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Entries in Desolation (1)


The Desolate House

Today we will be looking at Luke 13:31-35.

At this point we have demonstrated for us the sad reality of the threats that are made against righteous people.  However, we are also made aware of the desolation that God promises to those who reject His Ways and wickedly go their own way.  When we stiff-arm the attempts of God to draw us to Him, there is nothing left for us but to go on to the ruin and desolation which that path brings.  There is a certain irony in this passage due to the fact that Herod is presented as a threat to Jesus, but in reality it is Jesus and rejecting him that is the greatest threat.

Jesus Is Warned of Herod Antipas

In verse 31 we see that some Pharisees approach Jesus and warn him that Herod Antipas is seeking to kill him.  This is the son of Herod the Great who ruled when Jesus was born.  When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was split up between Herod Antipas (West Galilee and the Eastern side of the Jordan River), Herod Philip (East Galilee) and Herod Archelaus (Judea).  Archelaus did not reign very long before Rome deposed him and put a governor or prefect over Judea and Jerusalem.  Thus Jesus is currently somewhere in the territory of Herod Antipas. 

So why are these Pharisees warning Jesus?  We are not told of their motives.  Possibly they are just trying to get Jesus to leave, or maybe they are secretly followers of him.  Either way, the danger is real undoubtedly.    In Matthew 14:2 we are told that Herod was afraid of Jesus because he thought that Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead.  He would have been determined to remove such a threat without thought about its reality.  In fact, politically it would be in his favor.

Jesus is not intimidated by the threat.  He tells them to go back to Herod with a message from Jesus.  First, Jesus calls Herod a fox.  He is a fox as opposed to a lion.  Though Herod has power, he is relatively weak and owes most of his power to the backing of Rome.  Yet, as a fox, Jesus recognizes the cunning nature of Herod.  Some will bring up this reference in light of the Scripture, “do not speak evil of the ruler of your people.”  This verse is intended to protect us from our own sinful nature rather than to shut off all criticism of the ruler.  In fact, most of the prophets that spoke to Israel had to say hard things to the kings that ruled. 

As a fox Herod has his schemes and yet, Jesus has his own schemes.  Jesus relays to Herod the work that he is doing: healing the people and casting out demons.  A clear contrast to Herod’s selfish schemes is clear.  Also, Jesus says that on the third day his work will be completed.  Then he will move on and only then.   Another way to say this is, “I will leave when I am finished with what I am doing.”  It is a direct challenge to the intentions of Herod.

There is also a masked reference, for his disciples’ sake, of the coming resurrection.  Jesus had come to earth to do a specific work.  He would not have his life taken from him.  Rather, he would lay down his life at the time that the Father determines.  On the third day he will be resurrected in a glorified, heavenly body.  He is perfected in the sense that he will then be the perfect, human judge for all creation.

Jesus Reveals His True Fate.

Jesus then goes on to point out that it will not be Herod who puts him to death.  He must die in Jerusalem at the hand of the leaders there.  In verse 33 it literally says that it is unacceptable for a prophet to die outside of Jerusalem.  Clearly there is some biting sarcasm involved here because prophets have died elsewhere.  Yet, Jesus is bringing front and center the blood of righteous prophets that has been shed in the city that is supposed to be the City of God on earth.  This historical resistance and persecution of God and His people is charged against Jerusalem and her leaders.

Jesus then begins a type of lament in verse 34.  He cries out to Jerusalem and declares that he has often tried to draw her under his wings like a hen with her chicks.  This imagery is particularly fitting in light of the “fox” reference to Herod and the obvious “Eagle” reference to Rome (we could add the “wolves” of false teachers).  As the Son of God, Jesus has come as a last attempt to gather the people of Israel and protect them from the dangers that existed at that time.  All the prophets who had come in the past were representatives of Jesus.  They came attempting to bring the people under the protective influence of the Truth of Jesus.  This was continually rejected by the leaders and people, “you were not willing.”  It would not be any different now that the Son had come.

Thus, so be it.  Their house is going to be left to them desolate.  “House” here represents the physical buildings and institutions that comprised of the national governance both politically and religiously.  It also represents the cohesive place of living for the nation as a whole.  Jesus says that it is going to be made into a desert or wilderness literally.  There is some irony here.  The prophets, like John the Baptist, often came out of the wilderness and warned God’s people that they were in danger of being made into a wilderness.  The danger of Israel’s day was that Rome was poised to dismantle the nation, slaughter countless thousands, and disperse the remaining people among the nations.

All this was coming because Israel was rejecting the Son of God, the Truth.  To reject Truth is to embrace lies and the devastation that they bring.  Yet, Jesus gives hope of an end to this desolation.  He says that Israel will become desolate and that they will not see him again until…  The word until is critical.  It always supplies the end of something.  Jesus would leave Israel to its own devices and choice, and they would not see him again.  Until, they say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Clearly this phrase is functioning as a statement of repentance.  Israel is going to reject Jesus as a true representative of God.  They will suffer the effects of such a choice until they change their mind and repent of that rejection.  Is it possible that Israel en masse will one day recognize Christ for who he truly is?  Is it possible that they may repent of crucifying him and cry out for help?  Zechariah 12:10 prophesies just such a scenario.  In fact, in Romans 11:25 and following we see the same “until” connected with Israel’s blindness and hardness to who Jesus is.  There is says that Israel will continue to be blind and hard “until” the fullness of the Gentiles is brought in.  Whether this fullness is an amount of time allotted or a certain quota of people saved, the time of salvation going out to the Gentiles will come to an end.  At that time God will pour out a Spirit of repentant prayer upon Israel.  In the first century Israel was judged by God and the Gentile nations were blessed with the Truth.  But the day is coming when God will judge the nations of the world and bless Israel with salvation.  On that day the “house” of the Gentiles will be left to them desolate.

Let me close this with recognizing that there has always been a remnant who have believed and received the blessing of the Lord in the midst of His judgment and wrath.  Thus though the nation as a whole refused to come under the wings of protection provided by Jesus, a remnant did believe on him and were spared.  Instead of clinging to Jerusalem and its temple, they embraced Jesus and followed him to the nations.  The Church was built upon the foundation of Jesus and a remnant of Jews.  Can we not see that at the end of the age it will only be a remnant of the Gentile nations who have believed?  So too the necessary rhyme of time and action must come full circle as God draws the remnant of the Gentiles into his protection and pours out His judgment and wrath upon the earth.  O friend, save yourself today by putting your faith in Jesus.  Turn to the instructions of His Word to those who want to follow him.  Remember his challenge that it is not easy to follow Him, but to those who do they will find Life.  Don’t put off any longer the need to turn your heart to Christ, and then focus on growing to become more like the True Jesus and not the figment of people’s imagination that often arises.  Get into the Bible and find out who Jesus really is.  

Desolate House Audio