The Lament over Jerusalem
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’32He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me,* “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.”34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when* you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’
From what I can tell, Jesus and the Pharisees have a mighty complicated relationship. The Pharisees have always been skeptical of Christ, attempting to entrap him in many cases. They certainly want to shut down the attention Christ is getting. From their perspective, Jesus is a trouble maker who draws crowds and attention away from their idea of proper religious behavior. The Pharisees respond with dubious questions meant to entrap Jesus in embarrassment, to discredit him. When those trick questions never seem to go very well for the Pharisees, they certainly watch carefully. They keep up with the attention he is getting; they stay aware of what he is teaching and doing in general. Their distrust of Christ is pervasive. So why would these Pharisees want to warn Jesus that Herod wants to kill him? I think it’s too simple to just say they want to run him out of town. I think their interest is much more complicated. The idea that Herod is after Jesus is certainly nothing new. That has been the case for Jesus’ whole life. This is the same Herod who ordered all the baby boys killed when he heard the Messiah was born. Perhaps with the mistrust the Pharisees have for Jesus, there is also some intrigue and a spirit of keeping the closet watch on those most suspicious to you.
Throughout this passage, Christ puts an end to the games of sorts the Pharisees are playing. He sends a message back to Herod through the Pharisees. One has to love how Christ starts with, “Go tell that fox….” Right away, Jesus demonstrates the model of being completely open and direct! Christ sends the message that he is busy with his mission—casting out demons and performing cures. He doesn’t intend to leave until that work is done. That is certainly a real lesson for me. Christ knows he is in the midst of a difficult and even perhaps dangerous group. But Christ does not intent to let the Pharisees or Herod stop him from completing his work in Jerusalem. He does not let them shake his confidence or his resolve.
Then Christ takes a moment to lament how Jerusalem has become the city that kills profits and stones those who are sent to help. Jesus speaks in images of longing to care for Jerusalem “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” in the spirit of most loving protection. I personally happen to connect deeply with this feminine, motherly image. To me, the hen gathering her brood under her wings is the unconditional and complete care Jesus longs to give Jerusalem and ultimately the whole world. And in the end, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”