"Herod wants to kill you."
Contemplating Luke 13:31-35
I was so nervous just being in the crowd. I had been watching him for several days now. There was tension in the air. It seemed so surprising to me that the Pharisees would be warning Jesus about Herod's people coming to get him and kill him. Were they sincere? Did they really care about Jesus' well being? Or, would they just be happy to have him leave and stop talking about hypocrisy, about the poor, about accountability?
I stood there in the company of so many other people that followed him and hung on his every word. The frequent hostility Jesus experienced from various religious leaders didn't surprise us. We knew why they were upset with him. We knew the risks he was taking by just hanging out with people like us. I overheard one of the women whispering to a friend about how proud of him she was. She could hardly believe he spoke with them and seemed to enjoy their presence, to listen to their stories, and to comfort them with his loving acceptance. The woman said that all the people knew he had become ritually "unclean" just by being with them. She said it felt even more special, "almost God-like" the way he had a "steadfast" relationship with them, not matter the cost to him. She asked the other woman, "Who has ever acknowledged us or stood in our path with us, except the Lord our God, who accompanied our ancestors in their sojourn in the desert or was faithful to the remnant of the poor left in Jerusalem at the time of the Exile?"
I've been looking at his face and then watching their faces. While he is being circled and cornered by the self-righteous, he seems to have such a pained look on his face. He seems older than he is. It looks like he is carrying some sort of burden that seems at some moments so great. I wonder if he will survive, while at other moments he seems to be supported by God's own Spirit.
Everyone stops as Jesus turns and speaks, as though to the whole city, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!"
The crowd grows quiet. Someone in the crowd shouts out: "Lord, save us in your mercy!"
There is always some pushing and shoving to get up close. But now, everything stops. I could see people looking around at each other in the group. And, there seems to always be some sort of judging going on. It's like the latest group of sick or obvious "disobeyers of the law" are immediately looked down upon by the others. And, they, in turn, seem to have a defensive attitude. But, after this powerful word of Jesus, and the powerful cry from one of the poor, everyone grows quiet.
But then, again, as though nothing had happened, some discussion about something really silly broke out again, and it turned into a full blown argument. Cutting through it all, with Jesus just standing there listening, someone else in the crowd just shouted out, quoting Psalm 109 from memory: "Help me, O LORD, my God; save me, in your mercy, And let them know that this is your hand; that you, O LORD, have done this. I will speak my thanks earnestly to the LORD, and in the midst of the throng I will praise him, For he stood at the right hand of the poor, to save them from those who would condemn their souls."
The discussion stopped. It was as though everyone started looking at each other differently. I felt like a loved sinner, standing side by side with other loved sinners. I knew that I had killed many a prophetic word addressed to me and that I was often unwilling to be gathered. And, though I enjoyed being here in Jesus' presence, I was resistant to being gathered into one community of acceptance and love. Just under my breath, I said, "Lord, never let me be separated from you. Draw me to yourself, especially when I resist you. Thank you for loving me and healing me and calling me to love my sisters and brothers. Let me be in solidarity with all the sinners you love."
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