For some, their journey feels as if it has been thrust upon them; an unwanted traipse through an unwanted life. And it can become convenient to blame our journey on the happenstance of fate. But I think it more likely that our journey is shaped by our wants. Those wants may be forged in circumstances beyond our control. So, what is it that you want? If we can answer that we may be able to give our journey more direction, instead of letting the journey dictate our course. Does that even make sense? Even if others attempt to derail our journey. And they will. So, will your journey be shaped by the wants of others? Or will you hang onto your will and journey on?
Luke 13:31-35 is all about want and going. Jesus is most likely still in Galilee as he journeys toward Jerusalem. A Pharisee came near to him and seems to warn him saying, “Go! Leave! Herod wants to kill you.” You should journey away from here because of the want of Herod. We don’t know what the Pharisee wants here. There have been many guesses. In the gospel of Luke, the Pharisees are often opponents of Jesus. Does the Pharisee warn Jesus because he wants Jesus to journey elsewhere? Does he want to demonstrate that Jesus is motivated by fear? Does he genuinely want to warn Jesus? We don’t know for sure. The Pharisee’s want is not the concern in the text. What is at issue is whether or not Jesus’ journey will be derailed by Herod’s want.
Jesus tells the Pharisee to journey to Herod and deliver a message. Does he truly intend the Pharisee to deliver the message or is this rhetoric? Again, I’m not sure we can know for sure. What we can know is that Jesus refers to Herod as a “fox.” Most assume that the reference is to being sly and crafty. But in Nehemiah 4:3 a fox is used to represent something that is small and insignificant. Maybe Jesus is making a statement about Herod’s insignificance. No matter how important he thinks he is; no matter how much he thinks his wants should shape everyone else’s journey, he is insignificant. This would fit the context because the message is that Jesus will continue with his mission of dealing with evil today, tomorrow and the third day. This phrase is an idiom that means one event will follow the other in a timely and orderly fashion. Jesus knows what he wants. He desires to do the will of the father and he will not detour from that path.
Herod’s murderous intent is not what sets him on a course to Jerusalem. Even though it may appear that he is fleeing Galilee to Jerusalem to save his life, the reality is that he is journeying to Jerusalem in a timely and orderly fashion to die in Jerusalem. That a prophet cannot die outside of Jerusalem is ironic. There is no such statement in the Bible and plenty of prophets have been slain outside of the great city. But the Israelites believed that nothing important could take place outside of Jerusalem, the center of Judaism. Instead of being the great center of religion or obedience it is the city of killing the prophets of God, those who were sent to her with a message from God.
Jesus’ path is shaped by his want to gather the children of Jerusalem (most likely referring to all of Israel) like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. The image of wings protecting young was proverbial and often used of God protecting his people (Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 17:8; 36:7; Ruth 2:12). But the children of Jerusalem did not want to be protected. This shaped their journey and as a result the prophesy of Jeremiah 22:1-8 is fulfilled and the house, most likely referring to the city, is abandoned. In Jeremiah the people are warned that if they obey God, they would prosper, but if not, they would be desolate. Their abandoned path because of their want to not be gathered or protected by Jesus. The city is abandoned and they will not see Jesus until the time comes when they will say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” This is from Psalm 118:26 and it is used to refer to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is coming. He is journeying in the name of the Lord and they will see it eventually.
Jesus’ path was not dictated by the wants of Herod. His path was dictated by his desire to do the will of God. He came in the name of Yahweh, to do the will of God. Nothing could change his path. So, how about you? What do you want? If you want to please God, your journey will be set. Others may try to impose their wants into your journey. But today and the next day and the third day, you will be traveling on in the name of Yahweh. The Herod’s of this life are not as powerful as they think. Journey on.