The Lament over Jerusalem
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when[ you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
We’ve all experienced disappointment in our lives. I know I have. We can probably all think of times when we hoped for something, and then not have it happen. This past year in so many ways, has been a series of disappointments as we live through such a period of change with the pandemic, political and social unrest, and our own personal struggles.
It has been a season of lament. Which is actually good and a part of a the process towards growth.
It’s especially important as we are in the middle of Lent…a time of questioning and stripping away…of dying even as we head to the cross and on to resurrection. Jesus understood lament…he embraced it. And, so should we if we want to grow.
As a church, we often don’t know what we want to see happen other than the church to survive, but maybe we have deeper hopes for it to thrive….yet, our definitions for thriving may be hard to articulate at times. It’s safe to say that at our deepest hopes are with relationships. We are wired for relationship with the world around us and with people. It doesn’t matter if you are introvert or an extrovert, we all crave relationship and put hope into relationships.
In the passage above, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem when some sympathetic pharisees, or religious rulers warning him that Herod wants to kill him. Jesus calls Herod a “fox”, which is interesting to note. The biblical understanding of a fox in this text is not that Herod is cunning, but that Herod is a small animal that does not have power, is impotent. Jesus says in affect, I’m casting out demons and have the relational power to overcome unseen forces. Herod has no control over me. Jesus then goes on to say that he must he has work today for the next couple of days and that it will be finished on the 3rd day. This could be a reference to Jesus death and resurrection.
Jesus certainly gives his hearers a reference that he cannot be killed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the center of Jewish faith at that time, the city where the temple of God is. Jewish folk believed that God’s Presence on earth dwelt there. It is also the place where prophets are killed. When prophets came with a message of lament, of a need for change, repentance, relational restoration…the established system, those in power, felt threatened, they would be killed.
Even though persons in the religious establishment were not joyful, they still had control and did not want to give that control up. They were in a place of broken relationship with each other, themselves, and with God. They were what I’d call “resistors” and resistors have roadblocks that can often thwart their growth, their joy, and the growth and joy of others.
Jesus laments, deeply, with great emotion for Jerusalem. Jesus understands the importance of “place”, that people are deeply rooted in a community and that has potential for great things, but when not living up to it’s potential, when resistant to God’s desire for genuine relationship and community, a place can be destructive.
So, Jesus laments, describes a God who longs to take God’s people, all people, under God’s wings like a hen protecting her chicks. A God who longs to be in loving relationship with God’s people, to protect them, to bless them beyond measure with friendship and Presence.
Jerusalem not only signifies the center of religious life for Israel, it can also be descriptive of the church. God longs for the church to be a place of deep relationship, not only for those inside the church, but for those outside. Jesus represents all of humanity, and Jesus demonstrates that God is not limited to a building….Jesus goes to places outside of the temple, the synagogue, and continues today to go outside of the church walls. Jesus says that the temple, the house, is abandoned by God, but God does not abandon God’s people.
Jerusalem kills its prophets. But, God keeps on sending those prophets. There is a flow in and through God that cannot be stopped.
Friends, hear this the good news, lamenting can come out of being dark places in our lives, but lamenting leads us towards growth. Jesus loves Jerusalem, and Jesus loves his church. Jesus has promised, and demonstrated, that even though he aches for us, he also aches with us. He is with us in all that we experience and is with us in the lamenting and in the darkness. We also know that God, through Jesus, demonstrates that darkness doesn’t win and that we can grow and move towards the promise of blessing as Jesus comes to us. Lamenting can produce faith. Faith in and through God’s commitment to us even in the midst of life’s hard places.
In this season of Lent, may we embrace all of life…even lamenting…and move toward’s the life that God intends for us…a life with the resurrected Jesus…a resurrected Jesus that also bore the scars of crucifixion…a Jesus who understands us and is with us…even in the lamenting that leads towards a deeper growth.