Summary: This is a sermon focusing on staying the course despite rejection and obstacles.
At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord!’”
(Illustration from Sermon Builder 4.0)
When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home on a legal technicality, and he had to work to help support them. At age nine, his mother died. At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education wasn’t good enough.
At 23, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. At 26, his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay. At 28, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no.
At 37, on his third try he was elected to Congress, but two years later, he failed to be reelected. At 41, his four-year-old son died. At 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. At 47, he failed as the vice-presidential candidate. At 49, he ran for the Senate again, and lost. At 51, he was elected president of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln, a man many consider the greatest leader the country ever had. Some people get all the breaks.
It is not easy to keep going, when everything looks like a failure. It is not easy to keep going when everything seems to be going against you. It is definitely not easy, when everything and everybody tells you to give up… that you are wasting your time… that it is - no use.
It is not easy… being the only person who knows that what you are doing is the right thing. It is not easy… That is what I think about when reading today’s text. Looking at Jesus in this text, I see just one more thing that presses on him, that stands in his way, - that tells him to stop his foolish mission ~ as a few actually friendly Pharisees warn Jesus that death awaits him at Jerusalem.
Jesus was faced with many obstacles in his ministry. Those who disliked him constantly threw tests at him, constantly looked to trap him, and constantly questioned his authority. Those who loved him pressed down on him like the paparazzi on a superstar actor, making it impossible to even move. Even his friends… his closest followers - the disciples, were often confused about what he taught and said some of the dumbest things when he tried to sit down and actually teach them. It is not easy… brothers and sisters, it seems downright impossible.
Yet… what do we see in the text? Does Jesus say, ok ok… enough already… I will turn back? Does he say, I’ve had enough of these tests, enough of the spotlight, enough of these disciples who can’t seem to tie their own shoes without help?
He flings out with just a touch of colorful language. “Go tell that fox!” Now, fox in those days was understood differently than it is in today’s context. Today, we hear fox and we think sly, smart, or crafty. Back then, it was known… as an animal of complete and total insignificance. I guess if we were to update it for 2006, Jesus might say something like “Go and tell that gnat,” or perhaps even, “Go and tell that waste of space you call a king”… “that I will go about what I am doing, I will continue my ministry, and on the third day, all I have worked for will be completed.” Despite all the efforts to stop him, despite all the obstacles in his way, despite all the words of wisdom that bid him not to go on… the third day would indeed show that all his work was not in vain. Hard work, perseverance… paying off.
However, I can already begin to hear it, “But pastor… this is JESUS we are talking about, of course HE could do it. Of course he is able to persevere. We are not Jesus, we are not even in the same zip code as Jesus.” To this I would like to respond by reading an old news story about the “Little Satellite That Could!”