Geography of the Heart
Scripture: Luke 13.31-35 (NRSV): Just then some Pharisees came up and said, “Run for your life! Herod’s on the hunt. He’s out to kill you!” Jesus said, “Tell that fox that I’ve no time for him right now. Today and tomorrow I’m busy clearing out the demons and healing the sick; the third day I’m wrapping things up. Besides, it’s not proper for a prophet to come to a bad end outside Jerusalem.Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets, abuser of the messengers of God! How often I’ve longed to gather your children, gather your children like a hen, Her brood safe under her wings—but you refused and turned away! And now it’s too late: You won’t see me again until the day you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of God.’”
Jesus invokes the image of a hen protecting her baby chicks in the night as he stands on the hills outside Jerusalem and shouts his broken heart into its valley, with no answer save the echo of his own voice.
For Jesus is standing in that horror-filled moment just before the crash, screaming his terror at what is to happen to his people, his children, who, without him, careen in front of the oncoming truck of their own destruction.
We parents have all had those moments . . . car keys given with strict instructions only to spend hours in worry, knowing in our heart of hearts that speed limits are being ignored, safety warnings overlooked.
Like the girl taking the car out by herself for the first time, the people of Jerusalem don’t even have the imagination to see in dreams what Jesus knows. And it breaks his heart.
All he wants to do is enfold them in his love and keep them safe – even and especially from themselves. What is he to do? What is any parent to do?
For now, he will bide his time. He will wait. And wait. And wait. And when the time comes, he will step in front of the truck for them. But until then, he waits and hopes it will be enough, sure that it isn’t.
Jesus has come to the heart of his country, to its capital city, to bring himself and all he has to offer for her protection and well-being, but before he can even step one foot inside her gates, he’s already being sent away, because Herod would rather risk the wrath of God than hear about the coming storm. And as Herod went, so too will Jerusalem go, sheep following the wrong shepherd, or more truly, no shepherd at all.
Jesus reacts as a panicked, broken-hearted parent, watching the inevitable unfold before his very eyes.
The hen image, then, is not a sweet mother moment; no – this is the frustrated terror of the tigress confounded by her inability to protect her new born cubs from the swooping bird of prey. It’s the prayer mantra of the father handing over the car keys for the first time – please, please, please, please.
Jesus is not speaking with the voice of the angry father when you get home too late. This is the terrified voice of the frightened father worrying and weeping into the night. And it, this weeping, is for us. God has given us the car keys and is begging us, pleading with us, to be careful.
Yes, he’ll be angry if we get home late or worse, wreck the car. But it’s the anger of love – a love that can sadly and all too easily imagine what we cannot even dream of.
Listen and hear the words of your pleading, cajoling, begging father . . . please be careful . . . please! I know what can happen if you aren’t. Please let me protect you . . .please listen to me . . . please.