Summary: Jesus was being temped to wander from his appointed way amd so are we.
Stay on Track
Text: Luke 13:31-35
Title: Stay on Track
One of my greatest dangers is getting off track. Someone may have asked me to do something for them and in the process another person has a request and now I am trying to do two things. Then something happens in my family that requires my total attention and, boom, there goes the first two items. Now depending the quality of my memory for that day, I may remember that I have those other things to do. Getting off track is easy to do and it may happen for the best of reasons, but we still get off the track. We do it all the time. In our actions and even in our conversation. Teaching a class is a good example of trying to keep things on track. A word , or an idea is brought up in the conversation, or even in a sermon, and the mind takes that track. We call this chasing rabbits when a person’s mind wanders during the sermon. But God has a track that he wants us to be on and Jesus had a very specific track laid out for him.
Today’s scripture is very appropriate for Lent that it is about Jesus heading for Jerusalem and the cross, we are heading for Good Friday. The journey narrative is a favorite of Luke’s. It starts in Luke 9:51 where we read that “Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.” In Acts, Luke also uses the journey format for characterizing Christians as he calls them pilgrims and those of “the Way.”
We find Jesus headed toward Jerusalem. Jerusalem is also dominate in Luke’ gospel. Of the 139 time that Jerusalem is mentioned in the New Testament, 90 of them are by Luke. Luke’s gospel begins in Jerusalem with the birth of John the Baptist and it also ends in Jerusalem with the disciples returning after the ascension of Jesus to wait for the Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that Jerusalem plays such a part in Jesus’ journey.
We open the text with Jesus being approached by Pharisees warning him about Herod wanting to kill him. It begs the question are these Pharisees sincere about the warning? Do they care about Christ, or are they part of a plan by Herod? There was no love lost between Herod and the Pharisees. Herod was not loved by the Jews as he was a foreigner who became ruler by his cunning and ruthlessness. He was certainly capable of murder as he had John the Baptist beheaded, and what a negative scandal that was. You think Tiger Woods has his image problems. Here was another wild prophet that would cause him problems. If he could just get Jesus out of his region quickly he would be rid of him. Herod later would meet Jesus again on Good Friday and again he would avoid dealing with Jesus when Pilot sent Jesus to him. We do not know the pharisees true motivation. Perhaps this was a genuine effort by the Pharisees to save a Jewish boy from being another victim of the evil ruler.
The last time a Herod threatened Jesus’ life, when he was a child in Bethlehem, the family took flight to Egypt. It was not his time. But now as man Jesus feared nothing except getting off the track laid down by the Father. Jesus is not intimidated by Herod and does not let him deter him in his ministry. Even though death was near for Jesus, there was a plan for it and it did not include Herod. Herod’s rule was outside of Jerusalem and Jesus knew that Jerusalem was where he was to die. He would do what he came to do. Where his path, his journey had been laid out for him and he would continue to do what he did, where he did it, even in Herod’s land. Death in some obscure village would mean nothing, but death in Jerusalem is a judgement on the whole nation.
Jesus didn’t die some martyr’s death over which He had no control. They didn’t execute Him; He willingly laid His life down. He makes that clear by what He said in John 10:17-18:
“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
I have always been fascinated by that phrase from Revelation 13:8 which says Jesus was the Lamb of God who was “slain from the foundation of the earth.” The cross was not an afterthought of God. It was not “Plan B,” because Adam and Eve sinned. It was not the contingency plan–it was always God’s plan.
Of course the Pharisees and Herod weren’t the first to try to get Jesus off track. Last week we heard how Satan tempted Jesus early in his ministry. Satan wanted Jesus to think that this was the “easy” way out. Thankfully Jesus blew Satan off as he did Herod and the Pharisees. Nothing, not even Satan was going to stop his march to Jerusalem where he would die for the sins of the world.