[This message was shared during worship celebrations of Friendship Lutheran Church, Amelia, Ohio, on March 3 and 4, 2007. If you live in or are visiting the Cincinnati area, you're invited to worship at Friendship. Our weekly services happen on Saturdays at 5:30PM and Sundays at 10:00AM. There will be no Saturday worship on March 10, 2007.]Luke 13:31-35
A funny thing sometimes happens to me when I’m typing on my computer keyboard. Let’s say I’m going to type the word, freedom
. Before my mind can think about it, my hands are typing my favorite word that begins with the letters fr
Or, as I’m thinking say, jeans
, I actually type Jesus
It’s as though I’ve programmed my will (and my slow typing hands) by the things I most commonly think and write about. And even when I’m thinking of writing one thing, I'm apt to write another.Our human will is a mechanism which we can guide or influence by the thoughts, habits, and practices we feed into it
. This can
But it can also be dangerous, like the guy who programmed himself not to stop for red lights and once, when there was a car coming down the intersecting road, accidentally stepped on the gas pedal when he meant to hit the brake. He had so programmed his will to ignore red lights that he nearly got killed. If we feed our wills the wrong habits and the wrong information, our wills will soon control us and not the other way around
I bring all of this up because our short Bible lesson for today, Luke 13:31-35, presents a clash of many different wills. And it has a lot to teach us about our own wills
In the opening verse of our lesson, we’re told, “some Pharisees came and said to him [Jesus], ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’” If you have the lesson in front of you in our bulletin or if you have your Bible with you, underline the word wants
That word in the original Greek of the New Testament is theleo
, meaning I will, I want,
or I desire
The Pharisees are saying that it’s Herod’s will to kill Jesus. They’re warning Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem, where Herod can get his hands on Jesus and have Him executed.
And what exactly is the will of these Pharisees here? Most of the Pharisees hated Jesus because He said that life with God isn’t earned by jumping through religious hoops, that salvation is a gift granted to all who turn from sin and follow Christ.
Some Bible scholars suggest that these
Pharisees liked Jesus. Maybe. But it seems likelier to me that they were similar to the character Rex, the dinosaur in Toy Story
. When asked to decide between following Woody or Buzz Lightyear as his leader, Rex tells the other toys, “I don’t like confrontation.”
The Pharisees may have wanted to avoid a confrontation between Jesus and Herod for fear that if it happened, the bloodthirsty Herod would make life harder for everybody else, including them.
Whatever the Pharisees' motives, in trying to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem, they were going against God’s will for Jesus’ life. Jesus had become human so that He could go to a cross, a sinless Savior accepting our punishment for sin and so, allowing the repentant who believe in Him to live with God forever
. Even if their motives were kindly, the Pharisees were trying to thwart Jesus from fulfilling the will of the Father.
The Pharisees may have wanted the sort of Messiah...
who would do their will,But the Christian life revolves around surrendering to the God we know in Jesus Christ with a simple, daily plea, “God, Your will, and not my own, be done!”
who would let them live with their sins of pride and self-will,
who wouldn’t go to a cross or call people to crucify their sins so that they could be made new by God.
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees is emphatic. Read what He tells them next:
“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!’”
One word left untranslated, though implied, in this part of our lesson is the Greek term, dei
. It means, it is necessary
. (Not to be confused with the Latin
term that can be seen in the phrase, Gloria Dei
, which means Glory to God
, dei [and deo] meaning God in Latin.) Jesus says, “It is necessary
that I cast out demons, perform cures, and on the third day finish my work.” It was necessary for Jesus to do the will of the Father, He says. He refused to consider any other option
But Jerusalem, which here represents the whole rebellious human race, especially those who wear the robes of righteousness and religiosity to cover their self-will, has other ideas. Jerusalem--the world, you and I--wants to go its own way. We want to pursue the sins of ignoring God and looking out for number one. We don’t want a Savior Who comes to save us from sin. We want a King Who will tell us, “Do whatever you want; I won’t stand in your way.”
Jesus compares Himself to a mother hen who wants to protect her chicks from sin and death. (And faith-killing foxes like Herod.) But the chicks want to scurry away from God.
