Reading for Second Week of Lent:
Peace be with you!
The world is full of injustice; it is what keeps certain individuals from being able to do their best work. Women face the glass ceiling in the workforce—not allowing them to be promoted beyond a certain level. People of color are racially profiled without attention to personal guilt or innocence. Individuals with disabilities face society’s judgments regarding their abilities—making it difficult to find good paying jobs. Everyone faces some kind of injustice in the world at some point, because the devil is in the world, and human beings are broken.
The Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod wants to kill him (Luke 13:31). Though in other parts of the Gospel of Luke the Pharisees oppose Jesus, it is unclear if they warn Jesus out of concern or if they are mocking him.[i] Nevertheless, the news of Herod wanting to kill Jesus fits the character of the jealous king. Herod has already beheaded John the Baptist out of jealousy and when he sees the crowd gathered around Jesus, Herod becomes jealous of him too (Luke 9:9).
Anyone in their right mind would take this kind of news as a warning. When an individual moves into a new area, they do their research on neighborhoods, schools, jobs, traffic patterns, recreational activities, and more. The individual may seek advice from people who they know are living in the area already.
Family and friends also give advice on other aspects of our lives. People with disabilities seek advice on how to navigate agencies to get the support they need to live productive lives. Two of my friends (who also have cerebral palsy) and I are always discussing which apps work best and what strategies to use to manage our personal care. Seeking advice and heeding warnings are what we do as human beings. We support and guide each other throughout life.
However, Jesus keeps on doing what he has been doing: healing the sick and the lame, caring for the poor and homeless, and preaching to the masses (Luke 13:32). Jesus will not stop doing his day-to-day routine until his ministry is finished. He will not stop until he takes his last breath. It is so easy to change directions when danger larks ahead. As an individual with a significant physical disability, I focus on my well-being and my safety. After having been exploited by others in the past, I now make sure I live in a safe neighborhood and surround myself with trustworthy people. Jesus does not seem to worry about his well-being or safety. His main concern is doing what God the Father sent him to do, and he does it for our sake, even if it means walking straight into danger.
Jesus is well aware of what is about to happen, and that it has to happen in Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). Jesus also understand Herod cannot do anything to him until he enters Jerusalem, because he has to die there, like the other prophets (for example, Jeremiah 26:20-23). Instead of kneeling to the Pharisees’ warnings, Jesus keeps on travelling to Jerusalem in order to complete his ministry on the third day (Luke 13:32d). Jesus goes into Jerusalem knowing he will be killed, and he goes willingly. We are quick to find reasons why we cannot fulfill God’s call for us—too hard, too dangerous, rejection by friends and family, and [whatever “it” is] that stops us. As an individual with a disability, it is easy to use the “I cannot” excuse:
- I cannot serve communion without making a mess.
- I do not speak clearly, so people who do not know me don’t always understand me.
- I cannot drive, so I cannot always make unplanned visits.
And the list goes on. Yet God the Father finds a way to make the impossible possible. I can type out my thoughts and have my iPad speak them for me. I can serve the Church to the best of my abilities. Just because you cannot do things the traditional way, does not mean you are not able to do it another way. Jesus easily could have said, “I cannot go to Jerusalem because it is dangerous and I will be killed,” but he goes willingly in order to gather God’s children and lead them to the good news.
Jesus laments over the fact Jerusalem, a Jewish community, wants nothing to do with him or the salvation he offers. Jerusalem is a community constantly rejecting and killing the prophets the Lord sends. Jesus wants to gather the people of Jerusalem as a mother would (Luke 13:34) and give them salvation and grace, yet they continue to turn their backs on him. Jesus laments that Jerusalem will not accept his good news before he dies on the cross.[ii] In a similar way, Paul laments that there are many enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18)—those individuals who do not believe in the power of the good news in Jesus Christ, God’s son and our redeemer. It causes Jesus and Paul great pain to know those who die without knowing Jesus as their Savior will experience destruction and not eternal life (Luke 13:35; Philippians 3:19).
Jesus goes about doing his ministry—healing the sick and the lame, caring for the poor and homeless, and preaching to the masses—as he travels to Jerusalem. He does his ministry to gather those who are weak, lost, and exploited in order to bring them into a relationship with God the Father. If the Jewish authorities will not listen to his message, Jesus will go find people who will, though he will not leave God’s people either and will continue to call them into his fold until his last breath.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Jesus to gather us into your fold. Help us to accept the salvation Jesus offers us, even when we do not feel like we deserve it. Lead us to the place where people need to hear the good news. Gather us into your loving arms and raise us up to new life. Amen.
- What kinds of injustice do you face?
- How do you make an important decision? Who do you go to for advice?
- What excuses do you use to get out of something?
- How do you lament when your community goes a different direction than what you think it should?
- How did God gather you into his flock?
- In what ways do you do God’s work in the world?
[i] R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible: General Articles & Introduction, Commentary, & Reflections for Each Book of the Bible, including the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books in Twelve Volumes, eds. Leander E. Keck et al. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 280-81.
[ii] Ruth Ann Reese, “Commentary on Luke 13:31-35,” Working Preacher, 19 February 2016, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2770.