In His Own Time
By Dr. Randy L. Hyde
Luke seems to have a time fetish. Everywhere you turn in his gospel, you find him referring to what time it is.
Wednesday night, in our midweek Bible study, we considered Luke’s third chapter. He begins by telling us who was in charge when John the Baptist arrived on the wilderness scene. It was the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius the emperor, we are informed. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was ruler of Galilee, his brother Philip was in charge of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias held down the fort over in Abilene (sounds like a Louis L’Amour novel, doesn’t it?). Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. Why all the names? Why go into such detail? What’s the point?
Luke wants us to know what time it was in history when the whole thing – this incredible story surrounding Jesus of Nazareth – began to unfold. He doesn’t want there to be any misunderstandings as to when it all began. Luke has a time fetish.
Let’s follow that idea and see where it takes us…
Later, at the end of chapter twelve we find Jesus giving harsh predictions of what is going to come about. He warns, in John the Baptist fashion, that for those who follow him it will get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. And then, as we open chapter thirteen, we find Luke telling us, “At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” “At that very time…” Then, in verse thirty-one, which is the opening of our text today, Luke says, “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him…”
I’m telling you, Luke has a time fetish!
But so does Jesus.
For once, the Pharisees seem to be wanting to help Jesus, not oppose him. Did you notice that? They say to him – at that very hour, remember – “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And Jesus, in response, basically says to them, “Tell that fox Herod to mind his own business. That’s what I’m doing, and I’ll do what I have to do when I’m good and ready and there’s nothing he can do about it.” Now, he didn’t say it exactly that way, but read it again for yourself and see if my paraphrase is wrong.
Jesus marched to his own beat, kept his own time, and when he thought the occasion called for it was willing to talk trash even with Herod. Luke’s got nothing on Jesus when it comes to the marking of time. And at that very moment, his time has not yet come.
The ninth chapter of Luke – specifically verse fifty-one – is the turning point in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Do you know what it says? It’s the time in which Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The point is unmistakable and cannot be misunderstood. Jesus is determined to confront his adversaries in the Holy City. That is the city that kills its prophets. He knows what will happen there, and is bent on eventually bringing things to a head. But he will do it in his own time.
And that is why he doesn’t head straight for Jerusalem. He circles around, teaching here, teaching there, healing folk, casting out demons (he mentions that specifically), conducting his ministry. Jesus will get to Jerusalem in his own time.
We ought to be able to understand that. No one is in a hurry to get to the gallows. You can just see his disciples and the band of followers who traveled with him. They looked like the Israelites wandering around in the wilderness, following their Moses, on the way to their very own exodus.1
That’s when the Pharisees come to warn him about Herod. And Jesus, so defiant in his attitude, tells them to tell Herod that the confrontation will come when the time is right. Not sooner, not later… in his own time.
Brave talk from a man who then proceeds to use a metaphor that comes across as both feminine and weak.
“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!”
Not a rooster, but a hen!
A couple of weeks ago, my brother Steve told you about my boyhood battle with wasps. Well, they weren’t the only predators on our place. One year, during Holy Week, my dad came home with a package. It had holes in it, with little sounds coming from inside. When he showed us our Easter surprise, to our delight we found three little chicks, one for each of us three boys. One was dyed red, one blue, and the other was yellow.
I don’t remember which one I chose. Being the youngest, I probably got the one Steve and Hugh did not want, no doubt the yellow one. Over time, theirs grew into hens, and near the end of their usefulness as egg-layers eventually found their way into one of Mom’s supper pots. Such was the inevitable fate of the chickens at our house.
My cute little Easter chick grew into a big ol’ mean black rooster, which insured for him a longer life span because roosters were less plentiful and had, shall we say, a certain usefulness. Long after their hens were gone my rooster still ruled the roost, so to speak. And even though I had nurtured it and loved it from the first day, it took an intense disliking to me. When I would walk out into the yard by myself, the rooster would jump on my back and commence to pecking the back of my head. Which is why I got into the practice of making sure every time I went outside I had my dog to accompany me. When the dog was with me that rooster acted like he never saw me.
I told my dad about it, and he would just laugh… until one day when he saw it for himself. I walked outside and before I could even call my dog the rooster went for his prey. He jumped on my back and started pecking. This time my dad saw what was happening, came running, grabbed that rooster by the neck, twirled it around a couple of times, and snapped its head clean off.
We had rooster for supper that night.
A rooster will defend its territory and protect its brood to the bitter end with all the ferocity it can muster. A hen will cower down, spread out her wings, protect her young as best she can, but sit vulnerably while the fox attacks. A hen, in other words, will give up her own life to protect her brood.
First, Jesus calls Herod a fox. Then, in the next breath, he uses the image for himself of a hen protecting her brood. And what is the natural enemy of a hen? A fox.
Barbara Brown Taylor asks, “How do you like that image of God? If you are like me, it is fine in terms of comfort, but in terms of protection it leaves something to be desired.”2
Why do you think Jesus saw himself more as a defenseless hen than he did an aggressive rooster, especially in light of his willingness to stand up to that wily fox Herod? It was his nature to want to protect and love God’s children, for that is the nature of God, and it is why Jesus died on that cross.
But he was going to do it in his own time. No one else was going to determine when it would happen. Not Herod, not Pilate, not the High Priest. Only Jesus. And in his own time.
There are going to be people running by our church this morning. Some will be going quite fast, especially the Kenyans who no doubt will come through first and finish before everybody else. Others will be quite slow, biding their time. Some will even be walking. For them, the point is to finish, not set a record. But all of them – every last one – will no doubt feel a sense of completion, will exult in a form of redemption as a result of their training and effort.
Jesus would probably relate more to the plodders than to the speedsters. He is not in a hurry to get to Jerusalem, but he will get there… in his own time. And when he does, he will do it for you and me, covering us with his wings of protection, assuring us of a place in God’s heart.
Why don’t we go with him? Why don’t we determine this morning that we will journey to Jerusalem with our Lord? And as we do, let’s do it in his time.
May we go with you to the place of sacrifice, O Lord, where you took all the world under your wing. And there may we find redemption and love. Through Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.
1Jason Byasee, “What Jesus Wants,” Pulpit Resource: Vol. 35, No. 1, Year C: January, February, March 2007, p. 38.
2Barbara Brown Taylor, Bread of Angels (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications,
Copyright 2007 Randy L. Hyde. Used by permission.