We are in the long travel narrative of Luke where Jesus on the road to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51- 21:38). Immediately preceding our text it is said that “Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). While Luke seems to follow much of the earlier gospels and other sources the beginning of our text (Luke 13:31-32) is unique to Luke. Luke is emphasizing the importance of Jesus mission in getting to Jerusalem.
The Pharisees who sometimes have Jesus to dinner serve a somewhat ambiguous role in Luke. Here it would seem that Jesus ends up doing what they suggest getting on the road. Jesus does not do what they suggest out of fear of Herod. Jesus stays with his mission to bring salvation to Jerusalem.
Jesus derogatorily calls Herod a fox. Herod would have no doubt preferred to have been called a lion (king of the beasts). Herod is not cunning. He is destructive. We have seen the negative qualities of Herod throughout Luke’s story. Herod lacks status relative to the recognition that Jesus mission comes from God.
Jesus also identifies with the prophets. Nothing will keep Jesus from his “journey” or as Luke speaks of it the “way” toward Jerusalem. Jesus mission will be fulfilled. The reference to the three days gives the hint of his death and resurrection. The lament over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34-35) in fact reinforces the look toward the future through the line “…you will not see me until the time when…” he returns. It is a little awkward in Luke’s story as opposed to Matthew’s use of this story (Matthew 23:37-39) since Jesus is only on the way toward Jerusalem in Luke and not there as in Mathew. Nevertheless the point is that Jesus laments the fact that Jerusalem always rejects him even though Jesus continually desires to gather all the people in “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”
Herod the fox and Jesus the hen suggests so many of the dilemmas faced in discipleship. There are dangers out there constantly. The “strong” for all the wrong things have no power just like Herod. Jesus is pictured with the care of the hen continually trying to watch over the flock. It is clear that the flock is continually rejecting Jesus.
Some of the rejection of discipleship comes from the fact that when Jesus talks of discipleship he presents us with some difficult decisions. Just after our Luke passage we hear about the enormous costs of discipleship. “Now large crowds were traveling with him....” and he says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Is this what we must do today, now, in 2013?
This is what makes discipleship so provocative. As we look to our contemporary contexts surrounding issues of discipleship we refuse to imagine the end to human strife. We do not treat the stranger as though we were once strangers. We do not resist the powers that oppress the poor. We do not repent of selfish and thoughtless exploitation of our planet earth. We care only if it benefits us.
Do we take our lead from the fox or the hen?