Ahh Lent. It’s here. Last week was Ash Wednesday, and now we find ourselves in this season of repentance, these 40 days to focus our attention on the suffering of our Savior and our sins that caused it. And that’s good. You see, in order to appreciate the victory of Easter — we have to deal with the honesty of Lent. Christianity is not some pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. It’s so truthful and factual it hurts. It hurts when we realize what we deserve. It hurts when we realize what Jesus had to go through for us. But the pain makes the victory that much sweeter, because he won.
Really, he did all he did because he wanted us to be safe. In our text, he uses the picture of a hen and her wings to describe it. And what’s shocking here is that those he’s talking to didn’t want this safety. This is Jesus speaking in Luke 31:34: "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!"
Maybe you’ve heard the story of the farmer who came upon his hen house burned to the ground. He saw one of his hens with wings spread, fried to a crisp and wondered why she was so spread out. Only then did he notice the movement from underneath her. Her chicks survived, insulated from the fire by their mother’s sacrifice. That’s a powerful picture Jesus brings into our text — the protective nature of that mother bird, willing to sacrifice for her loving, adorable, so dependent children.
But did you notice what Jesus said in the text? His children didn’t want the protection he was dying to give them. Unbelievable!
Really, it’s only unbelievable until it strikes us that we do the same thing. No, maybe you haven’t threatened your pastor’s life, but your mind has distracted you to think of every other thing in the world than his message as you’re hearing it or reading it (or not). Your heart has motivated you to put more energy into so many other things than hearing and studying and sharing this message. How often has he longed to gather us together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. We were not willing.
And this isn’t "no big deal." The hen had to spread out her wings to take the intensity of the agony of the fire, being burned alive, charred to death to protect those chicks. Jesus died on the cross — that is not some sterile slogan. That is agony; that is literally offering his flesh to be torn apart, his lungs to be collapsed, his body to be broken — because you sinned, because you acted like those Pharisees in Luke 13 that didn’t think they needed him.
But he loved us anyway, like the hen loved her chicks. He sacrificed to give us safety under his wings. He sacrificed to rescue us, to strengthen us, to protect us — his unwilling, undeserving, ugly chicks. He stretched out his wings and covered our sins, protecting us from the wrath of God by taking those welts on his back. He stretched out his wings by stretching out his arms and being nailed to that cross so that we could raise our arms in victory.
And here we are, safe under his wings, protected from all that Satan can throw at us — from those on the outside like Herod, and even those in the church like the Pharisees. Jesus faced them so that we have victory, so we have peace, so we have safety under his wings… forever. In Christ, Amen.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.