Jesus had been teaching in a synagogue. He was teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven in parables. Then, some Pharisees came to speak to him. They told Jesus, “Get out of here. Herod wants to kill you.” This is not Herod the Great who killed all the newborn sons in Bethlehem after being duped by the wise men. The Herod in this Scripture is his son, Herod Antipas, no less evil than his father. This Herod is the one who jailed and beheaded John the Baptist.
Herod likely wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus was gaining popularity preaching a message of the coming Kingdom of God. That kingdom would be a threat to rule over the land of Galilee. Jesus was a rival to his thrown that needed to be eliminated. Later, in the Gospel of Luke, Herod will be a part of Jesus’ trial leading to His crucifixion.
It is hard to tell whether the Pharisees were sympathetic to Jesus’ message and were warning Him of the threat of Herod. Or, that they were messengers of Herod sent to tell Jesus of Herod’s intent to kill Jesus. Either way, Jesus is tempted to fear Herod. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is faced with the threat of His death, but He does not fear it. He speaks of it, even bringing it up Himself sometimes, He speaks of it as an end He knows is coming and does not fear.
Jesus responded, “Next time you see Herod tell him that I am casting out demons and performing cures for the next couple of days.” Jesus describes His ministry as casting out demons and performing cures. Casting out demons was an important part of His ministry as it was a sign of His battle with evil which would be essential to bringing forth the Kingdom of God. Jesus, no doubt, includes casting out demons in His description of His mission to Herod as a sign that He has no fear of Herod’s evil. Herod will have no power over Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s end.
Jesus says He will go to Jerusalem when He is finished battling evil and healing sickness – it will be when He is done there. Then, He will go to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city where they kill prophets. Ancient Jewish legends tell that Jerusalem has killed prophets, like Isaiah.
After that, Jesus grieves the city of Jerusalem. Jesus recalls God’s compassion for the city of Jerusalem and the people of Israel. Jesus calls the people of Jerusalem children who should be gathered together. He uses the image of a mother hen gathering her young under the shelter of her wing. For so long, God has tried to gather the people to Himself, but they have not been willing. Jesus knows that someday the day will come when the people will say, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.” This day will soon come as He enters Jerusalem on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday.
There’s something in this passage that I want to draw your attention to before we move on. The point is that Jesus, speaking on behalf of God, says that God has long wanted to gather the children together like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings. More often than anything, we call God Father. After all, Jesus calls God Father. However, calling God Father limits our imagination of who God is. In fact, it limits us from seeing mothers as Divine agents of God that somehow fathers are more God-like.
I probably should have saved this sermon for Mother’s Day. Jesus refers to God as having love like a mother for Her children. Thinking of God as mother opens us to think about God in a new way. This is not the only passage in which God is said to be like a mother. There are 4 references in the Old Testament, including 2 in Isaiah, where God is described as a mother.
I make this point because it is one way in which Jesus is calling God’s children to repentance. He had just gotten done teaching in parables about who would enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They present rather harsh judgments for those who do not repent. They might even cause fear in those who have not repent of their sins and returned to God. And, after all that teaching, the mother emerges to comfort her young and invite them to her protection and care.
I was reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer this week as I prepared this sermon. I want to focus on “deliver us from evil.”
I wonder how we define evil that we want to be delivered from. Last week, we read about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by the devil. In that story, evil had a face, the devil. But, evil in our lives doesn’t have the red face with pointy horns carrying a pitchfork. Sometimes evil dwells within us and invades our thoughts causing us to question and mistrust God.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr. said, “Nothing is more dangerous than misunderstanding evil. Evil has an irremediable stubbornness about it. And it must be recognized, it has to be constrained, but it can never be resolved.” He goes on to quote St. Augustine, “Never fight evil as if it were something that arose totally outside of yourself.”
Evil is not necessarily something from which we should be delivered when it is part of us. Think of the cartoons when a character has an angel sitting on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. Evil cannot be easily separated from good.
The Chinese have a concept of yin and yang which is holds opposites in tension with one another. In Chinese philosophy, opposites are understood to be interrelated and interdependent in the world giving rise to one another. There are many manifestations of the yin and yang belief. Some examples are: female and male, dark and light, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, life and death. The yin and yang are complimentary not opposing forces.
It is not necessarily part of the Chinese philosophy to include good and evil in the dualities of yin and yang, but I think good and evil are interrelated. Good cannot be easily separated from evil when they exist so closely in this world. Obviously, good can be separated from evil, such as in Heaven, but, in this world, the two co-exist.
I’d like to suggest that they are interrelated. As we encounter good, we know it is not evil. Good helps us distinguish what is evil. In the same way, we recognize evil as not good. When we stand in the face of evil, we choose to be good because we know good from evil. It is evil that gives us the choice to do good.
As we continue our journey through the season of Lent and follow Jesus to Jerusalem to bear the cross, we consider the ways in which our lives lead to the cross. The duality of good and evil in ourselves are part of that consideration.
On the one hand, we ask ourselves, “How have we played the role of Jerusalem in killing prophets?” How have we denied Jesus? How have we given into fear? How have our sins played a part in silencing the Truth? When have we stifled the message of Jesus that it wouldn’t continue to be spread? When have we stood in the way of the miracle working power of Jesus? When have we faced evil and given into its power to destroy?
On the other hand, we ask ourselves, “How have we recognized God’s message and coming Kingdom. And, how do we continue to do so?” How have we spread the Gospel and shared God’s love? How have we overcome fear by faith? When have we faced evil and chosen instead to do good?
We pray to be delivered from evil. It has been a prayer of Jesus’ followers since He taught us to pray. What did He have in mind? How did He imagine God would deliver us from evil? How do we imagine that we will be delivered from evil?
We pray to be delivered from evil because in teaching us to pray Jesus taught us that God delivers His children from evil. Like the mother hen, God will stop at nothing to protect Her little chicks and gather them under the protection of Her wing.
Jesus called Herod a fox when telling the Pharisees what to tell Herod. The fox would be the one out to scatter the chicks and prey on the ones that got away from their mother. Perhaps Jesus used the metaphor of the mother hen for two reasons. First, the mother hen gathers her chicks to keep them safe from the threat of harm. And, second, the mother hen is willing to give her own life to save her chicks.
 Deut 32: 10 – 11, Hosea 13: 8, Isaiah 42: 14, Isaiah 49: 15.