Luke 13:31-35. For Feb. 21, 2016
I love chickens. Most people love chickens roasted, or fried, or baked in sauce. I like them that way, but I love them when they are alive. I raised them when I was a kid. I had fancy chickens that laid blue shelled eggs, I had the regular brown hens, a few leghorns, and many fat broilers. I gathered eggs, crowed at the roosters, and set hens on nests to hatch out chicks. I spent hours watching chickens interact, figured out the "pecking order", taught a rooster to fly up onto my arm, and sold eggs. It was a great hobby and learning experience for a kid.
I think it's my experiences with chickens that draws me to this story of Jesus in Luke. Here are a couple of short "chicken stories" that help me understand the Luke piece.
When a mother hen senses danger, she crouches down, holds her wings out slightly from her body, and calls. The chicks instantly run to hide under her wings. She shelters them, holding very still and hoping the danger (hawk or other predator) won't see her.
I once had a hen that hatched out 5 duck eggs. When the hen sensed danger (maybe saw our dog or a cat) she would call out. Unlike chicks, however, ducklings scatter when their mother sounds an alarm. (I guess it works when you are on a pond...) My poor hen ran all over the pen desperately trying to gather her "chicks" but they did not listen. She was the most distraught and confused chicken I ever saw!
Another time, I let a mother hen with small chicks out into the yard so they could hunt for insects. I was across the yard when our dog noticed them and started to check out one of the little chicken nuggets. The hen squawked, the chicks ran for the shelter of her wings. When the dog kept on coming, that hen didn't hesitate, she attacked the dog. She flapped right into it's face, making as much horrible chicken screamy noise as she could. Surprisingly, the dog backed off.
The story Jesus tells is amazing. He longs to shelter the people of Jerusalem and is distraught that they scatter despite his efforts. He is willing to give his life for the sake of his children, willing to face down an impossible opponent to give us a chance to find and accept shelter.
A chicken is an unlikely hero, but so is Jesus. He has no selfish ambition. He serves God, refuses to use coercion, and offers himself up as a sacrifice so that others may live. He made a lot of noise with his life too, inviting people to take up what he offered, and also scaring those who held power.
Another interesting bit with this scripture comes in verse 31. Some of the pharisees warn Jesus that Herod is out to get him. They encourage him to flee Jerusalem. Jesus could run, he could leave like the mother hen could leave, but that is not his nature. He is protective. I like seeing this side of the pharisees too. Just like we don`t expect courage from a chicken, we might not expect co-operation from a pharisee. So often they are portrayed as the enemy of Jesus, but here we see something else. Here we have to recognize that there were pharisees, likely many, who followed Jesus. It's a great reminder to think around the stereotypes, to be open to seeing more than we expect in people.
Finally, another bit that I enjoy, is that Jesus calls Herod an"old fox" just before he refers to himself as a mother hen. He knows there is a fox in the hen house. He knows what will happen. And he still offers himself. Amazing.