Who's In Charge Here?
November 22, 2015
Read Lu 13:31-33 – The first sin of all time is recorded for us in Isa 14:14 where Lucifer, the highest of God’s creation, says, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” The essence of every sin since has been the desire for control – to be one’s own God. In our fallen human existence, submission, even to God, comes hard. Enlightenment advances encouraged a man-centered, anti-God mindset typified in 19th century proclamations like Algernon Swinburne’s “Hymn to Man”: “Glory to Man in the highest! For Man is the Master of Things.” Modern geneticist H. J. Muller assures us, “We see the future of man as one of his own making.” Politicians join in. JFK, “All man’s problems were created by man and can be solved by man." And Frank Sinatra simplified it to, “I Did it My Way.”
But is man really the master of his own fate? Can we make our own future? The answer makes a world of difference – an eternity of difference. Who is in charge here? Secularism answers man is in charge of a chance-drive existence which is largely meaningless. Jesus answers, God is in charge of a purposeful, God-glorifying universe with a plan intended for our benefit and His glory that gives meaning to our personal existence – if we choose for Him.
That’s the message we see in these few short verses. Who’s in charge here? God is. And Luke details that by showing us first I. Man’s Deluded Attack followed by II. God’s Divine Authority. What a contrast!
I. Man’s Deluded Attack
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” So – Pharisees? Looking to protect Jesus? Well, there are some “good” Pharisees in the Bible. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and others. But for the most part they were an self-righteous, deluded lot. That is the case here. Notice, “At that very hour.” That refers us back to the sermon Jesus has just preached that emphasizes the need to enter by the narrow way, the extreme contrast between heaven and hell as eternal destination and the indication that the Pharisees and their lot are headed for hell unless they repent. That was not calculated to make friends and influence people. So you can bet these guys were looking to hurt Jesus, not help. They hope this threat will move Him on to Jerusalem where we already know from John 7:1, “the Jews were seeking to kill him.” They could not safely object to His message here because of His popularity. But in Jerusalem, He will be on their territory. The advantage will shift to their side. This is a grand attempt to manipulate Jesus into their trap. Who’s in charge here? The Pharisees think they are! They’re in for a rude awakening from that delusion.
So is any person who arrogantly ignores or denies God. God is patient. He does not always give us what we deserve when we deserve it, or the world would be empty of human habitation. But that does not mean that He has lost control. Believe me, Beloved, no one, from the greatest to the least can move a little finger without the oversight of a God who is working all things to His purpose. It is the ultimate delusion to think otherwise. Despite appearances, God is as firmly in control now as He has ever been. Nothing escapes His notice; nothing is outside His control; and no one is in charge except God.
The Bible says, “Man throws the dice, but God makes the spots come up.” Okay, that’s a paraphrase of Prov 16:33 which says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” That means, “Man throws the dice, but God makes the spots come up.” It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t make a move without God’s expressed permission. Prov 22:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” There is no escaping the sovereignty of God. Who is in charge here? God is. Always has been. Always will be. All things work to His glory.
The illusion of human sovereignty borders on insanity. Like the patient who told his psychiatrist, “Doc, I’m a bridge.” The doctor said, “What in the world has come over you?” The guy answered, “So far 10 cars, 3 busses and a truck.” When we claim to be something we are not, we are living in Fantasyland. And that is true of anyone who believes man is in charge.
They are like the Brits who watched Hitler come to power in 1933 and immediately begin to rebuild German military power in violation of the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI. Churchill raised a warning voice but was labeled an alarmist. The world turned a blind eye and deaf ear as Hitler retook the Rhineland, annexed Austria and a part of Czechoslovakia – during which time he could have easily been defeated. PM Chamberlain said he bought “peace in our time” – which turned out to be very short when Hitler invaded Poland in Sept 1939 and WWII broke out. The illusion that they could control the mad-man was over. And very soon, Beloved, the illusion that man can control God will be over once and for all. Just as these Pharisees discovered that Jesus was firmly in charge, so the whole world will see it one day. Man’s deluded attack will come up far short. God is supreme. Look how Jesus demonstrated God’s authority here. Three ways.
