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
Get out of town, if you know what’s good for you.
That’s the message the Pharisees bring to Jesus. Herod, the gangster king, has
bumped off John the Baptist and now he’s got his sights on Jesus. But Jesus
really does know what’s good for him. And more to the point, he knows what’s
good for us, too. And he’s not about to dance to the tune of a petty tyrant. He
has his own divine sense of place and of purpose. He knows where he is going.
And he knows where he is taking us. His way leads to salvation, but it must
pass through Jerusalem on the way to the cross.
Jesus sees right through Herod and dismisses him as
“that fox.” To Jesus Herod is not a powerful adversary. He is a Roman puppet, a
cunning scavenger, a debauched thief and murderer. He is “that fox.” Sadly,
foxes like Herod are not an endangered species. They thrive by doing the
Devil’s work on earth today. Our world is full of foxes. They smile and they
coo while they distract and deceive. They are masters of half-truths and
untruths, nimbly turning minor controversy into ugly confrontation. They steal
away reputations and livelihoods, affections and relationships.
Ben Johnson wrote a ribald comedy about the undoing
of Volpone, the Fox. While evil
triumphs for five acts, all the miscreants get their comeuppance before the
final curtain. But life hardly ever works that way. Sometimes the foxes go from
victory to victory and pass away peacefully on satin sheets, while life kicks
the virtuous in the teeth over and over. In Christ we know that the faithful
path is rarely the safe one.
So what to do when the fox is plotting or circling
or nipping at your heels? Follow Jesus…even unto the cross. The fox may win the
day. But eternity belongs to Jesus and those who cleave to him. We have been
promised that in him all things work to the good. And while it is often
difficult to see that good through bitter disappointment and crushing tragedy,
Christ’s love is constant. His saving grace is the most powerful force the
world has ever known. I have seen it power people with disabilities and their
families to exemplary lives of compassion and contagious joy. I have seen it in
the dedication of families who have suffered job loss yet remained faithful to
their tithes and continue to share with those who have less. I have seen it
channel grief for a lost child into a ministry that saved, protected and
nurtured hundreds of children.
Jesus never promised us a fox-free world. In fact he
told us that his way would be a rough road replete with snares and pitfalls,
and more than a few foxes. To follow Jesus actively and faithfully, means
opening yourself up to be despised and humiliated. It puts you on the sucker
list for all the foxes of this world. But you’re in good company…with
every other fool for Christ who’s bound for glory.