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Luke Study #139 – That Fox

The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 13:31-35 (CEV)

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “You had better get away from here! Herod wants to kill you.”

32 Jesus said to them:

Go tell that fox, “I am going to force out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and three days later I’ll be through.” 33 But I am going on my way today and tomorrow and the next day. After all, Jerusalem is the place where prophets are killed.

34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed the prophets and have stoned the messengers who were sent to you. I have often wanted to gather your people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you wouldn’t let me. 35 Now your temple will be deserted. You won’t see me again until the time when you say,

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

That Fox

I recently finished reading Rob Bell’s newest book, ‘What Is the Bible?’, which I would highly recommend to everyone. He happens to talk about this exact verse, and Bell has some very interesting insights into this verse – including his observation that “in ancient Jewish culture, if you were to talk about how great and significant a man was, you would describe him as a lion. And if a man was a liar, a fake, a phony, an imposter … you’d call him a fox.”

So the Pharisees have spent most of Jesus’ ministry trying to discredit him, threaten him, argue with him and generally get him to cease and desist. They don’t have any military power, and they have very little political power, but these guys are used to having religious power, so I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Pharisees were used to having their own way, at least among the Jewish people.

But they haven’t had that so much with Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t seem to care.

So they try bringing out the big threats. Now its “Herod wants to kill you.” Sure he does. What kind of king wouldn’t want to kill Jesus? “Jesus is going from village to village announcing the arrival of another kingdom, the kingdom of God. A kingdom that isn’t built around the rich oppressing the poor and the powerful using their military might to keep the weak in submission. It’s a kingdom built on compassion and nonviolence and love and solidarity with those who suffer. It’s a totally different kind of kingdom.”

Herod’s dad (Herod the Great) had wanted to kill Jesus as a baby. Now Herod wants to kill him as an adult.

And Jesus’ response is to call Herod a fox – a liar, a fake, a phony. Not only does Jesus not seem to be too worried about the threat, he calls Herod’s bluff – tells everyone there that in the competition to see who is ruler above who, that Herod (the man with all the political and military power in this fight) is just a liar and a fake and a phony.

And what’s more? Jesus’ kingdom message, Bell points out, is being funded by a group of women.

Including a woman named Joanna.

Who’s the wife of Chuza.

Who happens to be the manager of Herod’s household.

Which means that Herod is actually funding the Kingdom message that he wants to shut down.

In a world where the people felt attacked by the political powers around them and powerless against the injustices they faced – in a world where they were hanging on by the worn-out threads at the end of their threadbare ropes – Jesus shows up with a message of hope. A subversive message of love and shalom and wholeness in the face of brokenness and greed, violence and power that is funded by the very perpetrator of the violence himself.

The Pharisees lose the argument again.

Something is going on that is bigger than them, and bigger even than that fox.Journal Questions:

  1. When you turn on the news or scroll through media, do you feel overwhelmed by the power or threats of anyone in particular?
  2. When you look at your life, do you feel like you’re hanging on by threadbare ropes? Do you blame anyone in particular for that?
  3. What would it look like to retell these stories through Kingdom eyes? To see these people and situations the way that Jesus saw Herod and the Pharisees? Are you accidentally believing the threats of liars and fakes and phonies? How can you tell?
  4. Sometimes we miss the Spirit’s presence in the midst of our humdrum, everyday lives. Is there a Kingdom subversion going on in your own life, like Joanna’s funding of Jesus’ ministry? What does that look like?

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