The preacher is the modern day prophet of God. He does not deal with the foretelling of the future but with the forthtelling of the word of God. He is under obligation to preach, as he best understands, the word of God to the people. Consequently, he sometimes runs into opposition. I know a preacher (we’ll call him Dave) who was preaching at a congregation of the Lord’s people. One Sunday he spoke concerning the sovereignty of God. That week, one of the brothers who had been in the audience asked if he could preach the following Sunday. He was permitted. That following Sunday he got up in the pulpit and said, “Brother Dave has preached false doctrine and I intend to correct that error this morning” and proceded to preach a sermon in diametric opposition to what Dave had preached that last week.
The next week for Dave was spent in tears and prayers as he wrestled with what to do. But his understanding of Scripture and the nature of God and his sovereignty could not be shaken. He determined, though he may lose his job, that he could not remain silent. The next Sunday he was a “fiery breathing dragon” in the pulpit as he preached, once more, concerning the sovereignty of God. That was one of the last sermons he preached for that congregation. Coincidently, the brother who spoke against the sovereignty eventually to the understanding that Dave had, albeit some years later.
In Luke 13.31-35, Jesus is confronted with the temptation to quit, to throw in the towel and stop preaching. He has “resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9.51) and he knows what is awaiting him there, namely, certain death (see Luke 9.22). And it is the natural inclination of humans when faced with certain death to go into self-preservation mode and flee or fight. But Jesus overrides this mechanism and continues to proceed toward Jerusalem (Luke 13.22). He knows he must continue his journey toward Jerusalem if mankind is to ever have any chance at salvation from sin.
The Determination of Jesus
These verses (v.31-35) are in conjunction with the preceeding section of Scripture (v.22-30, commented on here) since Luke unites them with the words “Just at that time…” (NASB). Some Pharisees come to Jesus following his mention of the narrow door and urge him to flee. “Go away,” they tell him, “leave.” Of all the suggestions and comments made by the Pharisees to Jesus, this seems to be the wisest. It is only natural: your life is in danger; flee that it might be preserved. Now what was the intent behind this exhortation? Some suggest that these may have been Pharisees who came as friends to Jesus and sincerely warn him to flee. Perhaps. Others say that this was a cohort who hated Jesus and wanted him gone from their lives. I think this is more accurate. Jesus has been nothing but a pain in the neck for the Pharisees ever since he came on the scene (see Luke 5.21, 30, 33; 6.1-2; 11.15, cf. Matt 12.24; 11.38; 12.1). I think it is safe to say they want him gone so they can once more force their religious rule over the people again. Further, their hatred for Jesus grew everyday and with each new confounding situation and teaching Jesus presented. This would boil into full blown rage and madness and they would seek his death themselves (Luke 20.47-48; 22.2). Well, here is an opportunity to get rid of Jesus without having to resort to murder: Herod wants him dead.
Now the question arises whether or not these Pharisees were even from Herod. In reality, Herod wanted to see Jesus (see 9.9) not kill him. And when he finally has Jesus before him, he does try to kill him or sentence him to death, they only mock him, dress him up, and send him back to Pilate. Here is what seems to be happening: the Pharisees are lying about Herod in order to try to scare Jesus off and out of the country so that they can once again establish themselves as Israel’s religious leaders, salvaging what little dignity remained. And so, pitifully, they try to coerse Jesus out of the region with a lie.
And it seems Jesus knew it was a lie. He says, “go tell that fox…” It is as if Jesus is saying, “If you really are from Herod, go back and give him this message.” How embarrasing! The lie did not work. And now they have a mesage for Herod that is undeliverable for they are false messengers. In reality, Jesus is giving a message for the true “foxes” standing before him. He is not going anywhere. He is going to keep on doing what he has been doing: healing and driving demons. Here is a glimpse of the Lord’s determination. He has a clear goal before him. Literally, Jesus says at the end of v.32: “until I shall be perfected (or ended).” The interpretation can either mean the end of his ministry of healing and teaching or the end of his life. Perhaps both are suitable since both happen at roughly the same time. He “must” (v.33) continue his work “for night is coming when no man can work.” Indeed, Jesus has the cross in mind when he finishes verse 33: “no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem.” Jesus’ goal, his end is clear: his life will come to an end in Jerusalem when he receives the death sentence from his enemies. Though his fate is ever before him, Jesus is unwavering in following this through to the end.
The Lamentation of Jesus
The mention of Jerusalem causes great anguish within the heart of our Lord, so much so that he breaks forth in lament over that city. There is first for their rejection of the prophets in the past. This parallels with Jesus’ indictment of them in 11.47-51. There is not a prophet, Jesus says, whom they have not persecuted or killed. They are a stiff-necked people who refuse to listen to the word of God. But this was in accordance with the will of God. In 11.49, God in his wisdom determines to send prophets whom he knows they will persecute. Hence, their refusal to hear and heed the word of the Lord makes them responsible for the blood they shed, from Abel to Zechariah.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this killing of the prophets the Jews did. The Old Testament is rife with examples of this very thing Jesus is talking. The clearest example is Zechariah (whom Jesus mentions in 11.51). His murder can be read in 2 Chron 24.20-22 where he is stoned to death. Again and again the record tells of countless and nameless others who suffered death at the hands of the stubborn and rebellous Jews (2 Chron 36.15-16; Neh 9.26; Jer 2.30; Lam 4.13). So many sent; so many persecuted and killed. A little known martyred prophet is a man by the name of Uriah. He was sent by God to Israel but they plotted to kill him. He fled to Egypt, certain they would not find him. But King Jehoiakim sent a cohort of men to find and bring him back Israel. They did and killed him with the sword (Jer 26.20-24). The senseless violence of the Jews over the phophets sent by God is clear. And the heart of Jesus breaks over their stubborn rebellion to the will and word of God.
But Jesus also laments over their rejection of him. The tender picture is painted of Jesus as the mother hen seeking to cover with her wing her chicks. This is Jesus and the nation of Israel. Our Lord is willing to gather them under his wing; that is his desire. But they reject him and the safety he brings. Again, the Lord’s heart breaks over this rejection of the will of God for their lives. There is deep pain in this short verse. It will not be long until he is able to behold the city with his own eyes. But it is yet another picture of great pain and sorrow over the city. It overwhelms him and he weeps (Luke 19.41). The apostle Paul identifies with this great pain over the nation of Israel in Romans 9.3 where he says he would be cursed (under the anathema of God) and cut off from Christ if it mean salvation for the Jew. Sadly, our Lord has already suffered in such a manner, but the Jews refused and rejected him. He was cursed for them and cut off from God for them, but that was still not enough.
So with the pain still in his chest over Israel, he speaks a prophecy in v.35. Jesus says their house is currently desolate (present tense). Literally, Jesus says that their house is “forsaken,” meaning God no longer lives there. And how could he? They had turned religion into a system of legalistic works and the sacrificial system was perverted into money making machine for the temple. It was corrupt and God no longer lived their. All that remains is judgment from God. This would take place some 40 years later in AD 70 when Israel will be left with no king, no priesthood, no temple and no sacrifices. What is left? Nothing but the acknowledgment of Christ as the true Messiah at his second coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess he is Lord. Then, no matter how unwilling they may be, they will have to acknowledge and bless the one who has come in the name of the Lord.