Remember What To Cry Over
3/7/04Times New RomanArial
The Second Sunday in Lent is known historically by it's Latin name Reminiscere which it gets from the first words of the Introit, "Remember." We ask the Lord to "remember" His "great mercy and love," but it is we who forget this and so get confused over what to cry over.
First, we should not cry over foxes. In our text, King Herod, the ruler of the part of Palestine Jesus is in, lets Jesus know that He must get out of his kingdom or He'll be killed. This is a real threat. Remember Herod had already killed John the Baptist. Remember that Herod is a fox. Remember foxes our sneaky, cunning, and deadly. Remember, though Herod would come to have a part in killing Jesus, Jesus didn't shed a tear over that fox.
Jesus goes on doing exactly what He had been doing driving out demons and healing people supremely confident that God would bring His work to completion. Nothing was going to keep Jesus from reaching that Third Day. Remember, Jesus had already told His disciples that the Third Day was when He would rise from the dead. Though He would be betrayed by a friend, wrongly convicted by the leaders of the Church, and murdered by the Romans, He would rise victorious over all of this on the Third Day.
Remember, you don't have to shed a tear of fear over the foxes that threaten you. Remember you are not at the mercy of genetics, risk factors, environment, or age when it comes to death. These foxes all threaten you even as Herod threatened Jesus, but remember, you need not cry over these fearful foxes. O they will prowl about your door; they will sneak up, and they might one day play a part in your death even as Herod did in Jesus', but they cannot stop you from reaching the goal that God has set for you. Remember, the Psalmist says, "My times are in Thy hands O Lord." He doesn't say, "My times are in the hands of disease, sickness, or old age."
When the Pharisees of the world come to you, like they did to Jesus in our text, demanding that you do something or else the foxes on your tail will kill you, remember you are at the mercy of your Lord not them. Remember, that the answer to death threats is not your doing this or that, but the resurrection of the dead that God promises you certainly have in Christ.
Remember you need not cry over the foxes of the world that are out to get you, and you needn't cry over hens either. Jesus is the hen here. He's the one Herod, the fox, threatens to kill. Hens are defenseless against foxes. When faced down by a fox, a hen is certain goner. Remember Jesus knows the fox will catch up with the hen in Jerusalem. He knows that the Church is going to reject Him there and convict Him on trumped up charges. The Roman government is going to condemn Him to death knowing He's innocent. His own heavenly Father is going to treat Him as the worst sinner in the world. His heavenly Father is going to say to Him what an earthly father says to a son who has outrageously sinned against him, "Get out of My sight; you make Me sick."
Remember, all this will happen though Jesus never sinned against His Father or against His fellow man. This brutality, this savagery will happen to Jesus because you and I sin. Remember, Jesus the Hen is mercilessly plucked of His clothes; whipped till His back is like chicken strips, and then roasted over the eternal fires of hell, because we are chickens. We are chicken to resist our flesh and so give in. We are chicken to be different, so we go along with the ways of the world. We are chicken of sin, death and the devil and so bow to them rather than God. Remember it is for chicken-little-like sins that the Hen Jesus will suffer under Pontius Pilate, be crucified, dead and buried. And remember Jesus does not want you to cry over Him.
By all means weep for your sins. Weep over the fact that you can't control your lusts, your pride, your jealously, or your tongue. Weep for the fact that you hurt those who love you and disappoint those who depend on you. Weep for the shame you bring upon the name of Jesus; weep for the horrible judgment your sins bring upon Jesus, but don't you dare shed a tear of pity for Him. Why? Because He doesn't want your tears. He wants your sins.
Remember songs like "The Old Rugged Cross," and "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" Who can not like those songs? Why then are they seldom sung in Lutheran churches? Are they sinful? Are they false teaching? No, they're more false feeling. Remember how Peter went out and wept bitterly when he saw what his sins had done to Jesus? Remember with what great difficulty the Lord brought Him back to the forgiveness of his sins? Tears for Jesus can get in the way with what is really going on. Jesus is the Lord's Passover Lamb; He's the Lord's Scapegoat; Isaiah says the Father is pleased to crush Him. Why? For your sake dear sinner. Tears of gratitude, like the woman with the ointment shed are the fruit of salvation. Tears of pity are the fruit of feeling sorry for Jesus.
