Where it Comes From

I was in a gift shop at a theater once, and one of the things for sale was a poster that said something like “You may not think you know Shakespeare, but if you have ever said you were “in a pickle,” or that your kids were “eating you out of house and home,” if you’ve ever worried about being a “laughing-stock” or noticed that one of your batteries was “as dead as a doornail” you were quoting Shakespeare. The list went on and on. It’s amazing how many of our common phrases come from the pen of a man who lived about 400 years ago.

The Bible can top that though. One of the joys of leading Disciple Bible Study is watching how amazed people often are to discover that the Bible is where many of our common phrases come from. Have you ever “seen the handwriting on the wall,” or been “at your wit’s end?” Have you ever felt like you were hanging on “by the skin of your teeth” or that your income was only a “drop in the bucket?” Well now you may be quoting someone who lived and wrote more than 2500 years ago. It’s amazing how enduring the words of some people can be, and how often we say things without realizing where they have come from.

Quite a few years ago now, we were on a family vacation. Our kids were fairly little, and we were traveling through some mountain areas. We generally mean to have a relaxing time on our vacations, but we are often so tempted to see all the sights there are to see in any given area that we tend to be a bit over ambitious sometimes in what can be done in a single day. This vacation was one of those times. We had a number of things planned, and when I called the hotel to make a reservation, I told them that we would likely be arriving quite late. I told them I wanted to guarantee our room for a late arrival. I asked them if they had an hour beyond which we could not arrive, and they assured me that someone was on duty at the front desk 24 hours a day, and they would be there to greet us no matter what time we arrived. Well as it happened, we arrived even later than I had thought we might. Not only had we had a full day, and not only were we traveling on windy, dark mountain roads, but we were also in an amazing thunder storm that poured down rain on us, so the going was very slow. We had all been in the car together much too long, and we were all very tired, and the thought of getting to climb into nice warm beds at the hotel was very appealing.

When we finally arrived, Mark volunteered to be the one who braved the rain to go into the lobby and check us in. The girls and I were talking for awhile, when one of them looked over at the glass doors of the hotel. She could see inside the lobby, and she said, “Oh, oh, Dad doesn’t look happy.” All four heads swiveled over to the window, through which we could see Mark gesturing. He wasn’t looking violent or rude or anything, but he was kind of gesturing in an emphatic way, like this…….Finally, he came back out through the rain, and said “They gave away our room.” Now I suppose this would have been a good time to remain quiet, but I was tired and worried about where we were going to sleep, and I said “How could they give away our room? I guaranteed it for late arrival.” He said “I know that.” I said “Guaranteed for late arrival means they save it for you no matter what time you come because they get paid whether you show up or not.” He said “I know that. They know that. But the storm was so bad that some people who had not planned to spend the night here decided to stop here, and we were so late that they thought maybe we had stopped somewhere else, and they gave away the room.” Suddenly I had visions of spending the night in a freezing cold car, or having to drive on for hours through the dark and the rain. But then Mark offered a ray of hope. He said “The good news is they called around, and there is another hotel not far from here. They have a room. In fact it’s not just a room, its two rooms and a living room, and they’ve worked out a deal, and we can have it for the same price.” That sounded great, so on we drove.

When we finally arrived at the next place, the kids ran in ahead. As promised, there was a little living room, and two bedrooms. But then we heard “Oh oh.” Not enough beds. We had asked for two queen size beds and a roll away. One of our daughters was an extremely restless sleeper, and her sisters always wanted her to have her own bed. What we got was two small double beds, and no roll away. “No problem” I said. “They probably just didn’t know we needed the roll away. I’ll call and get one.” Well there was a problem, because the desk clerk said they didn’t have any roll-aways. He sounded rather annoyed. They didn’t have any extra pillows or blankets in the room either, because they generally expected only 4 people to be there. He didn’t sound like he was going to offer much help, and in exasperation I blurted out “I have three children under my wing, and now one of them doesn’t have a bed.” As the words were leaving my lips, I thought they sounded rather odd, and that was confirmed when all 4 heads now swiveled towards me, with looks of astonishment on their faces. “Where did THAT come from?” one of my daughters asked. I didn’t know. I couldn’t explain why I said it. It sounded really silly, and they have teased me about it for years. But in one of those Disciple classes, I came across our scripture passage for today. Jesus said “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” So THAT’s where it came from. I was quoting Jesus. That’s not foolish. That’s good. Although I had to admit that what I said still sounded foolish. What he said was far from it.

Jesus had been saying some strange things lately himself. People had been wondering about what he had said. He’d been talking about entering through narrow doors, he’d been talking about weeping and gnashing of teeth, he’d been talking in parables, and he’d been talking to his disciples about being killed. Some people were amazed by him, some people were threatened by him, and a lot of people wanted to know where all of these things he said were coming from.

So here he is on his way to Jerusalem, and some Pharisees come to warn him to “Get away” from there, because Herod wants to kill him. It’s interesting that these are Pharisees. So often we read in the Bible that they are in opposition to Jesus. Why would they want to warn him to flee Herod? There is some suspicion that there were Pharisees that just wanted him to go away, and making this threat might just make him do it. But not all Pharisees were bad. In fact, some were quite fond of Jesus, and may in fact have genuinely wanted to warn him. His response is interesting. He says “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.” Jesus calls Herod a fox, and makes reference to himself as a mother hen. You know when a fox gets into a hen house, bad things are going to happen. A mother hen may gather her brood under her wings, she may look bigger and hide her babies, but if a fox is in the henhouse, that mother hen is in trouble. She may succeed in sheltering her babies, but she will probably be sacrificed in the process.

In any case, Jesus doesn’t sound worried about Herod, just annoyed. He sounds like he is much too busy to take the time to worry about Herod. He has work to do. And on the third day, it will be finished. He also sounds like Herod isn’t even capable of disrupting these plans. Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem, the city where the temple is, the city of faith, the city that kills the prophets. That’s where he must go. His sorrow is not for himself. His sorrow is for the people of Jerusalem. His care for them is compassionate and poignant. Like a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings, he has wanted to gather them, but they would not listen. Now they will be left to their own devices. Like little chicks who did not come running when the mother called, there will be terrible consequences. Anyone who has ever watched a love one take a wrong path, anyone who has ever seen someone self destructing through the choices they make in their lives, knows how painful this can be. Jesus is in mourning for the people whom he loves and wants to care for. Yet there is still hope. Jesus says the day is coming when the people will see him again, and then they will say “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Last week we talked about temptation, and how even Jesus was tempted, but he showed us how to deal with our temptations. Today we see Jesus disappointed in others. He had wanted so much more for them. We get disappointed too, don’t we? Sometimes about little petty things, and sometimes about some pretty serious things. And again, Jesus offers us a model of how to respond. He doesn’t let his disappointment distract him from what God has called him to do. And he doesn’t lose hope, because ultimately, he knows that God’s ways will triumph.

During this Lenten season, we are asked to consider our own relationship with faith, and with the message that Jesus has for us. May we bold in our examination of our lives, may we listen well, and may we respond to the tender care of a God who offers us protection and love, even at the risk of the life of God’s own son. Amen

Where it Comes From

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