(A) Introduction. Read: Luke13v31to35

This short passage brings a severe chapter to a severe end! It makes uncomfortable reading. I will deal with these concluding verses under six headings in an attempt to make a passage very much of its time relevant for today.

(B) Conspiracy.

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." v31.

It is difficult what to make of the Pharisees' warning! I have three observations:

(1) Some genuinely God-loving Pharisees, men like Nicodemus, were sympathetic to Jesus. Perhaps some of these heard a rumour that Herod, the puppet ruler of Perea and Galilee, was plotting to kill Jesus. So they came and warned Jesus of Herod's intent.

However, it is unlikely that righteous Pharisees would have much to do with Herod Antipas. He was not a pure-blooded Jew. His father, Herod the Great, was half Edomite. Herod Antipas was also hand in glove with the Romans and therefore compromised in the eyes of devotees of God's Law. It seems unlikely that Pharisees who supported Jesus would know much about Herod's plans.

(2) There is no Scriptural evidence that Herod was bitterly antagonistic to Jesus. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod during his trial. Luke records: When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. Lk23v8. Herod did not send Jesus back to Pilate with a recommendation of death. From that time he and Pilate became friends - doubtless because they both agreed that Jesus had done nothing deserving the death penalty.

(3) It seems likely that the Pharisees who approached Jesus were no friends of his. Mark informs us that when Jesus healed the man with a withered arm on the Sabbath: Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mk3v6. The Herodians were a political group who supported Herod Antipas - and may have included some Pharisees. We know that most of the Pharisees hated John the Baptist (See Lk20v1to8) and so may have supported his execution. It is not improbable that a select group were confidents of Herodias who was guilty of engineering the Baptist's death. Herodias may have worried about her husband's growing interest in Jesus. Herod had not wanted to kill John. He was intrigued by the gaunt prophet and desperately wanted to discuss religion with his successor - Jesus. This was not what Herodias wanted. She considered the influence of these religious zealots pernicious. So she sent her agents to warn Jesus off - to get him out of her husband's territories of Galilee and Perea.

This view is substantiated by what Jesus said: "Go tell that vixen ..... ." This is like saying: "Go tell the bitch ..... ." Jesus uses the word for a she fox. He does so because he knows who is behind the warning - not Herod but his wife.


(1) There are a vocal number of secularists who want to rid Britain of Jesus. They are keen to remove all reference to him. They even want to take the Christ out of Christmas. I know of atheist parents who steer their children away from Christian influences lest they become contaminated. And they have the nerve to accuse Christians of brainwashing their offspring! There appears to be an attempt on the part of some activists to inhibit Christians from witnessing for Jesus.

(2) Here is a reminder of the damage women can do behind the scenes. They tend not to be confrontational at church business meetings preferring to work mischief in private. A woman can achieve her end and make trouble in the church by giving her husband a good working over! Others intrigue with allies and admirers.

(C) Contempt.

(1) Jesus had no time for Herod Antipas. He wouldn't answer a single question Herod put to him at his trial such was his disgust with him. He doesn't address Herod on receiving the warning from the Pharisees. Jesus doesn't send a message to the wily fox but to the dangerous vixen. There is no better way to show contempt for someone than to ignore them.

The reason for Jesus' attitude to Herod is be found in the account of John the Baptist's death in Mark6. Herod actually respected and liked John. Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. Mk6v20. Yet he killed John - at the instigation of the vixen Herodias who hated the prophet. Herod killed John so as not to lose face after promising his dancing stepdaughter up to half his kingdom. She asked for John's head on a plate and so not to lose face - because of his oath and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her (Mk6v26) - Herod ordered John's execution.

Herod was the most dangerous of rulers. He was without principle. He lacked morality. He did what was expedient. In this respect both he and Pilate were alike.

Make NO mistake: God always hates it when we refuse to do the right to avoid losing face and to protect our reputation. Yet this happens far more than it should in church life.

(2) Jesus expressed extreme dislike and disapproval of Herodias. He called her a vixen because that is what she was. We still call women vixen who are aggressive, savage, cruel and persistent in defence of their own interests. Herodias exhibited all these traits in her vendetta against John the Baptist for questioning the legitimacy of her marriage to Herod Antipas who imprisoned the prophet for his wife's sake. Herodias was not content with this. Mark records: Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to , because Herod feared John and protected him. v19.

Herodias bided her time and when the opportunity arose she had the Baptist killed. Listen to the instruction she gave her daughter: "Go to Herod and say, 'I want you to give me RIGHT NOW the head of John the Baptist on a platter.'" v25.


