The Second Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2022
Our Journey Through Lent—
It is a Journey of Powerful Courageous Love!
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What are some of the most powerful acts of courage you have ever seen? The first one that comes to my mind is “Tank Man.” It was June of 1989. The Chinese government was cracking down on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. During the protest one solitary man stood in front of a column of tanks and raised his hand in a defiant “Stop” sign. The tanks did indeed stop. He climbed up the front of the lead tank and spoke with a member of the crew. While it didn’t take long for two men to remove him from the tank and escort him away, the image of one man standing in front of a column of tanks and bringing them to a stop has gone down in history as a powerful act of courage. Why would he do something like this? Love. He had a powerful courageous love for freedom.
More recently I think of images that have come out of Ukraine. When the United States offered President Zelensky safe passage out of Kyiv, his response was, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” In the face of overwhelming odds President Zelensky has chosen to stand side-by-side with the people of Ukraine and fight the Russian invasion. Why would he do something like this? Love. He has a powerful courageous love for his country and for his fellow Ukrainians. I also saw a video recently of unarmed Ukrainian citizens in Melitopol confronting Russian soldiers and attempting to push back a convoy of military vehicles. Again, why would they do this? Again it is love. They have a powerful courageous love for their country.
While we could come up with a whole list of examples where people display a powerful courageous love, none of them can compare to what we witness here in our text for today. As we continue our journey through the Season of Lent let’s see how Luke gives us the opportunity to see that our journey through Lent is: A Journey of Powerful Courageous Love!
As Jesus was making His way to Jerusalem for the last time, Luke tells us, “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’ He replied, ‘Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In any case, I must keep on going today and tomorrow and the next day— for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!’” Were these Pharisees actually concerned about Jesus’ health and safety? Or, were they trying to use “reverse psychology”? Were they trying to ensure that Jesus would indeed go to Jerusalem where it would be easier for them to join forces with others and get rid of Jesus once and for all?
Either way, my friends, Jesus’ response to these Pharisees reveals our Lord’s courageous power— courageous power that was motivated by pure love. Even though Jesus acknowledges that King Herod is a “fox,” a cunning individual with a great deal of power, Jesus is not afraid of him. In fact, in courageous power Jesus openly defies King Herod! Jesus made sure that both these Pharisees and King Herod understood that Jesus would lovingly continue His work of casting out demons and healing people— no matter what anyone says or does. Why? Because “on the third day,” at the appropriate time, Jesus would reach His “goal.” This “goal”— which included Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection— could not be achieved while Jesus was in Herod’s territory. Jesus’ “goal” could only be achieved in Jerusalem— “for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.”
Stop and think of how Jesus’ interaction with these Pharisees reveals our Lord’s courageous power— a courageous power motivated by amazing love! Most of us have walked with Jesus through the Season of Lent often enough to know how determined He was to reach His “goal.” (Pointing to the cross) Satan tried everything he could to stop Jesus from reaching His “goal.” Jesus didn’t allow Satan to succeed. The people of His hometown tried to stop Jesus from reaching His “goal.” Jesus didn’t allow them to be successful. Even Peter tried to stop Jesus from reaching His “goal”! Jesus did not allow Peter to be successful. Throughout His entire public ministry Jesus revealed a courageous power when it came to achieving His “goal”— a courageous power that reveals how much Jesus loves all people, including you and me!
Jesus knew that the only way we could be saved, the only way we could receive the priceless gifts of forgiveness, eternal life and salvation was for Him to die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (Pointing to the cross) Reaching His “goal” required Jesus to love us with a love that goes beyond our understanding. Reaching His “goal” required Jesus to love even those who rejected Him— such as these Pharisees.
Jesus’ courageous power and Jesus’ amazing love is also brought out very clearly in the second portion of our text. Jesus laments, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
The city of Jerusalem represented the entire nation of Israel. These are the people who heard— and disregarded— the voices of the prophets whom the Lord their God lovingly sent to them over and over again. Now they had the privilege of hearing the voice of The Prophet, God’s long-awaited Promised Messiah— and once again they are rejecting both Him and the message He was proclaiming to them. Nevertheless, like a mother hen trying to gather her chicks under her protective wings Jesus will give His life for them. As the epitome of powerful courageous love Jesus will not allow anyone or anything to stop Him from reaching His “goal” for coming into this world.
The response that many of God’s people had toward Jesus’ powerful courageous love is found in some of the most tragic words recorded in the Bible— “But you were not willing.” Since God’s own people did not want what Jesus was freely offering to them, a heartbroken Jesus said to them, “Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
While these words automatically remind us of Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they also remind us of two other facts. First, these words remind us of how the Romans completely destroyed a rebellious Jerusalem in 70 A.D. thereby leaving it “desolate.” Second, these words remind us that those who do not have the faith that enables them to see Jesus as their Lord and Savior, those who do not have the faith that enables them to say to Jesus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” will most certainly bow before Him and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord when He returns to this earth at the end of the ages. But then it will be too late. Instead of knowing Jesus as their Savior, instead of knowing that Jesus’ powerful courageous love did everything that was necessary to redeem them from sin, death and the devil (Pointing to the cross), they will be left “desolate” for all of eternity when Jesus says to them, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
As we walk with Jesus through the season of Lent it is very easy for us to see His powerful courageous love. Jesus never once wavered in His determination to reach His “goal”— the cross on Calvary’s hill. What we always need to remember now, my friends, is that Jesus’ powerful courageous love led Him to suffer and die on the cross— for us! There are those— especially Satan— who will try to convince us that we are hopeless, worthless failures who don’t deserve to be loved by anyone, especially God. Even our own sinful nature will besiege us with all the times that we have failed to do what our God requires us to do and all the times we have freely done what our God has commanded us not to do! Their “goal” is to convince us that Jesus could never love someone like us. Their “goal” is to convince us that Jesus will never forgive someone like us!
Do not allow them to reach their “goal”! Even when they are right, even though we have rebelled against the God of heaven more times than we even realize, more times that we would ever care to admit, every time we lift up our eyes to this cross (Pointing to the cross) we are assured that Jesus’ powerful courageous love led Him to reach His “goal,” His “goal” of saving us from our sins! The fact that Jesus has reached His “goal” means that we can brush aside all of Satan’s criticism and embrace Jesus’ all-encompassing love.
As we walk with Jesus through the season of Lent, as we focus on His powerful courageous love, we also need to remember how eternally important it is to help others see that Jesus’ powerful courageous love for them means that “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” to protect them from predators, so also Jesus “longs” to gather them into His Kingdom of Grace to protect them for all of eternity. It doesn’t make any difference what they have done. It doesn’t make any difference how far or how long they have wandered away. We can assure them that the powerful courageous love that led Jesus to reach His “goal” (Pointing to the cross) guarantees that their sins are forgiven. It guarantees just how much Jesus loves them.
While the picture of a man standing in front of a column of tanks and bringing them to a stop by holding up his hand, while a video of President Zelensky responding to an offer of safe passage out of his country by saying, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride,” and while videos of Ukrainian citizens resisting the Russian soldiers who have invaded their country are all amazing examples of powerful courageous love, the most wonderful and the most perfect example of powerful courageous love is found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
May God grant that Jesus’ determination to reach His “goal” so that we sinners could be saved will always lead us to say—
To God be the glory!