Our text for today comes from the Gospel of Luke the thirteenth chapter the thirty first through the thirty fifth verses. In this passage of Scripture we encounter Jesus on a journey; Jesus is journeying from Galilee in the North of Judea to Jerusalem. This pilgrimage is recorded in the Gospel of Luke beginning in 9:51 and concludes with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as recorded in 19:29. It is a major section of Luke’s gospel and in which Jesus provides teaching on the shape and nature of discipleship, manifests the presence of the Reign of God though his healings, and makes the nature of the Reign of God the subject of his many parables. Throughout the entirety of Jesus’ pilgrimage he is steadfastly focused on the city of Jerusalem for his time will soon arrive in which he will enter this holy and sacred city.
Jerusalem, O Jerusalem — it is a city pregnant with theological and spiritual significance. Jerusalem —the city of David, the place where God’s Temple was constructed by Solomon, the city that is absolutely central to Israel — God’s covenant people’s — practice of their faith. Furthermore, Jerusalem has apocalyptic significance as well. It is in Jerusalem that God will establish Zion, the Holy City of God that will be the embodiment of God’s Reign on earth and the places where both Jews and Gentiles, both Israel and all the Nations, will come to worship YHWH, and thus be the geographical locus of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham.
Jerusalem, O Jerusalem — it is also the city in which the people of God make it their habit to fail in their righteousness and faithfulness to God. Though not the place the monarchy was established, following David’s reign as King, Jerusalem becomes the city most associated with the Israel’s Biblical monarchy and the location of Judah’s political power. Thus, the city of Jerusalem comes to represent and symbolize Israel’s lack of faith in God’s ability to be sovereign redeemer, protector, ruler, and King. Jerusalem, O Jerusalem — the place the above mentioned monarchy coopted the worship of YHWH from the living spiritual practice of the people into a state sponsored mechanism to bless, ordain, and legitimize corrupt power and the marginalization of people. Jerusalem, O Jerusalem — the place where YHWH’s prophets came to preach words of rebuke and warning to the people of God and the place those same prophets met their death at the hands of Jerusalem’s inhabitants — the people of God. Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, the holy city of God that has perpetuated and known so much violence, so much hurt, so much hate, so much conflict, and so much wounding. Jerusalem, O Jerusalem — the city meant to the locus of the covenant people of God’s faithfulness, worship, love, mercy, justice, and inclusion instead is a showcase of God’s people’s sin and opposition to God and struggle with faithfulness.
It is towards this city, Jerusalem, that Jesus intently journeys. In this passage from Luke we see a Jesus more determined and focused on his Messianic mission. He is aware of his purpose; he knows what will come for him in Jerusalem, and he will not be deterred. He will not be deterred by some Pharisees pretending to be well-meaning. They approach Jesus to share with him that Herod, the be-header of John the Baptist, seeks to kill Jesus. While the Pharisees seem to be concerned with Jesus’ safety it is most likely that they simply want Jesus out of their region.
Jesus uses this as an opportunity to both reveal his identity and foreshadow his purpose. Jesus’ response, deriding Herod (and implicitly the Pharisees who bore the false-warning) and calling him a fox, makes certain to all who hear that Jesus will not be distracted or intimidated from his mission and work. He will do what he has come to do, both along the journey to Jerusalem and once he arrives in Jerusalem. He will continue to manifest the Reign of God and therefore, reveal his Messianic identity, as the Prince of God’s Reign, as he continues his work of “healing people” and “throwing out demons.” He will do this at his own pace and according to his own desire and he will do this all the way until he reaches Jerusalem’s door. And once he arrives in Jerusalem, Jesus predicts the greeting he will receive upon his entrance and he also foreshadows his death.
Foreshadowing his entrance into Jerusalem when he will be greeted with waving palms and shouts of Hosanna Jesus says in 13:35, “you won’t see me until the time comes when you say, Blessings on the one who comes in the Lord’s name.” But Jesus also predicts that these shouts of welcome will quickly turn and Jesus will meet the same fate in Jerusalem as so many prophets before him, predicting his own death in Jerusalem and his own prophetic lineage within Israel’s history saying in 13:33, “it’s impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.”
But quickly Jesus’ bravado turns to sorrowful lament. He does not show sorrow regarding his own upcoming death, instead he shows sorrow towards the city of Jerusalem and its corresponding residents. Using the image of a mother hen brooding over, protecting, and enveloping her chicks with her embracing wings, Jesus, the Divine Mother, longs to enfold all of Jerusalem in his own mothering embrace. Jesus wants to embrace Jerusalem and all her inhabitants; he desires to protect them from themselves, the violence, and the unfaithfulness they continually perpetrate; he desires to make them the recipients of his unconditional love; he desires to see Jerusalem, all her residents, and the nations come to know the nature of God’s love for them.
In this tender moment, Jesus, speaks of God’s mothering love manifested in a desire to hold, embrace, and hug her children. In that embrace Jesus desires to make all of Jerusalem’s hurting, violence, hatred, conflict, and wounding go away. In that embrace Jesus desires to self-perpetuating cycles of violence. Jesus laments a city in which violence and alienation and unfaithfulness simply breeds more violence alienation and unfaithfulness. Jesus is overcome with sorrow for the city and for the people. All Jesus wants to do is embrace the people of Jerusalem and bind them up and hold all of their hurt…but he knows Jerusalem will resist.
Have you ever experienced the excruciating pain of wanting to embrace someone and having that person resist you? In wanting to reach out in love, comfort, or reconciliation and have the other resist or refuse. Have you ever experienced the pain of unrequited love? Here is Jesus’ pain. He reaches out to hug his children, to hold his children in his arms, and they squirm, push back, and move away. It is this rejection of Jesus’ love by Jerusalem that breaks Jesus’ heart and he is filled with sorrow.
But it is not only Jerusalem that Jesus seeks to embrace. Jesus would embrace us and our cities and nations as well. But our cities and our nation is equally full of violence and conflict and hate and wounded-ness. Our cities and nation perpetuate cycles of wounding and violence and conflict. Our cities squirm, push back, and move away when approached by Jesus’ open arms.
And it is not just the unnamed residents, the faceless generic inhabitants of our cities and nation who do this, but it is us. We are the ones who like the residents of Jesus’ Jerusalem practice violence and hate. We are the ones who perpetuate conflicts and hold onto grudges. We are the ones who mistreat immigrants, refugees, widows, and orphans. We are the ones who fail to give food to the hungry. We are the ones who do not do God’s justice here on earth. We are the ones who do not live faithfully to our God.
We perpetuate all this wounding because we ourselves are wounded; we are hurting; we are lonely; we are scared; we are isolated. And it is to us, in our wounded-ness, hurt, loneliness and fear that Jesus comes to us, with arms outstretched bidding us to come into him and receive his embrace. Will we come? Or will we resist?