Gathered

Audio here.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I don’t know exactly why the Pharisees are warning Jesus about Herod’s plans. Maybe it’s just that they want Jesus to get out of the area. But whatever the reason, this is another temptation. We heard last week about Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. The devil tried to get Jesus to take things into His own hands, be an independent agent, apart from His Father. And Jesus refused to hear anyone other than His Father. He refused to receive anything from any hand other than His Father. He refused to trust anyone other than His Father.

This is another temptation. Whatever the Pharisees’ motive, this is an attempt to drive Jesus away from the path He is walking. He has set His face to go to Jerusalem, and neither the Pharisees, nor Herod, nor anyone else, will be able to keep Him from doing what He came to do. He says, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow.” Those are the signs that He has come to overthrow the kingdom of the devil and restore His creation. “On the third day,” He says, “I will finish My course.” On the third day, He will demonstrate that everything He has done is finished. He will complete His course in resurrection.

But He’s not there yet. He must continue on His way to Jerusalem. That’s where He was always going. As the fulfillment of everything the prophets said, He will go to the place where the prophets die. Of all the places that should accept the words of God’s prophets, Jerusalem should hear them, above all. They are no more inclined to listen to God’s words than anyone else. And then Jesus tells the Pharisees that He is not only the fulfillment of the prophetic word, He is the sender of the prophets. Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often I have wanted to gather your children together like a hen gathers her brood underneath her wings, and you did not want it.

Now your house is left to you. Do what you want. But this does not mean that God has forsaken His people or His promises. But His gracious presence is no longer located in Jerusalem or in Jerusalem’s temple. Instead, if you want to find your protection, security, hope, and life, you will find it only in Jesus. He is the location of God’s gracious presence. And He has come to gather children for God. A prophet, and the Prophet of prophets, cannot perish outside Jerusalem. So it is there that Jesus goes to do His gathering work, arms outstretched as a hen’s wings, upon the cross.

You will not see Me again, Jesus says, until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” When He enters Jerusalem on a donkey, their words will indicate that He has come in the Name of Yahweh to do Yahweh’s work.

So we sing those same words to indicate that our God has come to save us. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! And so He comes, the Blessed One, crucified and resurrected, and gives His Body and Blood to those who seek Him where He is. Because nothing will keep Him from doing His work of gathering and keeping a people for God. Herod and the Pharisees are long gone; they can’t keep Him from accomplishing His work. And neither the plans of the unbelievers, nor the lethargy of the believers can turn Him aside. He finished His course on the third day in order to give His life to you and me. He can’t be stopped. He can’t be turned aside. He will finish in you what He started.

I saw a picture a while back of a hen doing exactly what Jesus says. It was raining and she had put out her wings and curved them over the heads of her little chickens. Even chickens know where their safety and protection and security is. Humans seem to have a little more trouble believing the promises of their Lord. Even so, here He is, risen with healing in His wings, gathering His children, feeding them in the safety of His shelter. Even more, He is our refuge and strength, an always present help in trouble. He is our life, our security, our protection, our strength and our fortress. Dear children of the heavenly Father, there is nowhere else and no one else in whom you will find your life. Listen to the words that indicate He is present: Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Though we have not seen Him yet, He comes to us here and now, to assure us that what He says is true: He will not stop doing His gathering and sustaining work, until you are safely gathered in, resurrected, safe from the devil’s work, and whole and completely healed.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/16/19

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