The Kingdom 3 - Wide Open Arms
Chan Gin Kai
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day — for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! (Luke 13:31-33)
As we read our Bible, we’ll encounter many Pharisees who opposed Jesus. But there were some good ones too, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Some commentators theorise that these Pharisees who warned Jesus about Herod’s murderous intention were among the good ones.
Others believe these Pharisees were enemies of Jesus too. They lied about Herod’s intention to try to scare Jesus from entering Jerusalem. We’ll find in the later chapters of Luke that Herod didn’t seem to have any murderous intent towards Jesus at all. He was more curious about Jesus than angry towards him.
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 a sign of some sort. (Luke 23:8)
Whatever the Pharisees’ real reason was, the warning (real or fake) didn’t scare Jesus. Instead, his response showed that nothing was going to stop him. Jesus replied that he would go on doing what he had been doing, and that “on the third day I will reach my goal.” This referred to his death, and his resurrection on the third day.
Imagine getting yourself killed as your goal!
Jesus was resolute about getting to Jerusalem where he knew he would be killed. He said, “I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day”.
Imagine going day after day after day, with the thought of impending doom in your mind. You wake up each morning knowing that the day of your death draws nearer. Each step on the journey to Jerusalem brings you closer to the den of your enemies and the place of your execution. A distant prophecy becomes a genuine item on your schedule.
How do you stay calm when the danger gets real? How do you find courage in the face of overwhelming adversity? There is only one force greater than fear and death — love. And Jesus has that in abundance.
What led Jesus to the cross? We can say it was Judas’ betrayal, or the Pharisees’ enmity, or Pilate’s weak will, or the crowd’s fickleness. But more than all of these was Jesus’ determination to save us.
“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, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Luke 13:34-35)
Jesus expressed deep love for Jerusalem despite knowing her atrocities — the killing of God’s prophets. And to think that we’ve sometimes doubted Christ’s love when we fall into sins. Don’t even for a moment think that our sins are greater than Jesus’ love, or our weaknesses greater than his power. The consequence of our iniquities is death, but the cure for our disease is his blood.
Jesus wished to protect Jerusalem like how a hen protects her brood. This is one of the imageries the Bible uses to describe God’s protection of His people, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8).
Not only had Jerusalem killed many prophets, the multitudes of Jerusalem would soon be the ones to ask for Jesus’ death too. Yet Jesus wished he could gather them under his arms. That’s how Jesus feels about all of us despite our sins against him. He wants us in his arms, so that he can protect us, nourish us, and make us feel loved.
We’ve learnt in the last two articles that the Kingdom of God is glorious. The door to the Kingdom may be narrow, but Jesus’ arms are wide open. We need to make every effort to enter the Kingdom, but Jesus has already done what’s most important. He has redeemed us through his sacrifice.
Now Jesus awaits us in heaven, with arms wide open. He longs to welcome us into his glory. Let’s approach his embrace.
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry of the Central Christian Church. He describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.