Luke 13:31-35 (NIV)
31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
I want to talk about verse 31: “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’”
I wonder what these Pharisees were thinking. Why were they helping Jesus here? Were they actually being kind or was something else going on? My guess is it was something else.
My daughter Sydney is at Georgia State University and is taking a class in economics. They were discussing investments and one of the strategies was hedging, specifically with hedge funds. She was confused and asked for some help. Now I went straight to Google to make sure I understood.
I tried to give some very bad technical definitions about offsetting risk by not putting all your eggs in one basket or money in one stock. She still looked confused, but suddenly a light went off in my brain, and I said it is sort of like insurance. We buy insurance for stuff like her car and hope we never use it, but we have it just in case; this is a hedge. She seemed to understand…or perhaps she gave up on me and emailed the professor.
But when I consider this passage, I think the Pharisees were hedging their bets—or buying a bit of insurance in Jesus. They didn’t believe, but just in case they were wrong, they figured it would be good for Jesus to owe them a favor for saving his life.
Alas they were betting on both heads and tails – if he’s the Messiah, then they’ve done him a favor and perhaps he will remember them when he takes over, If not then no would have to ever know about their minor betrayal of Herod. They could always say Jesus and his disciples were lying.”
Obviously, these folks are close enough to Herod to know of his plan but not so convinced about who Jesus is to stick their own necks out in a public way.
In some ways that is where I think most of us are at least some of the time. We’re happy to be Christian, as long as being Christian doesn’t ask us to do anything that might get us in trouble. We are happy to follow Jesus and wear a cross, but to show up and speak up or speak out would be dangerous—at least to what people might think about us.
Jesus seems to see right through the Pharisees and calls them out.
My friend Joe Evans puts it this way:
“Jesus seems to know that they have a foot in each camp and so can go between the two with his message: “Go tell that fox for me,” he says to them, knowing that if they could overhear Herod’s plot to kill him, then they must have been close, though they may not have completely pledged themselves to Herod’s service, leaking this secret plot. They couldn’t just up and follow Jesus; you see, they had kids to feed. They couldn’t make the Empire mad or they might lose their influence, and they couldn’t make the king angry or the might even lose their lives.”
Put in this spot they are stuck—either they are vocally and thus fully with Jesus or their silence means they are not.
It is uncomfortable for us if we put ourselves in the story.
This week I failed. I heard some racist comments from a person with influence over my career and choose to be quiet rather than stand up for truth. I was more concerned about what the fox might think of me than I was about what Christ might think of me.
I lament that decision now and pray for forgiveness.
And I hope it helps me grow. I hope it helps me allow my faith to be bigger than my fear.
Jesus doesn’t want us to use him as an insurance policy. Like the rich young ruler, we are asked to lay aside whatever is possessing us and follow him.
Sometimes it will be uncomfortable. But if we as a people of faith are unwilling to speak out for truth and justice and mercy and grace and love, then who will?
God doesn’t want you and me to just hedge our bets by showing up just on Sunday; the call is for every day of our life.