At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ 32He 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. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” 34Jerusalem, 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! 35See, 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.”’
Translation: At that hour, some pharisees came to him, saying, "Go out and journey elsewhere, for Herod wishes to kill you." And he said to them, "Go tell that fox, 'Behold, I am throwing out demons and accomplishing healings today and the next day, and the third I will be brought to the goal. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to journey today and the next day and the one following for it is not allowed for a prophet to be destroyed away from Jerusalem.'"
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones the ones sent to it. How I wished to gather your children even as a hen her brood under her wing and you did not desire (it). Behold! Your house is left to you. I say to you that you surely may not see me until it will come that you may say, 'Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.'"
Jesus has been on his way to Jerusalem since 9:51, and he is not going to be dissauded from that course. He is leaving the region of Galilee anyway, but, in the face of a threat from Herod Antipas, he makes clear that he will do so in his own way and on his own timetable.
"Some pharisees" bring the warning: Herod wants to kill you. Some have suggested that Herod might have sent the pharisees to Jesus in order to encourage the troublesome Jesus to get out of his territory, but this seems unlikely. Luke treats the pharisees more positively than does Mark or Matthew. In Mark, the pharisees and Herodians conspire together early (Mk 3:6). Matthew, for his part, issues a lengthy diatribe against the pharisees (Mat 23).
This is not to say that Luke doesn't take a hard line on the pharisees--he does--but not so much as Mark or Matthew. In Luke, pharisees invite Jesus to dinner (7:36, 11:37, 14:1). In Acts, some pharisees are identified as "believers" (Acts 15:5), and, of course, Acts takes a positive view of the pharisee, Paul. So when Luke tells us that "some pharisees" came to Jesus to encourage him to save his life by leaving Galilee, it is most likely that this was a friendly warning and not some kind of trick.
Jesus and the pharisees had quite a bit in common. The pharisees were a reform party. They were not in favor of dishing off the practice of Judaism to the Temple alone. They were in favor of Jews living the Torah all the time in daily life. As God cared for creation 24/7, they would live the law 24/7. Jesus and the pharisees shared a common devotion to God which, they both believed, could be lived out in daily life.
The rub came in how it was lived out. The pharisees grounded their devotion in Torah and living the law as a way of life. Jesus, on the other hand, identified with the prophetic tradition. In Luke, the beginning of Jesus' public ministry is marked by strong prophetic identification (4:16-30). In fact, Jesus again identifies with the prophetic tradition in our text this week. In the prophetic tradition, the "spirit" of the law trumps the "letter" of it.
Though the pharisees as a whole are identified as enemies of Jesus in all four gospels, they do not make an appearance in the actual passion narrative in Luke. This is probably true to actual history. The pharisees were more of an influence outside of Jerusalem than in it. Inside Jerusalem, the prime movers behind the assassination of Jesus were Sadducees and Temple bureaucrats. At the time of Jesus' death, two-thirds of the membership of the Sanhedrin was Sadducee, only one-third pharisee.
Jesus calls Herod a "fox." Foxes may be crafty and clever, but they are not very powerful. Jesus dismisses Herod as a mere varmint. True, Herod Antipas, the tetrach of Galilee and Perea, could be dangerous. He had beheaded John the Baptist (9:9), for example. On the other hand, he was a small fry compared to the concentration of power in Jerusalem.
Jesus tells the pharisees that he is not going to alter his plans on account of Herod. He is on his way out of Galilee and toward Jerusalem, but he will not hurry his timetable or change his local mission just because of Herod's threats. "Behold," he says, "I am throwing out demons and accomplishing healings today and the next day, and the third."
These three days are mentioned twice. Tannehill argues, persausively, that they are the same three days. In the first set, Jesus says that he "will be brought to the goal." The word is teleioumai, which is based in telos, which means "end, goal, consummation." NRSV has "finish my work," which would indicate that Jesus is referring to his ministry in Galilee. Teleioumai, however, should probably be translated as "brought to my goal," which is more likely to refer to Jerusalem. It is where he's been heading since 9:51.
This observation is supported by the second mention of the same three days in verse 33: "Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to journey today and the next day and the one following for it is not allowed for a prophet to be destroyed away from Jerusalem." In this case, the "goal" is clearly Jerusalem. Moreover, he goes there by divine imperative--dei, it is necessary, the same word used in 9:51. Schweizer: "This is Jesus great freedom, that all he does and its appointed end belong to God. That is the sense of 'consummate.'" (p. 230)
In verses 31-33, the word for "journey"--poreuo--is used three times. The pharisees tell Jesus to "journey elsewhere." Jesus tells them to "go"--poreuthentes--back to Herod. In verse 33, it is necessary for him "to journey" to Jerusalem. Luke likes this concept. "Journeying" occurs 88 times in Luke and Acts. Indeed, the entire corpus of Luke/Acts is a "journey," if you will, from Jesus' humble beginnings in Bethlehem to Paul's arrival in the capital of the Empire.
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones the ones sent to it. How I wished to gather your children even as a hen her brood under her wing and you did not desire (it). Behold! Your house is set free from you. I say to you that you surely may not see me until it will come that you may say, 'Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.'"
Verses 33-34 are virtually identical to Matthew 23:37-38. In Matthew, they are the culmination of a long diatribe against the pharisees. In Luke, they are specifically condemnatory toward Jerusalem and everything it represents.
Thus far in Luke, prophets are vulnerable in their own hometown (4:24), they are blessed even though persecuted (6:22-23), and they are victims of the lawyers who build tombs for the prophets they kill (11:47-51). Now, the death of prophets, with whom Jesus firmly identifies, is laid upon the doorstep of the Holy City itself. As Tannehill puts it, "Jesus is the prophet and Jerusalem is the killer."
Jerusalem is particularly important to Luke. He mentions Jerusalem 90 times in Luke/Acts. In the rest of the New Testament, Jerusalem is mentioned only 49 times. For Luke, Jerusalem is the symbolic center of Judaic culture. As Joel Green remarks, Jerusalem "performs a world-ordering function for the world Luke portrays." It represents Israel as a whole.
The Greek word thelo appears three times in the lection. The word means "will, desire, want, wish." In the first usage, Herod "wishes" to kill Jesus. In the second, Jesus "wished" to gather the children of Jerusalem under his wing. In the third, those children "did not desire" it. The "desires" of Herod, Jerusalem, and Jesus are conflicted and in competition with each other.
As a result, their "house" is "left"--aphiami--to them. "House" may refer to the Temple, but more likely refers to the entire "household" of Jerusalem. (This is a bit softer than the parallel in Matthew, which adds the word "desolate.")
The lection concludes: "I say to you that you surely may not see me until it will come that you may say, 'Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.'" This does not refer to Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of what we call Holy Week. It was not the inhabitants of Jerusalem that welcomed him on that day, but rather the "multitude of the disciples."
Rather, the saying refers to recognition of Jesus as Messiah. Jerusalem will not see Jesus properly until they recognize him as the one sent from God. Tannehill argues that Jesus is speaking for God in verses 35. Jerusalem's divine protection will depart--their house is left to them--and that protection will not return until Jerusalem blesses the true Messiah.
This is a flicker of good news. The possibility is left open that such recognition may yet occur. Jerusalem is being given clear warning, yet the invitation is still open. Yet, while Jesus clearly "desires" that Jerusalem change its ways, he does not expect it to do so, and indeed, it did not.
Nevertheless, in 24:47, the Risen Jesus tells the disciples "that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." The resurrection upends everything, and gives hope even to obdurate Jerusalem.