Summary: We have all heard of the fox and the henhouse
Go and Tell that Fox: An Exposition of Luke 13:31-35
When we read Jesus’ words, we realize that He was a master of word pictures. Parables are a type of word picture where a story is used to make a point in comparison to a more Western idea of stating and elaborating propositions, In this passage, Jesus uses two animals of word pictures, the fox and the hen. This brings to mind the modern saying of the fox in the henhouse. Foxes will try to get into the henhouse and devour the hens. This passage reflects this idea. Herod is the fox, and Jesus compares himself to a mother hen who defends her chicks, even to the death.
Although the statement about Herod does not appear, the comparison of Jesus to the hen is. This, on the surface presents a problem as the context of that saying in Matthew is in chapter 25 just before His arrest. Here is appears in the middle of Luke’s gospel. In fact, much of Luke 13 parallels Matthew 25. Did Jesus make these sayings at two different times and places. This, of course, is possible as preachers recycle sermons and ideas. It would not be beyond possibility. However, it seems that the two accounts point to the same event. So where is the correct context for these sayings – Matthew or Luke? We must also answer why the other is out of place.
When we look at the text in Luke, we are given a clue. This occurs in verse 32 where Jesus says that He must cast out demons and heal today and tomorrow and be perfected on the third day. Matthew 25 occurs after Jesus has left the Temple the final time and goes out to the Mount of Olives. If we see that Jesus entered Jerusalem on Sunday, cleansed the Temple on Monday according to Mark, came back on Tuesday to see the withered fig tree and then Taught on the Temple before leaving it. If we see Wednesday as being the first day mentioned here and Thursday the second, then Good Friday becomes the third day when Jesus lays down His life as the perfect sacrifice. Here the present passive “is being perfected” indicated the immediacy of the event. If the event was in the middle of Jesus’s ministry, then the future passive would have been used. If we go to John’s gospel, we see “It is finished” said from the cross which is from the same root in Greek. It seems conclusive that this passage belongs at the end of Jesus’s life.
So why does Luke place it here? We tend to see the gospels chronologically, that one event follows the previous one in time. But there is also logical organization where two passages which are displaced in time and put together because the one two are meant to be interpreted together. At the beginning we have the passage about the passage about Pilate spilling the blood of the Galileans at the Temple altar and the seat hog 18 when the Tower of Siloam fell. These events seem to have happened sometime during the ministry of Jesus. If one takes a logical relationship between that passage and this one, we should see the Tower of Siloam’s fall as being logically related to the judgment and fall of Jerusalem. When Luke at the beginning of his gospel says that he wanted to make an orderly and accurate account, it does not necessarily mean it is ordered by time. It seems that Luke uses both the order of time as well as the order of logic. We must also affirm that the Holy Spirit, using human authors, is the ultimate and perfect inspirer of Scripture blesses this arrangement.
This passage begins with “In that same hour.” This is a temporal marker which says the passage immediately preceding occurred just before this passage. The context of the preceding passage fits the context of Matthew 25 well. Luke has placed the events into this logical context. It then says the Pharisees came with a word of warning that Herod was out to kill Him. When Jesus appears before Herod in Luke’s gospel, it does not seem to be a true statement. Herod was amused about Jesus and the reports he had heard about him, there was no indication he wanted to kill Jesus. In fact, as Jesus was Herod’s subject, he certainly had the power of life and death over Jesus and did not avail himself of the opportunity. As a client king of Rome, the restrictions of capital punishment against the Jews did not apply to Herod. In fact, he wasn’t a Jew at all. Herod also seems to have had remorse over killing John the Baptist. He considered Jesus to be the reincarnation of John, so there was also some fear on Herod’s part against killing Jesus.