II. God’s Divine Authority
A. His Omniscience (He Knows Hearts)
32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox”, speaking of Herod. Interesting phrase. Tells us a lot. First, it indicates how bad Herod really was. It’s a term of utter contempt. “Fox” is feminine. We might translate, “Go tell that vixen.” Jesus pronounced woes on the Pharisees, too, but remember those were expressions of regret and calls for repentance. This is the closest thing to an indication of absolute hopelessness in the ministry of Christ.
A female fox. Devious. Jesus sees right through the conspiracy hatched by Herod to get rid of him to his black heart. Herod had already beheaded John. But he was guilt-ridden and paranoid that Jesus was John raised from the dead. He wanted Jesus gone. But he didn’t want to kill another Jewish prophet. So, I think he called the Pharisees and said, “Look, you guys want Jesus in Jerusalem. I want him out of my territory. Tell you what. Go tell him I’m out to kill him. That’ll scare him off and we both get what we want.” Natural enemies conspiring against a 3rd. “Fox” shows Herod’s deviousness, and “Go tell him,” shows the Pharisees came from there. It was all a big plot – a plot that didn’t fool Jesus for a minute.
This is Jesus’ unique ability to see into men’s hearts. What man can do that?! The smartest man in the world is no match for the omniscience of God – not even close. Albert Einstein once gazed at the sky from his sailboat, “We know nothing about it at all.” Someone asked, “Do you think we shall ever probe the secret?” He replied, “Possibly we shall know a little more than we do now. But the real nature of things – that we shall never know, never.” That’s brilliant honesty. As highest of God’s creation, man is still severely limited. Every answer produces a bucket of new questions. And study of the heart is the least defined area of scientific inquiry that exists. There are more than 250 different systems of psychology – attempts to define how the mind works, in the US alone. Meantime, God simply looks into the human heart and knows everything! It’s not an even contest, Beloved. It’s not intended to be.
A boy was helping his dad put out cookies for Santa one Christmas Eve when Dad dropped one on the floor. He picked it up, brushed it off and said, “No problem. Santa will never know.” The boy looked at Dad and said, “So he knows if I’ve been bad or good, but he doesn’t know the cookie fell on the floor?" Good question – and it perfectly defines the foolishness of mankind with our very finite brains trying to take on a God who knows everything. Who’s in charge? I’d advise, put your money on the One who is omniscient.
B. God’s Omnipotence (He Fulfills Missions)
Jesus demonstrates here a magnificent disregard for human delusionary attempts to control His destiny. V. 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.” Jesus operates on no schedule but His own! “You think I should run from Herod, huh? Let me tell YOU how it’s going down. I’ve got work to do here today. More tomorrow. I’ll finish about Day 3. Then, and only then, I will be leaving. On my schedule, not Herod’s and not yours. After I’m done, not when Herod decides I’m done!” This is marvelous, Beloved. This is God in charge.
Jesus’ reference to the third day is probably figurative: “I’ll be here as long as it takes to finish my mission – no more but no less. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, and all the forces of hell could not change that by one second. My schedule is dictated by the Father, not Herod.” And that is exactly what happened, because God is omnipotent, and men are not. Aren’t you glad that you serve a God like that? He’s finishes what He starts.
God has every man on an invisible, but short leash. From the lowest to the highest. God says in Psa 2:2-4, “2) The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3) “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4) He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” Earth’s mightiest men are pawns in God’s hands. Nebuchadnezzar thought he took Israel captive in 606 BC because of his own power and might. God had a different perspective in Jer 27:6, “Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him.” Twice more in Jer 25:9 and 43:10, God’s calls the mighty Nebuchadnezzar “my servant.” And if you want to see how God proved it and brought Neb to faith in God, read Daniel 1-4. Cyrus the Great thought it was his idea to release Israel 70 years later. Little did he know God had prophesied that using Cyrus’ own name 150 years before in Isa 44:28 and 45:1! God is always in charge, Beloved. Ominpotent!
C. God’s Sovereignty (He Keeps Promises)
Now, things really get interesting in v. 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.” So what gives here? If God is omnipotent, and Jesus isn’t going anywhere until He is good and ready, why is He suddenly talking about perishing? Wouldn’t escape from dying be the ultimate “in your face, Herod?” Of course it would.
