Sing Your Life

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

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. 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.’ 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! 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.'”

Luke 13:31-35

Have you ever heard a positive description of a Pharisee?

Pharisees are the villains in a bad Kung-Fu movie. Pharisees are the Mothra to Jesus’ Godzilla. Pharisees wear the black hats in western movies. The Pharisees are the Rodney Dangerfield’s of our Biblical understanding. We do not respect them.

The Pharisees are heels, bad guys setting the plot to the victorious Jesus. Jesus is the conquering king riding a donkey in the face of Imperial power. Jesus reads the thoughts and minds of Pharisees and uses them as a motley collection of folky wisdom stories that are supposed to teach us how to live in a different fashion than the world.

There is nothing positive to say about them. Well, they do make for great vehicles in a story. Can you have Jesus without the Pharisees? It’s like having Batman without The Riddler or The Dude without Walter. The story is just not the same.

In our text, Jesus foils another attempt at the Pharisees to get one over on him……only the Pharisees told Jesus to flee. They were trying to save him. They warned him about Herod. Herod put a hit on Jesus. He wasn’t joking.

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees warning with a reminder that prophets, and he indeed is a prophet, are only killed in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the center of Phariseedic power. Herod is in fact “The King of the Jews.” Jesus’ presence challenges his already fragile authority. Herod considers himself to be Jewish. The Pharisees do not. Herod is an outsider to them and can never practice the faith as the Pharisees do. This is a complex and tense situation.

This scene of Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod is also a challenge to authority. Jesus, the challenger, marches towards Jerusalem. On his way to become King of the Jews, a title Herod wears. The Pharisees have motive to want Jesus to live and become King. Jesus has motive to want to carry onward to Jerusalem. With the benefit of 2000 years of study, reflection, and tradition we know the dividing line between Pharisees, Herod, and Jesus. As Christians me most certainly come down on the side of Jesus. It’s in our name.

Let’s go back a little bit…back to that tense moment between Jesus and the warning Pharisees. Jesus is warned to flee. Then Jesus pulls out his best comedic defense and like a stand-up comedian taming a heckling audience he beats the Pharisees down with public shame and satirical humor about hens and houses.

The gathered crowd is left to ponder what just happened there. What was up with Jesus? The Pharisees were trying to help save Jesus. The Pharisees would have gotten away with it, if not for that meddling Jesus.

End scene. Jesus puts his hands on his hips and laughs. The disciples gather around him, all laughing at the ineptitude of those bumbling Pharisees. The shot pans to the Pharisees sulking, apprehended by the authorities and being lead away to jail with that we’ll get you next time Jesus look on their faces. The show fades to black, credits role as the cheesy pop songy theme plays us out.

The show ends, real life goes on. That 30-minute window of divine perfection, Godly wisdom quickly becoming the past with a whole lot of present to deal with. What are we thinking?

A question I’m left with is, “What mask is Jesus pulling off of us?”

Have you ever heard a positive description of a Pharisee?

How would you feel if you tried to help someone and they embarrassed you in public?

I wonder what it feels like to try to help others and no one understands what you are doing?

What would have happened if Jesus did not die on the cross?

What would have happened if Jesus had listened to the Pharisees warning?

The Bible is not a static story for us to bend our lives around. This is a love story between Creator God and us those fearfully and wonderfully made creatures. Lent is a time for us to search our souls and discover ourselves in the living, holy story of God and God’s creation. Liberated from masks. Taking our place in this complex, dynamic mix of hopes, dreams, and sin. Awakening to the new life that awaits when we peel back the layers of tradition, reflection, and study and delight in the mere presence of God.

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