Jesus here speaks of the clash of wills that goes on between Him and us: “How often have I desired
, which once more is that Greek word theleo
--to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing
--underline not willing
again.Speaking for myself, I admit that lots of the time, I want just enough of Christ to be saved, but not so much of Him that my life is changed; enough of Christ that He will hear my prayers, but not enough for people to think that I'm weird
But we really don't have a choice in this matter: We will either have all of Christ or we will have none of Him
That doesn’t mean that we’ll be perfect. It means simply that we're surrendered to Christ’s will for our lives.
So how do we do that? How do we surrender to Christ?It begins by allowing our wills to be reprogrammed by Christ
. Reprogramming our wills isn’t easy.
These days, I’m praying for Josh Hamilton
. Hamilton is a twenty-five year old baseball player with all sorts of talent: a fielder with a cannon for an arm, a hitter who can stroke for average and power, a runner who's quick and smart on the base paths.
But several years back, after signing a huge rookie contract, Josh Hamilton got involved with drugs. His addictions were destroying him. He finally got into a Twelve Step-program and has been clean for eighteen months.
But someone on sports radio the other day said that if Hamilton were at the microphone at that moment, he probably would say that he’s been clean for a day, that
Josh Hamilton’s will was programmed by drugs and now, day by day, each day, he must reprogram himself in order to stay clean.Similarly, you and I must live in what Martin Luther called “daily repentance and renewal” in order to reprogram ourselves to remain clean of the stain of sin, to stay away from the habits that rob us of joy, peace, hope, and a relationship with God
. (I find that I have to do that moment by moment, not just day by day!)The Bible says that we reprogram our wills by letting Christ fill our thinking
At the beginning of Romans 12, the apostle Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In Philippians 2, Paul challenges us to have Christ’s mind in us.
Young people, that may mean ignoring the hype of the crowd and instead, obeying the parents God has given to you.
Older folks, that may mean saying no to that second cookie--something I find very hard to do--in order to take care of the body God has given you.
For all of us, it will mean deliberately displacing sinful thoughts--thoughts that don’t express love for God and love for neighbor--and replacing them with thoughts from God.If we don’t fill our minds with Christ, what’s going on inside of us will become manifest, no matter what fake face we try to show the world
Once, I was deeply angry with someone. Instead of dealing with it by talking first with God and, then, if necessary, with the person, I stewed over all the things I wanted to say to let the other person have it. This went on for weeks. My will was becoming programmed to spew a Mount Vesuvius of venom. That’s exactly what happened. After I finally let loose on this person, I found out that my anger was completely unfounded. But I did great damage to our friendship.
A friend of mine is blessed with a magnetic personality. Everybody seems to take an immediate liking to him. That’s the sort of thing that could go to your head if you weren’t programmed to do God’s will. My friend, a layperson, uses this facility for making friends not to get things for himself. Instead, as he befriends and listens to people, he becomes a trusted confidante and is able to comfortably and credibly speak to his friends of what Jesus Christ means to him, pray with them, and sometimes, invite them to worship with him. He's able to do this because every day, my friend programs his will to put Jesus Christ first in his daily life
Reprogramming our wills isn’t
easy. It’s a day by day process.
It also isn’t very glamorous.
No weeks in rehab with Britney.Just seven simple things that can help replace all the other idols and lies on which we may be tempted to build our lives with the one true God of the universe revealed to us through Jesus Christ
No time on the beach at Cozumel.
No climbing a mountain to consult with a guru.
- studying God’s Word;
- regular worship;
- inviting others to follow Christ with us;
- encouraging others;
- serving in Jesus’ Name; and
- giving to Christ’s mission in the world.
When we adopt these seven habits, the will of God becomes paramount in our lives.
And something else happens: We see Christ working in our lives and in the life of the world
Of Jesus, Who becomes apparent in our lives, we can say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord
You might, in fact, want to underline those very words in our lesson today. From time to time this week, look at those underlined words and then offer this simple prayer, “God: Reprogram my will so that people see Christ in me every single day.”