But Jesus’ ultimate mission is not to defeat Herod. Jesus’ ultimate mission is to redeem a fallen race by paying sin’s penalty thru His substitutionary death. But that death will not be at Herod’s hand. And tho the Jews will be guilty and the Romans will be guilty, it is not they who ultimately send Jesus to His death. God could have stopped them cold any time He wanted. Pilate tried to throw his weight around when Jesus refused to answer him. He says in Jn 19:10, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Pilate thought Pilate was in charge. Pilate thought wrong. Jesus says in Mt 26:53, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Okay. Why not show Pilate and Herod and everybody else, you can’t mess with God. Why not stop it all?
The next verse answers. Mt 26: 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Here is God’s greatest demonstration of sovereignty. He keeps promises. He keeps promises. Beginning in Gen 3:15 and throughout the remainder of the OT He promised over and over again, there will be a final and ultimate sacrifice for sin. The promised lamb is coming. A prophet, a priest, a king and a sacrifice have all been promised. And God keeps promises. He fulfills them all in the person of Jesus Christ.
That’s why he says in Lu 13:33, “Nevertheless I must go” – δει – it is absolutely necessary. Why? It’s been prophesied. To do what? To perish. Why? Because it’s been prophesied. Why in Jerusalem? Because it’s been prophesied in Dan 9 and typified in Abe’s almost sacrifice of Isaac on the hill where the temple now resides. Can’t you see God’s greatness in all of this, Beloved? The puzzle coming together. Every piece fitting in place. Yes, Jesus will die, but on His terms – not Herod’s.
Jews, Romans, Pharisees, all, using their free will to carry out the plan God formulated before the beginning of time. No one could have touched a hair on Jesus’ head had He and the Father not allowed it for their greater glory and for our salvation. Isa 53: 10) “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Who sent Jesus to the cross? The Father, knowing He would resurrect Him to “see his offspring” – we who believe. And the Son went willingly. Jn 10:17, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” Even at the cross God was fully in charge – doing what had to be done to bring about salvation for all who would believe. He keeps promises. Why not let Him keep His promise to save you to the uttermost if you come to Him by faith? He’s done all the work. All that’s left is for you to bow in submission to Him.
Conc – John MacArthur was in great health a few years ago when he had surgery to fix some old football injuries. But without warning, blood clots formed and went to his lungs causing a life-threatening situation. John says, “I was lying there wondering what the purposes of God in this were. I was thinking about going to heaven. It was looking pretty good. In fact, when I recovered, I had just a bit of mild disappointment!” What happened was that a friend sent a specialist doctor who knew what to do to save John’s life. He was a godless man, but warmed to John as they got acquainted. He warned John, "Now you can’t preach for three months, because if you stand up you will have more blood clot problems. That is, unless you preach 10 min." John said, "No, I don't preach 10 min. I can't do that. I can't clear my throat in 10 minutes.” But the doc said, "I'm kind of curious to hear you preach. I want to come to your church the first time you preach. I'll tell you when you can. I have not been to church since I was 16.” He was about 57 at the time.
Long story short, John let the doc know when he was going to preach. The guys said, “I want to come. I’ll be there.” John was starting a new series on Luke. He wasn’t sure he would really come, but he says, “There he was on the third row, sitting there, having not been to church since he was 16 years of age, and I announced that I was beginning a series on Luke. And my first sermon was ‘Luke, the beloved physician’." Wow! The Lord knew.
That was about 10 years ago. The doc has never missed a Sunday. Within a month he gave his life to Christ and they’ve become dear friends. MacArthur says, “I suggested to the Lord that there might've been a Plan B to evangelize the guy. It's a little hairy approach. But that's just one illustration of the providences of God that unfold – the endearing providences of God that unfold in your life.” Think you’re in charge? You’re not. Not even close. You’re here this morning because God used your own free will to get you here. If you came without Him, He’s giving you one more precious chance to bow your heart to Him in repentance and submission. Don’t let it go. It may not come again. Let’s pray.