Luke 13:31-35 “Get Out of Dodge”
How many of you remember Marshal Matt Dillon? He was the hero of the old television series Gunsmoke. His character was played by James Arness in the show for more than two decades. The story line was about the town of Dodge in Kansas in the gun-slinging days of the Old West. The plots always had the bad guys come into town to threaten the marshal. Invariably the troublemakers would run into Marshal Dillon’s deputy Festus who would then go warn Marshal Dillon to just go get out of Dodge.
Of course Marshall Dillon would never up and leave Dodge to a bunch of desperados. He had to protect the people under his care, and especially Miss Kitty at the saloon. She was his love interest. The guys in the black hats would come strolling into Dodge looking for the Marshal to shoot him down in a quick draw. Marshal Dillon would meet them in the street in the middle of town and would outdraw them every time.
I hope that explains the title to this sermon. Maybe someone thought “Get out of Dodge” meant that I should not be driving the church van that happens to be a Dodge! Maybe it was a stock tip? Get out of Dodge meaning to sell that stock holding?!
So now just imagine that Jesus is the marshal of our lives! A bunch of cowardly Pharisees come to him and say, “Jesus, that ornery villain Herod is coming after you! You best just up and high-tail it out of here.” What do you think Jesus is going to do? He responds, “I will just be staying here in Dodge for awhile. Tell that desperado he can come for me if he wants. I will be right here for at least the next three days taking care of the people here who need me.” Jesus is one tough fellow who knows he has God and the power of right on his side. Jesus is not going anywhere just because of Herod. Jesus is my hero!
What are the Pharisees doing here? Are they really trying to save Jesus? Nah, they are trying to help Herod by getting him out of the way without turning him into a martyr. In fact, the Pharisees would be better off being with Jesus than playing Herod’s game with him.
Now Jesus has a funny way of responding: He uses two different animals as examples of what is going to come down. Jesus calls Herod a fox. I know today calling someone a fox is a good thing. Someone who is very attractive is called “foxy.” Back then foxes were the lowest of animals, being related to dogs, that the Hebrew people cursed. And, we have to remember that Jesus is the Lamb of God. So, at the time of the resurrection, the Lamb actually beats the fox! I love that analogy. The Lamb gonna beat that old fox!
The other animal reference is interesting, too. Jesus says that he is like the mother hen who called the chicks under wing. What happens to chicks that go off on their own? Oh, they get picked off by cats and owls, or run over by cars. So, as the Pharisees come to “save” Jesus from Herod, it is really Jesus who can save these Pharisees from their own demise. I can imagine Jesus saying, “You are trying to save me? But, I am trying to save all of you!” I love this analogy too. Jesus comes and turns everything upside down. Even the Pharisees can be saved.
Here is another turn about in this text that we maybe miss because it was meant more for the people of Luke’s time. Jesus says that Jerusalem kills all of its prophets, and indeed Jesus dies in Jerusalem. But, in Luke’s time, the Romans have just destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem.
It was in 70 AD that the Romans tore down the temple in order to quell a Jewish uprising. Jesus himself foretold of this happening in that famous verse from Matthew 24:1-2 “As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’” When the Romans were done, in fact, not one stone was left. All we have today from that temple is the shoring wall of one side of the foundation of that temple. This is today known as the “Wailing Wall” where Jews still gather in remembrance of the Temple that once stood.
Yes, Jesus says that he will tear down the Temple and rebuild it again in three days. Mark 14:58, “I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days rebuild it with one not made of hands.” You cannot get much more clear than that. Jesus is referring to the central idea of our faith that God is found in the person of Jesus who rises again on the third day after his crucifixion.
Jesus refers to this in our text for today by saying that he is not done yet. He will continue to cast out demons and heal people, today, tomorrow, and the third day. Why not the “day after tomorrow.” This even sounds funny in the original Greek because there is a specific word for “day after tomorrow” in Greek that Jesus avoids to mention the third day—when as it says in our texts he will be finished. Some translations say “when he will be perfected.” I like that translation from the original Greek better. On the third day after His death on the Cross, his ministry is perfected in the Resurrection.
I need to focus on the last verse of the reading for today. In verse 35 we read that Jesus proclaims that “your house is forsaken.” A better translation might be “desolate.” The understanding is that the Temple, that everyone believed was the place where God resided on earth at the time was now without the presence of God. This begs the question that I have heard again and again in my ministry from so many: “Where is God?” I think everyone at one point or another in his or her life will ask this question. Often times the question is asked in times of turmoil. You may be facing great tragedy in your life, so you ask how it is that God does not intervene for you.
I think the translator of our pew bible chose the word “forsaken” in order to match the words that Jesus speaks from the Cross: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me.” The people in Luke’s time know of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, so the question is now very acute: How could God allow the destruction of the Temple at all if God had not already left it?
The answer for us is that we find God in the person of Jesus Christ—not in the structure of a Temple. It seems to me that we are always looking for God in all the wrong places.
You know, my favorite prophet is Isaiah from the Old Testament. My second favorite is Elijah. We all remember how it was that Elijah was in a cave awaiting the Word of God to come to him. All these great calamities are happening around him. There is a whirlwind, but the voice of God is not in the whirlwind. (1 Kings 19). There is an earthquake, but the voice of God is not in the earthquake. There is a fire, but the voice of God in not in the fire. Then, in the end, comes a still small voice. This was then the voice of God.
After our elections this last week, many religious pundits have tried to explain what God is doing with this election result. I must admit that I have chuckled at the idea. We can look for God in the Bible. We can look for God in prayer. We can look for God in the fellowship of believers. We can look for God in hearts of those we love. We can look for God in the person of Jesus Christ. Why would we go looking for God in the 10pm election results? Do we really think we are going to find God there?
I just want to remind us all that this country of ours, no matter how much we love it and sacrifice for it—and God bless our Veterans—for we all do love this country and honor those who have sacrificed for it—but America one day will fall like the Temple in Jerusalem. It will fall as Rome did. It will fall as the Holy Roman Empire and all the previous empires have. Only God is forever.
So, one day America will not exist. That is alright because as Jesus says in the last line of the text for today: “He is coming back!” Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. So, thank you for voting this last week. And I hope you prayed over the ballot and made godly choices. Please do not look at the election as some kind of proof of your faith in God. That is not what elections are for.