The Godforsaken city. 13:31-35


In the face of a warning from the Pharisees that Herod is planning to kill him, Jesus explains that he exercises his messianic ministry under a divine imperative. He has an appointment to attend at Jerusalem and no second rate politician is going to stop him from keeping it. The appointment is, of course, the cross, and faced with its reality Jesus breaks into a lament for a city that is no longer his, a city unfit for God's mercy.

The passage

v31. The pharisees warn Jesus that Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Transjordan, is uneasy about him. Probably Herod is a bit worried that he has another John the Baptist on his hands.

v32. Jesus defiantly asserts the priority of his messianic mission, of his "day by day" journey to Jerusalem, and of its "completion". The "third day" means the "final day", the last day in the sequence of days. Jesus may be linking "the third day" with his resurrection, but it is more likely that this "final day" is his reaching Jerusalem and the "goal" of his high priestly consecration through death, resurrection and ascension, Heb.2:10, 5:9. Jesus' mission, in words and signs, stands over and above the intentions of "that fox", a third-rate political hack. Jesus' goal is to follow the way set before him by the Father and thus achieve "his consecration and enthronement into the messianic office", Earle Ellis.

v33. Jesus restates v32 underlining two points. First, his journey to Jerusalem is one determined by God, "it is necessary" and he cannot turn aside from it. Second, the journey will inevitably follow its course to suffering and death. Of course, prophets have died outside of Jerusalem, but Jesus ironically makes the point that it is "inappropriate" for a messenger from God, in particular this messenger, to be set upon and murdered outside of Jerusalem.
      v34. Jesus now utters a lament for Jerusalem. Although Jesus' words are directed toward Jerusalem, his focus is not just on the city and its inhabitants, but the people of Israel as a whole. The people of Israel have rejected their messiah. Jesus speaks as the prophet of the Lord, personalizing God's word to his people; his words are similar to Stephen's in Acts 6. The simple fact is that the people of Israel have continually rejected God's gracious kindness extended toward them through his prophets, and now they reject this kindness in Jesus.

v35. Jesus concludes with a prophetic word of doom for the people of Israel. The imagery Jesus uses is of the departure of God's glorious presence from the temple. The final state of a rebellious people of God is the withdrawal of his Spirit from their midst. Jesus would soon enter Jerusalem for the last time and on that day the disciples would affirm the kingship of Christ in the words of Psalm 118:26. These words were sung at the enthronement of David, along with the other kings of the Davidic line and they will be sung again for Jesus as he enters the throne room of the Ancient of Days for his coronation. There is a mystical sense where, not just rebellious Israel, but all mankind will witness this moment and proclaim the words, but at the same time weep, for it is all too late; for Israel, for all humanity, "her house is forsaken".

The way of glory

Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem, the way of glory through suffering and death. This pathway, on the one hand, radiated God's sovereign rule, but on the other hand, it involved rejection by the very people Jesus had come to save. So, in facing the threats of a pompous second-rate politician, Jesus saw little point in diverting from his ministry plan. In the divine scheme, Herod was little more than background noise. The divine imperative is what mattered. Yet, as Jesus looked beyond Herod and his political antics, he saw the city of Zion, Jerusalem, God's own city; and what he saw was the rejection, persecution and murder of Israel's messiah. So, in the words of a lament Jesus announces that Jerusalem is a city forsaken; "God no longer has his home among you."

I have finally reached what my mates call the death zone. They are kindly referring to my age, the big 70. I can't quite believe I have ticked up the years so quickly, but they have ticked up. In those passing years, what I have noticed most is change. Sydney is the largest city in Australia, but when I first went to work with my father is his Rover 75, Sydney had no traffic lights, just police on traffic duty, one at North Sydney, and a few along George Street in the center of the city. In those days the traffic moved, now it's gridlock all day. When I was a young man the values of the Bible were generally accepted by the wider community, but slowly the godless isms of our age have taken root. I never thought I would see the day when marriage would be viewed as anything other than the union of a man and woman under God. Yet, that day has come.

We, the church, are Christ to the world. As his disciples we have the honor to serve as he served; we have our mission, our pathway to travel. So it is that, following the word of the Master, we proclaim the gospel far and wide, through the media, missions and face to face. Where we have the opportunity we make known the manual for life, God's guide to a happy life, the Bible, and also, where we have the opportunity, we give a helping hand to those in need. Yet, above all, we show the way of salvation to a broken humanity - we set the pathway.

As we witness the pompous strutting of secular society, the cajoling of institutions, particularly the church, to adopt the Godless ethic of our age, we need to remember that God's sovereign rule, his bringing all things in heaven and earth under the lordship of Christ, proceeds unaffected by mere human posturing. Oh yes, there will be trouble. As Christ was set upon, so we will be set upon. The fading glory of Western society, founded on the Reformation, now financially and morally bankrupt, is sadly becoming a city forsaken; "God no longer has his home among you." Despite this, the pathway remains.

Herod, "that fox", mattered little in the scheme of things; the divine imperative is all that mattered. For some, that imperative led to glory; for many, it led to abandonment. So it is for us.


1. Discuss the idea of placing ourselves in the center of God's will.

2. Identify the dangers of living within a forsaken city.

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