Feb. 28, 2010
Second Sunday in Lent
When Todd Beamer boarded United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, he had no way of knowing what events would unfold that day. He took that flight regularly as a part of his job. His heroic words, “Let’s roll,” have become legendary and serve as an inspiration to millions. His heroism in overtaking the highjackers on that day and crashing the plane in Shanksville, Pa., evokes deep awe and gratitude from a shocked nation. I was serving in Washington, D.C., at the time; I remember the wife of a Congressional staffer saying through tears, “He very well may have saved my husband’s life.”
In the wake of the awful events of that dreadful day, some people said, “I’ll never step on another airplane ever again,” or “I won’t go higher than the eighth floor in any building.”
While some folks would never have gotten on the airplane in the first place, others take a fatalistic approach and say, “When it’s your time, it’s your time.” I don’t approach life that fatalistically. I figure life is fraught with danger, and there are risks involved in everything we do; and at some point in time, my sojourn on this earth will be over.
Jesus wasn’t fatalistic. He knew the mission His Father had given Him, and He wasn’t about to let anything keep Him from accomplishing it. He knew from the
beginning of His public ministry that His earthly life would end in Jerusalem, outside the city gate on Skull Hill, nailed to a Roman cross. Along the way, there were temptations to do legitimate things by illegitimate means, to do whatever it takes to try to get to the same end without the cross. Along the way, there would
be threats to His life and pretenders vying for His throne.
I. Intimidation of the Pharisees
The Pharisees thought they could intimidate Jesus by telling Him that Herod—one of history’s genuinely evil men—was out to get Him. Some say this was a sly attempt by the Pharisees to force Jesus underground—play up the threat, tell Jesus about it in hopes that He would turn tail, cower in fear, run, get out of their region and leave them alone. A lesser man may have cowered at such a threat. Jesus knew that His life was in His Father’s hands.
He was able to fire back, “You tell that fox I’ll do My Father’s bidding until it’s finished.” To us, fox is not necessarily derogatory. If anything, we talk about “foxiness” as meaning a person is crafty, cunning and sly. The only problem is that while Herod may have shown some of these qualities at times, they aren’t necessarily the traits for which he is known. There’s another way of looking at what Jesus is saying here that is absolutely fascinating.
II. The Resolve of Jesus
The only other usage of the word fox in the entire Bible is in the Book of Nehemiah, when Israel’s critics are mocking their efforts to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. They say in
as just a little inconsequential nuisance of an animal who may be able to damage something that is under construction or not very stable to begin with.
He was saying, “Herod thinks he’s a lion, but he’s not. He’s only a fox.” The people in the crowd probably could barely stifle their grins. They were probably pumping their fists and saying, “You go, Jesus!”
So, this is not just a sermon about facing your fears. It’s not saying, “When it’s your time, it’s your time.” Instead, the point is that when I am aware of God’s purpose for my life and I know that I am in His will, pursuing the call that He has placed upon my life, I can do what I need to do without fear because my life is in His hands.
What is God calling you to do? What are the fears that are holding you back? Maybe you need to say to whatever obstacle is in your way, “You fox! You don’t have the power or the authority that you think you have because my life is in God’s hands.