Remember, let not the tears in your eyes get in the way. Jesus came to bear your sorrows, not for you to bear His. Rather than pity Him, Jesus would have you pity yourself and your sins. See your situation for how hopeless it really is under sin, death and the devil and rejoice that every blow Jesus receives, every drop of blood He sheds, every tear He cries delivers you from them. When Isaiah proclaims, "By His stripes you are healed," he is calling you to rejoice over Jesus' stripes not weep over them.
Remember you don't have to cry over foxes, and Jesus doesn't want you crying over Hens. But by all means remember to cry over baby chicks. This is where Jesus wants you to spend your tears. This is Christ-like behavior: not crying over Jesus, but crying over those He longs to save who turn away, run away, reject Him.
Jesus looks towards the Jerusalem that will murder Him, and remember what He does. He weeps for her. He's the One who will be mistreated, condemned unjustly, punished unmercifully by those in Jerusalem, but He doesn't weep for Himself, but for those who will do the mistreating, condemning, and punishing. Jesus weeps over these animals! Earlier in Luke, James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to fry those who were rejecting Jesus, but Jesus rebuked them saying they had a different spirit than He did. Indeed.
Jesus uses very picturesque language here. A mother hen hides her chicks underneath her wings. A hawk circling overhead will send them scurrying to her wings. It's a natural response in the bird kingdom. Chicks run to their mother for safety. Jesus has come to Jerusalem preaching safety and salvation in His name predicting judgment for the city outside of His name. Jesus longs to gather all the inhabitants of Jerusalem under the safety of His outstretched arms on the cross. There Jesus will bear the wrath of divine judgment. There every last single sin against God or man will be paid for in full for all people everywhere, be they foxes, snakes, pigs, dogs, baby chicks, tough hens or old roosters.
There is safety for all under the outstretched wings of Jesus on the cross. All of God's wrath against sins hits the cross not those under the cross. I remember as a child hearing a devotion where a farmer walks across a field of his that had been burnt by a fast moving grass fire. In disgust he kicks the blackened remains of a dead hen, out from under her wings scurry her baby chicks unharmed. Jesus says don't weep over Me, the dead hen, and don't weep over you, the chicks that are safe underneath My wings even though foxes are after you. Why? Because the Hen will rise from the dead; and we chicks under the cross will rise with Him. No, says Jesus weep for those chicks who won't run to the Hen for safety, who reject the salvation that Jesus constantly, endlessly calls them to.
Lent is a time to remember the depths of God's compassion. Lent is a time to be called to repentance because I am of a different spirit than Jesus. O I do weep for chicks not under the outstretched wings of the cross, but I weep because they are lost numbers, lost revenue. Jesus weeps because they are lost souls. This is why Jeremiah the prophet wept too. Although, like Jesus, he was rejected and persecuted by Jerusalem, he wept because they would be judged. Likewise, Paul was so concerned for the lost souls of his Jewish kinsman that he could wish himself damned in their place. In contrast, I'm as calloused as James and John thinking, "They had their chance let them fry." I'm more like Jonah who can't understand why God is so concerned with a pagan nation like Nineveh.
I weep not like Jesus weeps because I fail to remember His great mercy and love, not for others but for me. I don't weep because I fail to remember that He sought me when I sought Him not. He gathered me under His outstretched wings even though I fought pecked, and clawed Him every step of the way. I don't weep because I fail to remember that the only reason I am saved is because God in Christ has more mercy than I have sins, more love for sinners than anything else.
Remember as we pray in the Collect this week in our Lenten devotions: God's glory "is always to have mercy." Remember that God was gracious to us even when we had gone astray. Remember He brought us back to Himself again by giving us penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of His Word. Remember what Jesus has done for us He really does want to do for all. When He stretched out His hands on the cross, He really was reaching for a whole world of lost sinners. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second Sunday in Lent (3-7-04); Luke 13: 31-35