Summary: The First Sermon of Lent 2008
(Slide 1) This morning we are going to be privy to a couple of conversations between a person who will remind us of ourselves in many ways and a professor/farmer who will remind us that the created order has much to teach us about God and His purposes and also much about what it means to follow Jesus. Now only for this morning, we will hear from them twice while over the next six weeks, we will hear from them once each week.
Let’s listen in…
(Dramatic reading from Living Lent; the animals tell the story, ‘the fox reveals a homeless savior’ by Creative Communications for the Parish © 2008)
With their conversation echoing in our minds, let us turn to what Jesus had to say about the fox in Matthew 8:14 -20:
When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a high fever. But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.
That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. All the spirits fled when he commanded them to leave; and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” When Jesus noticed how large the crowd was growing, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.
Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you no matter where you go!” But Jesus said, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”
(Slide 2) I had a rather gruesome experience with a fox many years ago which has stayed with me and reminded me that foxes can exist close to us in the midst of towns and cities as well as in the country. I lived in Kalamazoo at the time and was working part-time for the apartment complex where Susan and I lived.
One hot sunny July morning, I was told to go to the unit across the street from where I lived and check out a bad smell near their doorway. I found a dead fox. I quickly stood upwind and was able to remove the beautiful animal from near their front door. I have never come closer to a fox, before or since, that day almost 20 years ago.
What do you know about the fox? Well I did some research on Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, and discovered, according to its entry, that there are 27 varieties of fox and that the most common breed is the Red Fox. I also discovered that it does exist in urban areas as well as the country. Most are wild breeds but the silver fox, found in Russia, has been domesticated. They are solitary creatures and can live up to 10 years.
In the Bible, as we heard from Professor Junglefuss, the fox is spoken of and used to illustrate destructiveness, and craftiness. He cites Judges 15 and the story of an angry Samson who cruelly uses 300 foxes to get back at the Philistines.
Now according to one of my sources, the word ‘fox’ could also represent the animal called the jackal, which is more easily caught than the fox. It is referred to in passages such as Ezekiel 13:4-5 which says, ‘O people of Israel, these prophets of yours are like jackals digging around in the ruins. They have done nothing to strengthen the breaks in the walls around the nation. They have not helped it to stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord.’
The fox was not a very well liked and thought of animal. They hunt, dig holes, which can undermine foundations, and they are fast and sneaky.
But, they had dens, they had a place to stay, to live. Jesus did not. He was a homeless savior.
In order to understand this homelessness, let’s quickly examine the context of this passage by going back to the beginning of chapter 8. As it opens, Matthew states, ‘Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached Jesus. He knelt before him, worshiping. “Lord,” the man said, “if you want to, you can make me well again.”’
As we read the conclusion of chapter 7 Matthew notes, in verses 27 and 28, ‘the crowds were amazed at his [that is Jesus’] teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.’ Interestingly enough Jesus has become very, very popular. He was becoming successful. Both the crowds who followed Him, because they were desperate for healing and freedom from Satanic bondage and oppression, and the leaders who became jealous of Him because He did things that wished that they could do, saw Jesus use great power to do things that others had only dreamt about.