Second Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2007
Many admired the late president Ronald Reagan for his commitment to his convictions. He didn’t watch the polls. He didn’t test the wind. He spoke with courage and acted with determination. William Bennett, former Education secretary, said, “He was a man in possession of his own soul.”
If this was true of a flawed politician, surely it was true of the Son of God! Though Jesus knew that he was stepping into the hornet’s nest, he had “set his face” (Luke 9:51) for Jerusalem. No tyrant could scare him. No wheedling, needling Pharisees could deter him. He possessed his own soul. He persisted in doing good in the presence of evil. He consistently charged a rebel house with the need for repentance.
I. Jesus persevered in the presence of evil. He smelled death in Jerusalem long before he set foot there. He didn’t need the Pharisees’ “intelligence report” on King Herod. He understood the political mind and political expediency. Paul wrote, “Do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). Though Jesus was sinless, he wasn’t childish. He knew it was a big, bad world. He knew the strength of the Enemy and its many tools. As far as Jesus was concerned, foxy Herod was just another pawn of the Devil.
Though he walked “where the wild things are,” Jesus walked on two legs and not four. He understood evil, but he never fell prey to its hollow charms. He never lowered himself. Rather, he continued walking tall.
II. Jesus persisted in doing good. That’s some trick in an evil world! If you’ve ever been the butt of slander, you know how hard it is not to slander back. If you’ve ever been the target of malice, you’ve felt the dark magnetism of hatred. In a world whose favorite sport is “tit-for-tat,” what will keep us from playing the game? Jesus held onto his clear vision and his strong purpose.
As someone has said, “When you’re up to your neck in gators, it’s hard to remember you came to drain the swamp!” Somehow Jesus always managed to remember who he was and what he’d come to d “I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” The Son of God saw the Kingdom of God, a place in which the Devil would have no power.
He also saw, with terrible clarity, the awful key that would unlock the gate to the Kingdom – the cross. He saw death in Jerusalem one day, but resurrection on the third. Thus, he was unafraid to tell the truth. With the shadow of destruction hanging over his people, he continued to preach the need for repentance.
III. Jesus preached repentance. But it’s important to realize that his sharp message was a surgeon’s scalpel, not a butcher’s blade. Listen to the tone of his message, the tears in his voice: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” In every way, Jesus is superior to these people, yet he truly cares about them!
In the film, Superman II, the Kryptonian villain General Zod sneers, “This super man is nothing of the kind. I’ve discovered his weakness. He cares! He actually cares for these humans!” His bewildered accomplice replies, “Like pets?”
In Jesus’ case, his was not the indulgence of a pet owner, but the insistence of a parent: “I have given you everything. You’ve given me nothing but grief. What more can I do for you, child? If you don’t change, you will suffer – and I can do nothing to stop it.”
As Jesus was, so the church should be. Her leaders do neither their flocks nor their world a favor when they fail to walk as Jesus. Lord, give us women who walk tall in a world of spiritual midgets. Lord, give us men who remain clean in a world splattered with evil. Lord, give us a church that speaks the truth in love – whatever the cost! (Gary Robinson)