THE PERISHABLE JESUS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 17, 2018
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
— Luke 13:31-35, ESV
The most familiar verse in the Bible contains many wonderful words: God, love, life. But it also contains one that is almost unpalatable: perish. Just say it and feel the bad taste in your mouth.
To perish is a fate worse than death. It means to be utterly destroyed because you are absolutely detested. No one wants to perish. Few of us would wish our worst enemy would perish.
But what about our best friend? Would you like for Jesus, or Jesus’ name, to perish from the earth? You might be surprised who would.
The World Wants Jesus to Perish
“Herod wants to kill you,” Jesus was warned. An empty threat? I don’t think so.
The Herodians were quite a clan. Their creed was composed of power, money, and sex. They brownnosed and bought their way into a controlling share of the Roman Empire, and their cut was in the Middle East. They would do anything to keep their grip on power, even kill.
Herod the Great tried to kill the newborn Jesus and slaughtered innocent baby boys in the process. Herod Antipas, his son, the Herod mentioned in this passage, had killed John the Baptist for cramping his sex life. Now, according to the Pharisees, he was out to murder the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When informed of the plot, Jesus referred to Herod as a “fox.” Calling an attractive lady a fox is a compliment, albeit a bit sexist. Calling a smart old football coach a fox is a compliment that can earn him a multi-million dollar contract. Fox, however, is used here by Jesus in a more literal/metaphorical context, as one who is deceitful and dangerous. Think, the fox is in the henhouse. Herod was the kind of a fox who would kill to satisfy his own appetites.
So who does Herod represent in this story? Why would he, or anyone else with his mindset, want Jesus to perish? The answer, in the words of the Apostle John, is Herod stands for “the world or the things in the world” (ref. 1 John 2:15). Christ and Christianity, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God, can get in the way. For such “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (ref. John 16:8). The world wants what it wants and does not want to be told what it wants it is wrong.
If Christ and Christianity could perish from the earth, most of the world would love to make it happen. Imagine guilt-free grabs for power, uninhibited sexual activity, and massive amounts of money being made without the guardrails of ethics and morals. Wait a minute, it sounds as if they have already succeeded, doesn’t it? If you do not think the world we live in would love to banish Christ and real Christianity, you must not read the newspapers.
The worldly Herod Antipas helped nail Jesus to the cross, then went on to live in luxury in the place we now call France. So who won? Jesus lived more poorly and died more quickly than Herod, this is true. But whose eternity would you want, now? Be careful when choosing between the cross of Christ and the crowns of this present world, a world that would rather Jesus perish.
The Religious Want Jesus to Perish
The only people who hated Jesus more than the worldly powers were the religious hypocrites. They are present in this passage in the form of the “Pharisees” and the prevailing politics of “Jerusalem.” Like their non-religious counterparts, the big three of money, sex, and power, were far more important to them than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Religion and politics mingled in Jerusalem and pushed prophets and prophesy, and ultimately Christ and Christianity, out. They did not let truth get in the way of their means of making money by devouring widows’ houses, or wife swapping through certificates of divorce, or grasping a stranglehold on the politics of Israel for their own power hungry reasons. If Jesus Christ intended to rain on their parade, He would have to perish.
It was not just the worldly spirit that wanted to crush Christ, it was misguided religious philosophy as well. Few Pharisees were actually licentious. But they were all legalists. And if the ladder to Heaven could be climbed by their religious rules and rituals, then all of Jesus’ preaching about grace and faith and substitutionary atonement would have to go. Go, it did, all the way to the cross.
Christ came to Jerusalem and embraced the cross. The Roman Empire and a plethora of works-based religions thought this would rid them of Christ. Temporary riches can blind one to eternal realities. The reality of the perishable Christ is that those who trust Him will one day be singing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” At that time, Christ will put an end this present world and all worldly religions that forsake His grace.
God Wants Jesus to Perish
A picture of the secular world and Christ-less religion as enemies of Jesus is not hard to see. But the next two people who want Jesus to perish may be harder to put into such a category. They are God, and you.
Jesus would never have died, much less perished, if it had not been the will of God. Worldly powers are not actually in control, much less false religion. God alone is sovereign. And God decreed that Jesus would die, even perish. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (ref. Isaiah 53:10). And as Jesus Himself said, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (ref. John 10:15).
The perishable Jesus has always been a part of God’s plan, a plan ordained in the heart of God before the creation of the world (ref. Revelation 13:8). While the worldly and religious wanted Jesus to die for worldly and religious reasons, Jesus walked the road to the cross for purely righteous reasons. Jesus had been born to die, orchestrated His public ministry to end in death, and embraced death as His destiny, for “it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”
Jesus used that word, “perish.” He would not merely die on the cross, He was punished as He perished on the cross. In those moments the Son was forsaken by the Father, imputed with an load of sin and rebellion against God, and made to sacrificially die, or perish, on account of sinners, like you and me.
Yes, God wanted Jesus to perish. And, so do you.
You Want Jesus to Perish
Do you want the world, in the same way the devil offered it to Jesus? Do you want your own good deeds to represent you, like some Pharisee, on Judgment Day before Almighty God? Or, do you want the perishable Jesus to take your place?
The world may seem more fun. It is hard to worry about eternity when you are living it up. Total autonomy, personal happiness, a good time, this is the worldly life. Who needs Jesus, the Bible, and the church? They should perish, for they just get in the way.
Religion may seem more satisfying. Keep more rules than you break, then the ones you break won’t matter. Just be good, friendly, nice. A sinner, who, me? No way! Find a religion that can make you feel good about yourself.
Or, trust in Jesus, the perishable One. It is a disturbing picture, I know. The good news of the gospel is ironically and terribly offensive, especially the bloody cross, the Man upon it, and those words, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani.” But you want Jesus to perish, or you want the perishable Jesus. If you accept that Jesus did perish in Jerusalem, for all of the reasons stated in Holy Scripture, then you shall never perish.
This word, perish, appears in the Bible 365 times. That is one reference for every day of the year. And every day of the year, people perish without faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They do so because they love the world, a world which truly hates Christ and Christianity. They do so because they have embraced the wrong kind of religion, one that omits the necessity, sufficiency, humanity, deity, and theology of Jesus Christ. Once they perish, there is no way to bring them back.
While it is still today, embrace the perishable Jesus, and invite others to do the same. Accept His life, His death, His resurrection, and the promise of His return. For whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will never perish, but have everlasting life.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org