Suffering Sovereign

Luke 13:31-35

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 and 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.”

Friends, it seems that there we are in one of those ‘bad news’ times again. I am not sure what this all means for you. For me, it seems that I have this gnawing sense of unease. It is always there. It takes the shine off the good things in life. It will pass, I know. But for the moment it is there.

By far the main bad news is what is being done to innocent people in Ukraine. I am deeply saddened and angered by the senseless and unjustified suffering of innocent people at the hands of another tyrant in a long line of tyrants.

He is like the tyrant Jesus names here – Herod. Jesus names the tyrant a fox. In Jesus’ time Herod was on the prowl looking to kill anyone who gets in the way of his own vision of greatness, whims and needs.

Of course, there is other bad news. We are ‘over’ this pandemic and the disruption between people that it has brought. We are concerned about our future with another autocratic state on the move and we wonder how long it will be until they are on the march.

Lesser, but still part of the bad news; Rod Marsh’s unexpected death. Marshy  was a descent bloke and a WA cricketing legend. He is part of my growing up story in my home place; WA. Warnie’s loss to a lesser extent. His family is left to deal with such a shock and a grief… and so it goes.

Enter Jesus this day along the road to Jerusalem and its inevitable suffering for him. He hears the Pharisees speak of the fox wanting to kill him. Nothing new, it seems….

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. 

Jesus knows the fox and the suffering of this city. He knows the bad news. He also knows the hen, the Father who has always wanted to gather this city; who loves this coty, this people

Jesus breaks into song – sad song – lament. Can you sing with him?

This is his pain … If you have ever loved someone enough to try and gather them to yourself to protect them and love them but that person just would not listen, would not come close, would not deviate on the dangerous path to their destruction, and you had to just sit there and watch it all happen and suffer it all with them, then you know this Jesus and his heart. You can sing the song.

What a beautiful song Jesus is – a Mother Hen longing to gather her vulnerable wayward chicks in a dangerous bad news place under her wings to protect them and enable them to survive and grow and have a fine future.

My mind flashes to those pictures of mums and dads holding their young children at crowded and panicked train stations in Ukraine ..

But the Jerusalem chicks refuse to be gathered. Jesus says they hardly ever have.

Their track record with God’s messengers is bad news. They resist and reject and get angry and vengeful enough to stone them to death.

They must believe they are safe enough, strong enough, powerful enough to look after themselves, know themselves and set up their own future without God’s truth or love, it seems.

Sounds like now. Truth be told, sounds like me more times than I would like to admit. How about you?

We are Jerusalem too. We seem to have this will inside us to keep our distance from God, block our ears to his messengers, get angry at the very one who gives us life is part of who we are this side of final fulfilment.

And so, we continue marching to the beat of our own drum, attaining our own vision of life and community and belonging. Jesus says here that this march is a death march. Our rebellious cold heart will leave us like one of those bombed out empty lifeless cities in Ukraine.

35 Look, your house is left to you desolate.

What is our hope in this very bad news – bad news going on in the world and bad news going on in me?

Hope is in this Jesus signing a song.

He sings. He sings a sad song over us. He sings a lament over this resistant cold-hearted, unhearing city and this resistant, cold-hearted unhearing person called Adrian.

Jesus sad song in the face of bad news is good news to me.

The fact that he sings the sadness shows that he knows the badness. He can see the bad news of the world and the bad news in you and me more than the good people of Jerusalem or the Barossa. He can see what is coming because he knows the heart and the past and the brokenness. He knows we cannot do anything else other than march on toward our death.

It is why he is heading to that city! He is heading into the bad city to bring good news to the poor, release for the prisoners, giving new sight to the blind and unstopping deaf ears to his voice (Luke 4).

That is his stated mission, and he is doing it and doing it for all the bad news in the world and bad people in all the cities and towns of the world – even ours. This sad song sings by the Suffering Servant is my hope in my sadness.

This mother hen would take all our sadness and suffering and sin into his body as his wings are pinned to the wood and his breast bleeds just outside this city. He is entering the doom of this doomed city FOR THE CITY that would stone him.

He is living a life we could never live, being a love we could never attain, serving the worst to create the best, taking on the pain and suffering to change it and give it all meaning and purpose and learning and hope.

And so, now this Jesus is utterly unique good news in a bad news world. The Suffering Servant is the Sovereign Ruler: Jesus is the Suffering Sovereign.

Can you hold these two truths together? The one who weeps saves. The one who suffers in weakness and powerlessness is also the sovereign ruler above even Putin and his oligarchs in Russia.

Jesus, God’s Son suffering and yet ruling – Suffering and yet Sovereign at the same time.

Can you believe this this morning? You may struggle to hold these two opposite things together.

Some have trouble believing that God can suffer at all. If God is not capable or willing to suffer it all, feel it all, be completely human in it all, then he is just some cosmic force or unknowing distant deity that has nothing helpful and life-changing to offer in our suffering.

On the other hand some can believe God suffers but struggle to believe he is Sovereign. If God suffers in all this weakness, he must be impotent in the face of what is happening in the world with all of its brutality and destruction. When you are suffering, he can’t help.

But right here as Jesus sings the sad song over the bad news and feels it and knows it and is doing something to change it forever for everyone he is both Sovereign and Suffering Servant.

So Jesus is hope because he is the difference when I am suffering. Because he is sovereign he can act and transform things and people, and he knows the pain of it and can sing my lament with real heart.

What does this mean for us now? To things that are the difference.

  1. When we suffer we can pray.
  2. When we suffer we can hope when we don’t understand.

Because Jesus truly feels and suffers as we do, we can pour out our hearts to this Jesus trusting that he feels it and knows us.

Because he is Sovereign overall of creation and its history, we can pour out our hearts to him because he can and does act what is best.

This leads to this hope in all the bad news or world and of you and me. Because our God revealed by this Jesus is the Suffering Sovereign, we can speak to a God who feels and hears and understands us, and who can do things and change things, we can live hope.

Friends, when there does not humanely seem to be any hope, there is. When there seems to be no end to the injustice and the suffering, there is and there will be. When there seems to be no justice in the world, there is. When we are paralysed with fear, we have this hope in this Sovereign Suffering Servant – and so we continue walking his way under his wings with our many siblings, in his protection and power and even grow through this suffering.

Friend, I pray that if you are like me with all this bad news and suffering beating down on you, you will hear Jesus calling you in and offering his protection and pathway that will return you where you already are – under his wings as his baptised loved person in his world with a future in his new world coming – no matter what happens.

This is our hope.





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