.  What He saying is that He is victorious over evil, over Satan himself.  It is a victory that would be completed when He rose from the dead with the crown of life in His hand.  That crown and victory was handed to us.  It is proclaimed in our lives at Baptism.  At our baptism, Jesus delivered us from Satan and his power.  We are confident that He is determined to continue protecting us in life as we face evil and temptation.  And we know that He forgives us as His dear children, when we fail.

Jesus not only reigns victorious over evil; he alone has the power to heal.  He told the Pharisees, “look I perform cures today, tomorrow and the next day.  Jesus came not only as the conquering victor; He came to heal that which was diseased.  He came to heal and restore the world that had been infected with sin.  For that healing to take place Jesus had to go to the cross and die.  That is why He says that I must journey to Jerusalem. 


III.       Our Lord -- Forever Loving and Gracious

A.        Persistently Calling Sinners Home.  Jesus, looking towards Jerusalem say’s “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”.   What a picture this paints for us.  We can see a mother bird running after her chicks, as tragedy is about to befall them.  Persistently it chases after them and calls to them.  God persistently called out to Jerusalem.  Over and over He sent the prophets to warn her, to protect her.  The city whose name means peace rejected the peace that God offered to it by His prophets.  From the city where peace should have flowed out to the world, only the blood of the prophets flowed.  Then the Prince of Peace, Jesus Himself came for her and wept for her.   He tried to protect her, as a hen protects her chicks, with His own body, from the judgment that would come.  But they were not willing...their house is made a desert -- uninhabitable.        

            B.        Persistently Calling Us.  Jesus persistently called sinners to Himself.  He persistently calls to us now.  Like the Pharisees we were once inclined to reject Jesus.  We were inclined to tell Jesus not to interfere with our lives.  There is a part of us that still does.  Oh we don’t mind Jesus being involved in certain parts of our lives -- like church, Bible study and the more pious aspects of our lives.  But each of us has a backyard where we don’t want Jesus.  We don’t want Him building His kingdom in the backyard of our pet sins.  We don’t want Him in messing around in the backyard of our self-righteous.  We don’t want Him to get in the way of our grievances and conflicts with other people.  We don’t want Him to lead us to love and forgive those people that reject us or treat us wrongly.  Yet, He persistently bids us to come under His wing.  He wants to protect us from ourselves by offering us forgiveness.  He wants us to come under the shelter of His dead body on the cross where His life was given for our lives.

            Indeed, He does protect us.  By God’s grace Jesus called us by faith, to confess our sins and believe in Him as our Savior.  He has gathered us under His wings at the foot of the cross.  At the cross we cannot be harmed by ourselves or anything else.  At the cross we are delivered from danger.  Then as we journey from there to Christ’s empty tomb we have the seal and the promise that we have been delivered from evil and healed -- both physically and spiritually.  

Conclusion:  During this Lenten season we reflect on what Jesus has done for us.  We journey with Him to Jerusalem.  We huddle under the cross where the wings of God, Christ Himself, are stretched out to protect us.  There at the cross may we pray together the words of the Psalm --  “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge... ” (Psalm 57).  As we journey to the empty tomb may we say, “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.”(Ps 63.)



Moses, Samuel, Saul, Martha.

Wept - Joseph, Jesus, Paul --Tears towards those who persecute.          

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