If you are like most people, I imagine that you tend to just breeze right past Luke 13:31-35. At some level, it might come because it closes a chapter on repentance, an oft-misunderstood topic thanks to what the church typically teaches. Then again, it could be because it just sounds strange.
An Unexpected Scene
It starts with some of the religious elite who just want Jesus to go away telling Jesus that the Roman ruler Herod is out to kill him. Maybe they’re hoping Jesus will flee. Perhaps they want to get Jesus to say something inflammatory so they can hand him over to Rome and have him executed. Whatever the case, they recognize that Jesus is an increasing threat to their power and want him out of the picture. So they tell him that his life is in danger.
Imagine their surprise when Jesus agrees with them. Then he takes it to another level by telling them to go back to Herod with the timeline for his death. Specifically, that it will not happen until he finishes his journey to Jerusalem.
Then, in what seems like an odd break, Jesus starts lamenting over Jerusalem and her history. While his words are few, they are packed with quick references to the Hebrew Bible, each one, an invitation for his hears to reflect on a much bigger story. Through them, he alludes to a prediction of Israel abandoning God before reminding the people of when their ancestors formed with Egypt. Jesus teases at the provision and protection God repeatedly offers and the divine heartbreak whenever the people went their own way. According to Luke, he does it all knowing that just like all of God’s other offers of grace and abundance, the Jerusalem leadership will reject him too. He points to so many opportunities for repentance and how time after time, the people reject the divine offer.
An Unexpected Hope
Then, when all hope seems lost, he drops in one last line, “And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” The quote is part of a line at the end of Psalm 118. This Psalm opens with declarations of divine love. Then immediately after celebrating divine provision, God’s chosen one is attacked and yet somehow, despite great personal loss, comes out not only victorious but exalted. What follows, is a return to the declaration of God’s unceasing love. The invitation to repentance remains on the table.
Jesus sees Israel’s long history of rejecting God’s rejected love and knows, his life embodies the chosen one in Psalm 118. He declares God’s protection even as he awaits the pending assault. But when all is said and done, even death will not destroy him. Instead, he will continue to reveal divine love that will ultimately prompt everyone to declare, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
But what is this repentance that Jesus invites us to embrace? While there is not space here to explore it in depth, Luke 13 reveals repentance as:
- 13:1-5 – There is no space for self-justification or comparison when it comes to repentance. We all need to wrestle with how we choose to live.
- 13:6-9 – Yet God is patient, not only waiting for us to live from repentance, but choosing to nurturing us in that direction rather than shaming us.
- 13:10-17 – A life of faith is not about following the letter of the law, but living according to love instead of power. We do not need to repent because we broke a rule, but because we failed to live from love. This makes repentance, not a one time thing, but a lifestyle of self-awareness.
- 13:18-21 – When we repent and abandon power for love, little changes can make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of others.
- 13:22-30 – It is easy to cast God in our own image. To think that because we say or do all the right things that we are faithful. But that misses the point. Once again, it is all about love over power.
So let us all repent, abandoning power for love, and say, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”