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The Many Sides of Jesus



"The Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 13:31-35....

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
This is one of many passages that shows both the sternness and the tenderness of Jesus.  On the stern side, Jesus gives another sharp answer to the Pharisees who care nothing for his welfare. He also refers to Herod as a fox . . . obviously no love lost there. And finally, Jesus refers to Jerusalem as the city that kills prophets. It seems that Jesus' condemnation could not be more complete than that.

And yet, Jesus says that he has longed to gather the children of Jerusalem together just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. Granted, in the next breath Jesus notes that the people of Jerusalem were not willing to be so gathered. But the statement shows Jesus' tender-hearted nature nonetheless. This is one of those passages that reveals what some have called the feminine side of God. In fact, Jesus uses the image of a mother hen to describe what he longs for his relationship to the children of Jerusalem to be. If you are interested in reading more about the combined masculine and feminine qualities in God, I highly recommend Henri Nouwen's marvelous book, The Return of the Prodigal Son.

This passage concludes with Jesus telling the people that they will not see him again until they receive him with the words, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." In fact, the people of Jerusalem did so receive Jesus on what we now call Palm Sunday.

This passage makes me wonder: what is our attitude toward Jesus today. Are we willing to allow him to gather us under his wing? Are we willing to let the Lord be both father and mother to us? Are our hearts open to him as we say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"? 

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