Summary: We who are called to follow in Jesus' footsteps are faced with a challenge. How we respond to it will determine our eternal destiny.
A certain woman came to the pastor of a church out in West Texas. She asked if she could be a part of the Bible Study he was teaching. He gladly agreed, which eventually resulted in the woman's salvation. Curious, the preacher asked the woman what prompted her to come in and study the Bible. She told the elder that over a year ago her three-year old son was hit by a car and was critically injured and it was touch and go for a while. During that time, her next-door neighbour, who was a member of this particular church, was exceedingly helpful.
She took care of the mother's other son. She cooked dinner for the family, she did her shopping, she cleaned the house, washed the laundry. She did all of that without a single complaint or asking for anything in return. The lady continued by saying that she knew her neighbour had something that she did not have. She knew that she was a member of this church but that's all that she knew about her.
This neighbour was always friendly and invited the mother to church. But prior to her son's accident, this Mom had nothing to do with the other woman. That was because Her mother told her that members of the church were judgmental, rude, and obnoxious toward anyone who was not a member of the church.
She concluded tearfully that her neighbour was nothing like she had been taught. But instead her neighbour was just the opposite. While her son was in the hospital, her neighbour encouraged her to read the Bible. In time she began reading the Bible and she soon discovered that her neighbour had something that she did not have and that was a caring Saviour named Jesus Christ.
The portion of Luke's Gospel that we heard this morning takes place in the middle of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. At this point, nothing will stop him, not even threats. These threats are seen by most Biblical scholars as being an honest warning. Not all Pharisees were opposed to Jesus, For example, Joseph of Arimithea and Nicodemus, the two men who buried Jesus after his crucifixion, were both Pharisees and secret followers of Jesus. Jesus had work to do, and he would not be deterred.
Herod Antipas was very subtle and sneaky. He used stealth to subdue his enemies. For example, he had John the Baptist beheaded because he made a foolish promise to his stepdaughter Salome in the heat of the moment at his birthday party. All told, he was like a fox. Those of you who know anything about farming know that foxes sneak into barns and chicken coops at night to prey on defenceless animals. The kingdom of God which Jesus came to preach and live was at odds with the entire political system in which Herod Antipas functioned. The two systems could not coexist in harmony. After all, what could Jesus say to someone who beheaded John the Baptist?
Like Jesus, the apostle Paul had a mission, and nothing would stop him. He actually had two missions in his life, and each case nothing would stop him. His first mission was to persecute Christians, and nothing stopped him until he had the famous encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. That encounter led to his second mission, which Paul described as "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". He eagerly followed Christ's commission to all of us-namely, to go forth into the world and spread the Good News of Salvation.
Jesus' work was to restore our relationship with God. Unfortunately, his work would not be entirely successful, as his lament over Jerusalem showed. It was God's genuine grief over the hardness of the hearts of the people of Jerusalem-the same people who would eventually crucify Jesus. In spite of Satan's control over the people of Jerusalem, God was still available to help them. All they had to do was turn to him in faith.
Jesus wants to restore the covenant God made with Abraham, which we heard in the reading from Genesis15:1-12,17-18 earlier in the service. Jesus wants us to imitate him. There is the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We are creatures of conformity, and Jesus wants us to conform to the way of life that he offers to us. When we imitate Christ, others will want to imitate us. We imitate Christ when we love others as Christ loved us. When we imitate Christ, we imitate God. Jesus demonstrated what it means to be fully human-to be right with God, filled with the Holy Spirit. When we meet the needs of others, we meet Jesus.
By being determined to go to Jerusalem in spite of warnings, Jesus put evil forces on notice. Jerusalem was the scene of the death of many of the Old Testament population. Jerusalem had persecuted and killed prophets not out of ignorance. It was not because they had been given only one chance and they blew it. The people set aside God in favour of man-made rules. They would not see any of God's blessings until they accepted Jesus as the Messiah.