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The Lord of Human History

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 13:31–35

The antagonism and hatred we experience at the hands of those who reject Christ only affirm the truth of God’s Word and the experience of Jesus Himself. Such opposition also should strengthen our compassionate resolve to continue to take Christ’s message to this needy world.


More than likely, you have never heard of Hugh Johnson or Harlow Curtis. Although these men were from different generations and even different countries, they had this in common: at some point in their lives, they were honored as Time magazine’s Man of the Year. The fact that you probably don’t know who they are, or even how their lives benefited the world, is testimony that their significance on earth did not last very long.

Another man, back in 1938, received Time magazine’s Man of the Year award—his name was Adolph Hitler. Sometimes the wrong man receives the accolades of his generation.

If Time Magazine was around 2,000 years ago, a powerful leader in the Middle East would have no doubt received the honor. His official name was King Herod Antipas. He was the son of Herod the Great, who tried to trick the magi and then later ordered the murder of little boys in the region of Bethlehem. After his father’s death, Herod Antipas began ruling the land of Galilee.

And just like his father, Antipas was brutal and immoral. He was responsible for killing John the Baptist. He is also the Herod before whom Jesus will eventually stand trial.

But from all the external evidence, Herod would have been a natural choice for the Man of the Year. He was in control of destinies and legacies. But in hindsight, Herod was not the one ruling—Heaven was. Herod’s throne was temporary; God’s throne is eternal.

Now for the first time, the Gospel of Luke connects the ministry of Jesus with the rule of King Herod Antipas. And the exchange produces some fireworks.

Here in chapter 13, Jesus has invited people to enter the family of God through the narrow gate—and remember, that gate is narrow, not so much in size, but in singularity. There is only one way; there is only one door into heaven, and John’s Gospel teaches that Jesus Himself is the door (see John 10:9; 14:6).

As the Lord is preaching, He is suddenly interrupted. We read in verse 31, “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’” In other words, “You had better run for Your life. Herod has put a price on your head.”

The Lord’s response provides several principles we can apply today as we recognize that God is ultimately in control of nations, empires, thrones, and even pagan kings.

The first principle is this: Serving the Lord faithfully will not eliminate enemies. Imagine the tragic irony of Herod’s attitude here: “Herod wants to kill you.” The healing ministry of Jesus should have earned Him an invitation to dinner at Herod’s palace, not a threat on His life. By the way, beloved, the only time Jesus will stand in Herod’s palace is just before His crucifixion.

I invite you to turn over every stone in Scripture to see if you can find a faithful servant of the Lord who did not have to endure hardship or criticism or even danger. Beloved, if you begin to openly profess Jesus Christ as your Lord, just watch; enemies are going to line up faster than friends.

Listen to what the Bible promises the believer in 2 Timothy 3:12: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Serving God faithfully will not eliminate enemies and critics.

Maybe you have made some enemies recently, and all you have been trying to do is the right thing. How should you respond? Well, that leads me to the second principle we can apply: Opposition should not reroute your mission or rewrite your message.

Jesus responds here by telling the Pharisees in verse 32, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.’”

I agree with those Bible scholars who suggest that the Lord is using a little bit of holy sarcasm here.[1] In this day, a fox was someone who was crafty—an insignificant person who makes a nuisance of himself.[2] It is as if the Lord is saying, “Herod might think he is crafty, but he is just a nuisance; in fact, he is a rather insignificant nuisance in the timeline of history.”

Jesus is actually demonstrating confidence in His Father. His death is predetermined by the triune God, and until the time arrives for the Lord to die, Herod cannot do a thing about it.[3]

Now did you notice that Jesus says He is going to keep on casting out demons and curing people? In other words, He is not going to change His mission of mercy or His message of forgiveness; He is going to stay right on track, all the way to that third day—a reference to His victorious resurrection from the grave.

Jesus is effectively quoting the perspective of Psalm 31:15: “My times are in your hand.” Say that with Him: “My life is under the supervision of God. It might not look like it at the moment, but my life is unfolding by God’s design.” Beloved, nothing will derail God’s designs. And when you believe that Heaven rules, your circumstances and even your enemies can be viewed differently.

And that is the third principle I want to draw from this passage—here it is: Antagonism and rejection should not eliminate your spirit of compassion. After hearing about Herod’s threat to His own life, listen to what Jesus says in verse 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!”

One author noted that this is “not an expression of anger, but a sob of anguish.”[4] Jesus is weeping over the unbelief of the nation of Israel and what it will bring. The Lord foresees destruction coming for Jerusalem, and He predicts it when He says, “Your house is forsaken” (verse 35).

But then the Lord looks way beyond their rejection to a wonderful day out there in the future when, the Lord says, “You will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” This is a reference to the return of Christ following the tribulation period and the regathering of Israel in the land. The apostle Paul will write that God has not abandoned Israel, and in that coming day “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). That is incredible compassion!

Perhaps as a believer, you too have people in your life who have broken your heart by rejecting your pleading with them to be gathered to Christ. Do not let their rejection eliminate your spirit of compassion toward them.

I think of Joseph Stalin, who was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1942. As a young man he had attended seminary, planning to enter the ministry; but he lived an immoral life and eventually left seminary. He declared himself an atheist and became a brutal dictator. His daughter defected to the U.S. after her father’s death, and she described the final moment before he died. He suddenly sat up in his bed, raised his clenched fist defiantly toward the ceiling, then fell back on his pillow and died.[5] It was as if he was rejecting, one final time, an invitation to surrender to God.

My friend, I don’t know where you stand today with God; but if you are an unbeliever, Jesus is not mocking you. He is weeping over you, as He did the city of Jerusalem. He is willing to save you today, if you will accept His invitation. And let me tell you, this could be your final invitation.

If you have accepted Christ, pause right now and thank Him for saving you—for opening your eyes to the truth that He is the Lord of the universe, the one who is truly King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Compassionate (Victor Books, 1988), 155.

[2] David E. Garland, Luke, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2011), 559.

[3] J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Zondervan, 1981), 328.

[4] Wiersbe, 155.

[5] Robert J. Morgan, “More Than Wonderful—Part 5,”, March 19, 2022.

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