Summary: The Big Idea: God wants us to be faithful him in our words and actions, even in difficult situations.

Of Christians put to death for their faith in the second century, perhaps no account is as striking as the story of Polycarp.

Polycarp (A.D. 70-155) is bishop of Smyrna and a godly man who knows the apostle John personally. When urged by the Roman proconsul to renounce Christ, Polycarp responds with these words: "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?"

"I have respect for your age," said the official. "Simply say, 'Away with the atheists!' and be set free" (Christians were called atheists because their God was “invisible”, i.e. there was no idol to represent him). The aged Polycarp pointed to the pagan crowd and said, "Away with the atheists!"

He burned at the stake while giving joyful testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Many years earlier, Ignatius of Antioch (as his mentor) advised young Polycarp regarding his duties as a bishop and the need to be firm in his faith. Polycarp showed himself a worthy hearer of Ignatius’ advice, and a follower of his example.

[God wants us to be faithful to him in words and actions, even in difficult situations. So, what does it take to persevere in the way of Jesus?]


1. Does being faithful to God mean that we never have moments of doubt? No!

2. Abraham is known for believing God, yet Scripture indicates that at times Abraham doubted. He was human; when no signs God’s promises were evident, he began to doubt; yet, he continued his journey with God. God reassured Abraham of his promises.

3. Being faithful to God means that decisions are at times, difficult for us.

4. I know what I should do, but I’m afraid of the consequences I might face (ridicule, embarrassment, isolation, etc.).

A. I should pray before I eat, but if I do…I should offer to help that person, but everyone dislikes him…

5. Being faithful to God means that decisions no longer honor me, but honor God!

A. I must choose that which advances God’s desire for me: not other’s desires for me.

B. Despite the outcome, honoring God must always prevail over our own popularity.

6. Abraham’s success in difficult decisions was that he continued his journey with God. Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, exemplifies this characteristic beautifully. OYBT Luke 13.

II. EXEGESIS (Lk. 13:31-35)

1. 31: Some Pharisees came to Jesus. Their motive is not clear. They may be [1] sincere, not wanting harm to come to Jesus, or [2] Herod’s handpicked messengers sent to drive Jesus out of his territory (Galilee), or [3] motivated by malice, trying (as Herod) to get Jesus to make himself scarce.

A. The warning is an opportunity for Jesus to follow human advice and ignore God’s plan for his ministry. He would certainly gain popularity by following their advice.

2. 32: [Jesus] replied, Go tell that fox. In rabbinic literature, the fox was an animal of low cunning (sly, but in a demeaning way), sometimes portrayed as an insignificant creature (when compared, for instance, to a lion). Either way, Jesus makes his point and stands firm: Herod’s plans have no influence on him¬. He answers to God, not Herod.

A. Today and tomorrow…third day. Jesus’ work will continue for an uncertain, but limited time. The decisive point comes on the third day, when he completes his mission at the hands of God the father.

3. 33: No prophet can die outside Jerusalem! Jesus hour had not yet come (cf. 2:38, Jn 7:30). Jesus would die in Jerusalem, as had numerous prophets before him. Herod would not claim his life; Jerusalem would claim it (cf. 9:22).

4. 34: The thought of Jesus’ death as a prophet at Jerusalem merges into a lament over the city, which repeatedly rejected God’s messengers.

A. The Lucan Jesus is outside Jerusalem when he addresses the city (cf. Mt. 23:37-39, where Jesus is in Jerusalem); Joseph Fitzmyer (Luke, Anchor Bible) believes he is addressing the residents of the city, many of whom have come out to hear him (Luke 5:17; 6:17).

B. Jesus’ analogy of a hen gathering her chicks is a familiar one. God’s desire is that Jerusalem might accept the message of his prophets, yet he knows she will not, because her inhabitants reject the implications of their message.

C. As Jerusalem accepts Jesus’ message, the people simultaneously agree to submit to him. They are unwilling to do this; therefore, they reject (to the point of murder) the messengers. All of this to protect their own interests.

D. This attitude keeps us from standing firm in our confession of faith. We want to be counted as co-heirs with Christ, as long as it doesn’t infringe on our goals.

[God wants us to be faithful to him in our words and actions, even in difficult situations. So, What does it take to persevere in the way of Jesus?]

5. 35: The result of not standing firm is catastrophe. The “house” likely refers to the city or people of Jerusalem; those who will be abandoned by God, which results in its becoming a prey to its enemies.

III. APPLICATION: Standing firm in Difficult Decisions

1. Every day you face difficult decisions that call you to stand firm in the faith you profess. The decisions you make profoundly affect God’s purpose for your life: his purpose is advanced or impeded. You make the choice–but know that there are consequences:

A. Standing firm at WORK means you may not move up the corporate ladder

B. Standing firm at SCHOOL means you may be not be accepted by the “popular” kids

C. Standing firm in the NEIGHBORHOOD means you may never serve on the school board

D. Standing firm in THE CHURCH means you may be labeled as a “holy roller”

2. Think of the spiritual pressures that you face. How do they compare with the account of Polycarp that we spoke of earlier?

A. Arrested, accused and tied to a stake for being a Christian. Before the fire is lit, he is promised freedom if he will recant (i.e. denounce) his faith in God. He refuses–unwilling to live a life devoid of faith. As the fire consumes him, he prays, glorifying God for allowing him to be a martyr. With Christ as his example, he and thousands of others were faithful to God in their words and actions, even to death.

B. What do we fear? Loss of popularity? Being the brunt of jokes? Social retribution?


1. Standing firm will come at a cost. Here’s the question you must answer. “Does the consequence I face in this life in any way compare to the consequence of my decision in the next?

2. The Pharisees warned Jesus of Herod’s threat. He could follow their advice, but instead chose to advance God’s purpose in his life. He knew that God was in control, and submission was more important than popularity. The storm raged around him. He was unmoved. He stood firm; and God perfected his will through him for all humankind.

[What does it take to persevere in the way of Jesus? Knowing that sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.]