(1) God does not look down benignly on men and women who, like Herod, lack integrity and are prepared to act wickedly in their own interest. It is a terrible thing to harm the innocent simply because it is expedient. Politicians beware!

(2) All who emulate the vixen Herodias and vex Christians out of malice and spite will one day get their reward! God will avenge his saints who have suffered cruelly at the hands of those who hate his Son.

(D) Control.

"'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day - for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!"

Jesus was not intimidated by threats from Herod or his vixen of a wife. He sent a message to his enemies to the effect that:

(1) He had work to do and he would complete it. No-one would stop him achieving his goal.

(2) His healing ministry was nearly over and shortly his mission would be complete.

(3) His purpose would be fulfilled in Jerusalem. This was the fitting place. The City of God had a long history of rejecting God's spokesmen. "Surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem," was a bitter irony.


None can thwart the purposes of God. Men might plot, fulminate, threaten, traduce and persecute but the Spirit is not quenched, the gospel loses none of its power and the church prevails.

            God is working His purpose out,
            As year succeeds to year:
            God is working His purpose out,
            And the time is drawing near:
            Nearer and nearer draws the time,
            The time that shall surely be
            When the earth shall be filled
            With the glory of God,
            As the waters cover the sea.

(E) Compassion.

G.B. Caird, in his Penguin New Testament Commentary on Luke, recognises that verses 34 and 35 pose a problem. It is much more appropriate for God to speak the words than Jesus.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you were not willing." v34.

Jesus knew the heart of God and makes this statement on behalf of his Father - but so keenly does he identify with God in the matter that he doesn't distinguish between himself and the Father in the sentiment expressed.

The lovely image of a mother hen gathering up her chicks and sheltering them under her wings in time of danger illustrates:

(1) God's love for and commitment to Israel. It is a love expressed poignantly and powerfully in Is49v15and16: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."

(2) God's desire to help his people in time of danger and difficulty. This is something the eight Levites referred to as they reviewed Israel's history after Nehemiah had rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem: "In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them." Neh9v15.

(3) God's willingness to restore his wayward people if only they will repent. Hosea wrote: Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. ....... . Then God will say: "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily." See Hos14v1to8

The triune God is deeply committed to all true believers in Jesus:

(1) Our loving heavenly father will provide for us. Paul wrote: If God be for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things. Rom8v31to32. See exposition on the Lord's Prayer.

(2) Jesus our great High Priest will never fail us. In the words of the writer to the Hebrews: Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Heb7v25. See exposition on Hebrews7.

(3) The Holy Spirit is our helper. Our heavenly assistant will be our counsellor and guide. Jesus said: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." John16v15. See my exposition on John16v5to16.

(F) Cussedness. 'But you were not willing.'

The Israelites had a long history of turning away from God and trusting to false Gods, ungodly allies and themselves. At the time of Jesus their confidence resided in their special status as God's chosen people. Their faith was not so much in God himself as in their descent from Abraham. John the Baptist told the crowds: "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." Lk3v8.

So God accused the Jewish people - as represented by their great city, Jerusalem, - "You who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you ..... ." v34. He held the Jews responsible for their actions. In the end they were guilty of rejecting God's Son - the very Messiah they longed for. The Jews took responsibility for Jesus death when they cried out at his trial before Pilate: "Let his blood be on us and on our children." Mt26v25. God held them accountable for these chilling words.


The synoptic gospels can make very uncomfortable reading. It is clear that Jesus laid great stress on man's responsibility and culpability. The apostle Paul on the other hand placed more emphasis on God's grace! Jesus leaves us in no doubt that men and women are responsible for rejecting him. When it comes down to it most people are unsaved because they are unwilling to commit their lives to Jesus. He did not say of the Jews, "You could not." But, "You would not." Those are the words Jesus will use to judge the unbelieving on that Last Great Day. See my story about Edmund Goss.

(G) Consequences

Jewish unbelief had bleak consequences:

(1) God abandoned them as a nation. "Look, your house is left to you desolate." v35.

(2) The situation would persist until they recognised Jesus for whom he is - the Christ - sent from God to be the Saviour of the World. "I tell you, you will not see me (God) again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" v35.

That day will come - but already there have been 2000 years of missed opportunity!


Everyone who wilfully rejects Jesus will be finally abandoned by God and lost forever. This is the plain teaching of Scripture. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. John3v36. See Article on 'Life and Death'.