Summary: Jesus wants to gather us like a mother hen does her chicks
IF WE ARE BUT WILLING Luke 13:31-35
We have heard readings the last few weeks known at the ‘Travel or Journey Narratives’; chronicling Jesus’ movement throughout the country, headed to Jerusalem for his crucifixion. He is still in Galilee, and appears to have increasingly caught the attention of the Jewish officials.
In Luke 9:51, Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem where he knew that he would face opposition from religious leaders and eventually death (Luke 9:22). Along the way, he demonstrates the presence of God’s kingdom by casting out demons and healing the sick. Crowds of people from Galilee, Judea, and even Jerusalem followed Jesus along his journey, wanting to see this extraordinary man.
We hear in the Gospel that Jesus refers to Herod as
“that fox” (Luke 13:32).
This is an allegorical reference to ‘the fox in the hen house’; Herod is the fox, and Jesus compares himself to a mother hen who defends her chicks, even to death.
Unless you lived on a farm or spent summers there, you probably have little or no experience with chickens and hens. Your experience is probably limited to freshly packaged at the grocery store, or cooked and ready to eat from the Colonel at KFC. In Jesus’ time, however, everyone knew chicken’s behavior. For thousands of years, they were raised in the backyard, or even in the house. They watched them every day. They had watched hens react to impending threat. For instance, when a fox first came into view, the hen started to bring her chicks under the shelter of her wings. If the fox got too close, the hen launched an attack against the fox, willing to sacrifice her life for her brood.
Jesus tells us that God’s love for us is like that.
“There have been so many times that I wanted to gather the children of God together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” (Luke 13:34)
Even though he knows that these very children will be the ones who will betray, persecute, and eventually crucify him, he still wants to gather us under his arms like a hen does chicks. That love is eternal!
Have you ever spent any time watching geese and ducks? I get to do that every morning when I take my walk. Canadian geese who make the Scioto Mile their home, have up to ten goslings in the spring. When anyone approaches the river, she will gather her little brood together, and move them further out into the river. If I get closer to get a better look, she goes into attack mode – hissing and moving toward me, and sometimes coming onto the bank to come after me. She wants me to notice her and encourages me to get as far away from her goslings as possible. She draws attention to herself in order to protect her offspring. And if you have ever been attacked by a Canadian goose, you know she means business!
Jesus' lament is the cry of a mother who is worried to death about not only Jerusalem, but about all of us. Like a mother, Jesus sees far more clearly the danger we are in. Jesus knows we are prone to go off on our own, leaving his protective wings, to seek our own desires and adventure. And like a mother hen, Jesus chases after us.
Jesus' love is so great that his all-consuming passion is to sweep us up into his protective arms. And although there are others in pursuit of him, primarily Herod and the Pharisees, Jesus stays true to what his love compels him to do. He protects his flock with a single-mindedness.
He must remain in Galilee a little longer, and then, he is headed to Jerusalem, where he will sacrifice himself for all God’s children.
This image of God as a female or one with motherly instincts can be disconcerting for some. Most of us have been raised with a patriarchal view of God; we regularly use the male pronoun in place of God. It is part of what we've heard and known since we were young. We think of God as all-powerful, all-mighty, all-knowing. Those images tend to reinforce His maleness image. But here, in this passage of Luke, we have another image – Jesus as a mother hen, with all her love and passion for her children, gathering them under her protective wings. And I ask you, isn't that image more helpful in assisting us in understanding what God is like?
One of the popular images of Jesus is that he is a man who can do anything - walk on water; turn a couple fish and a few loaves into a feast for thousands; even raise the dead. But in today's Gospel lesson Jesus states He cannot make us love Him - He cannot control human will.