Summary: Some Pharisees express concern over Christ’s safety and welfare. Jesus laments over all who reject him, his message and ministry. God is like a mother hen who protects her chicks under her wings.
Sermon for II Lent, Year C
Based on Lk. 13:31-35
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Today’s gospel is most profound! It’s like a painting bursting with a wide variety of colours, contours, moods and movements. It’s like a piece of music full of conflicting and complementary themes, melodies and harmonies. In other words, there’s a lot packed into this short gospel passage! It’s not possible for me to focus on every conflicting and complementary theme, melody and harmony in this gospel. Therefore, I’ll focus on only three of them today.
The first profound message in this gospel, kind of catches us by surprise, since it’s not what we’re used to hearing. The first message is this: Some Pharisees actually are described by Luke as having concern for the well-being and protection of Jesus. They come to him and say: “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” This warning to Jesus by some Pharisees certainly places them in a positive light—for they come across here as being genuinely concerned for Christ’s welfare and protection.
I find this rather instructive for us in light of the fact that most of the Gospels, most of the time, describe the Pharisees in a rather stereotypical fashion. In most of the Gospels, most of the time, the Pharisees are the bad guys; they’re the ones wearing the black hats; the villains, almost always out to get Jesus; they’re his enemies trying to trap him, trick him, find him guilty of something in order to do away with him.
However, our gospel passage today, along with a couple of other passages in the Gospels challenge this terrible, negative stereotype of the Pharisees. Here we have some Pharisees coming to Jesus, trying to protect him. On a couple of other occasions, the Gospels tell us that Jesus was the dinner guest of a Pharisee. In John’s Gospel, we are let in on a most engaging conversation between Jesus and the Pharisee, Nicodemus. Although Joseph of Arimathea is not called a Pharisee in the Gospels, he was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin and a secret disciple of Jesus. He also knew Nicodemus, since both of them saw to it that Jesus had a decent burial. Moreover, a growing number of biblical scholars today believe that there were indeed a lot of similarities between Jesus and the Pharisees, for example: some of Jesus’ teaching methods are similar to theirs; they, like Jesus, believed in the resurrection; they, like Jesus, believed in the world to come.
One of the problems with Christians over the centuries has been that all Pharisees have been stereotyped into one same group. However, biblical scholars have shown that not all Pharisees were in one united group or school. Rather, there were at least two main schools: the conservative school of Shammai and the more liberal school of Hillel. Moreover, there may also have been several other groups or schools as well. The Pharisees who came to Jesus with kindness and concern in our gospel passage today may very well have been those whom Professor William Barclay called: “The God-loving Pharisees. They were copies of Abraham and lived in faith and charity.” 1