The Fox and the Hen

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent based on Luke 13:31-35

            Dear brood gathered under the wings of Christ: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The fox threatens the hen and the hen outsmarts the fox, but this is not one of Aesop’s fables. Nor does this hen escape the fox’s teeth, but that is because this hen cares only to protect her brood.

Jesus says that so often He would have gathered His people of Jerusalem like a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but they would not. Jesus sought to protect them – not just from Herod the fox – but from sin, death, and the devil. But they didn’t want to be gathered by Jesus. They didn’t want Jesus to save them.

The people of Jerusalem looked at God’s Laws as if they were restraints that prevented them from doing what they wanted. They thought God’s Laws were like a fence keeping them from the grass that is greener on the other side. Who wants to be smothered by the wings of mother hen when you want to run free and be independent? Who wants to be under the wings of mother hen, especially when you see so many other chicks, seemingly joyful, running around doing whatever they want?

Jerusalem had a reputation. It had a reputation for killing the prophets of God. God would send them prophets to warn them of the dangers of the roaming foxes. The prophets would warn them to stay away from sins that would entrap them; to stay away from the clever deceiver of the whole world who seeks night and day to devour them. But they weren’t going to be told what to do. They weren’t going to be told what is right and wrong. They wanted to follow their own desires. They wanted what the rest of the world had.

They wanted the grass that looked so green on the other side of the fence. And they didn’t want to hear God’s Law preached to them. They didn’t want to hear God’s condemnation of their sin. What better way to shut the prophets up than to kill them?

God sent prophet after prophet to them for years, but they hardened their hearts and would not turn from their sin. They killed prophet after prophet.

Herod the fox had also joined the people of Jerusalem in killing the prophets of God. John the Baptist had preached to him telling him to repent of his adultery, but Herod didn’t want to be restrained from doing what he wanted. He didn’t want to be fenced in by God’s Law. He didn’t want to be gathered under the wings of Jesus. So the fox had the prophet John beheaded.

This same fox then threatened Jesus. The Pharisees came up to Jesus and said, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” But this hen is not scared off by the fox. Jesus responds, “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.’” In other words, if that fox wants to kill me, I’ll be here, doing what I came to do.

Jesus wasn’t afraid of Herod even though He full-well knew that Herod had killed His forerunner. Jesus also knew that Herod would be a participant in His trial and crucifixion. Jesus knew where He would die, and that was going to be the place with the reputation of killing those whom God sends – Jerusalem.

But Jesus went to Jerusalem to die as a hen protecting her brood under her wings. The full punishment and wrath of God against sin was poured down onto Jesus and He protected His brood under the wings of His love and mercy.

It’s not from Herod or any other earthly ruler that we need the most protection. We need protection from sin, death, and the devil. We need protection from the wrath of God because of our sin.

This is why Jesus longs to gather us under His wings. He desires to cover us with His forgiveness. He sacrificed Himself for us and protects us from sin. He protects us from eternal death. He protects us from the devil, that sly fox who seeks to devour us night and day.

Jesus still gathers us here in His Church, under His protective wings. He doesn’t gather us because we’ve been so good or because we haven’t wandered. He doesn’t gather us because we keep God’s Law. In fact, we’re just like the people of Jerusalem. We also often feel that God’s Laws are restraints that prevent us from doing what we want. We also often think that God’s Laws are like a fence that keeps us from the grass that is greener on the other side.

Jesus gathers us to teach us that God’s Laws are not a fence to keep us from what is good, but a fence that keeps us away from what is bad and dangerous for us. God’s Laws are like a fence that keeps the fox out of the hen house where the brood can live in peace.

But even more than that, Jesus gathers us to forgive us. We would never go to Him if He didn’t gather us to Himself. He gathers us and protects us from ourselves and our own desires to wander away from Him. His forgiveness covers us like a hen covers her brood with her wings so that we won’t be punished for our sins.

When we stumble and fall, Jesus again picks us up. He again forgives our sin. He again gives us His holy body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. He again gathers us to Himself so that we are not forsaken.

Notice that in the message Jesus sent to Herod, He said that on the third day He will finish His course. Yes, Jesus knew that He would be killed in Jerusalem for our sins, but Jesus also knew that He would rise again. Jesus knew that death would not have the last word. He knew that the fox would not be victorious in the end. Jesus knew that He would give His life to protect His brood, but He also knew that He would rise again to continue protecting His brood; to continue gathering His brood under His wings.

Jesus needs to continue gathering us because even though sin, death, and the devil were defeated by His death, these foxes remain out there to harm those who wander from Jesus. Sin continues to tempt, death continues to threaten, and the devil continues to deceive. So Jesus continues to gather us to Himself and continues to forgive us our sins because that is the only hope that we poor sinners have against our enemies.

The hen was killed by the fox, but it was for the sake of the brood. Jesus now lives forevermore, and gives eternal life to His brood also. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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