The Fox in the Henhouse

Luke 13:31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." 32 He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' 33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day-- for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! 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! 35 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.'"

I used to raise chickens as a child on my parents’ farm. We had three chicken coops full. One coop was full of Leghorns which were good for laying eggs. The second coop was full of Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks for butchering. The third coop was full of our show birds for 4-H – Black Cochins, Yokohama and Polish chickens.

One evening I went into the third coop to feed to show birds and found three of them dead. Not just dead, but flattened. All the blood had been sucked out of them. A mink had gotten into our chicken coop. Before any more chickens were lost, my dad and I set a trap for the mink.

Thankfully, we had only lost three chickens to the mink. But a much more dangerous predator to chickens is the fox.

A fox will stake out the coop beforehand so they know when to strike, grab a bird, and how to get away fast. If the fox gets inside an enclosed coop, it is quite possible that all the chickens will be killed, usually with broken necks, and as many as possible carried away.

King Herod is a fox – a cunning and sly little ruler. He has already killed John the Baptist. He rules by trickery and deceit.

The Pharisees are a skulk (group) of little foxes. They have never been Jesus’ friends. From the moment they laid eyes on Jesus they wanted Him gone. Now they feign concern. “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” The camouflage of care does not conceal their hatred.

Jesus has His face set toward Jerusalem. He has just come down the Mount of Transfiguration and is ready to head into Jerusalem to be crucified on Mt. Calvary. So He isn’t all that concerned about Herod or the Pharisees. He kind of laughs of their veiled threat saying, “Go tell that fox, ‘Today I am casting out demons. Tomorrow I’ll be busy healing people. And on the third day I’ll reach the goal of my death and resurrection.’ The demons are afraid of me. Illness and death is afraid of me. What makes you think I’m afraid of that fox, Herod?”

But Herod is not the real fox. Neither are the Pharisees. The devil is. He convinces Herod that Jesus is a threat. He lures the Pharisees to love their religion more than their Savior. The devil is father of all lies. He is lying to Herod and the Pharisees in the hopes of raising a ruckus in the hen house of Jerusalem. He has been having prophets killed in Jerusalem for centuries. Now he wants Jesus dead there, too.

Jesus pleads, “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!” You can hear the sorrow in Jesus’ voice. He is frustrated with His people. He is upset because He preaches but they do not listen.

He is irritated because He teaches but they do not learn. He is discouraged because He rebukes but they do not repent. But above all, Jesus is grieving because He loves them, but they do not love Him in return.

They are His fuzzy little yellow chicks. Bu they have allowed the fox into the henhouse. He is causing them to run around the coop in rebellion, in obstinance, and in opposition. In their stubborn panic, they refuse the help of the hen – Jesus.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” Jesus speaks those same words of deep sadness about us. How often are we not the little fuzzy yellow chicks scurrying away from the safety of Jesus’ wings?

That devil of a fox has gotten into the henhouse of our lives. He has got us running around in a stubborn panic. We overwork; we overextend; we overindulge. All while not realizing the danger we are in.

The fox uses bait to lure us away from the safety that God provides under His wings. Our children’s athletic events, vacation time, sleeping in, overtime pay, and other things are used by the devil to entice us away from the brood of our fellow members. Off on our own, away from the safety God provides within His Christian Church, away from the protection of our congregation, we become easy pickings for the fox.

Often the devil simply encourages you to remain friendly with sin. That’s what he did with Jerusalem. Jerusalem never said they hated God. They just loved sin. Those pesky prophets kept preaching about sin, so they had to get rid of the prophets.

What sins do you love? What sins are chasing you away from the wings of your God?

Could it be that you are having so many problems in your life because you have separated yourself from the God who can overcome all your problems? Why do you think your marriage is falling apart? I have yet to find a marriage fail where both husband and wife are humble, committed Christians, always putting God and their spouse first. Our marriages may be struggling because one or both of the marriage partners are pulling away from God. Why is your relationship with your boyfriend, with whom you are sleeping, all messed up? Because you are pretending to be married, without God’s actual blessing of marriage upon your relationship. Our relationships falter because we do the exact opposite of what God says He will bless. Why do you fail to receive respect from your children? Instead you receive eye-rolls, backtalk or complete silence. Could it be because you did not instill in your children, from little on, a respect for their heavenly Parent, and so now they have no respect for either their earthly parents or their heavenly Father?

Find any sin that you are dealing with in your life – gossip, despair, heartache, anger, resentment, greed, unhappiness, or whatever – and see how it is connected in some way with you pulling away from the love, forgiveness, guidance and safety of your God. Now Satan has his teeth in you and refuses to let you go. You are very close to having him break your neck and dragging you away from God for eternity.

Jesus has every right to allow us to run away from Him never to return. But that’s not the way of our patient, gracious Savior. He calls to us, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” He sees His little ones are in danger. A fox is in the henhouse. Someone is sneaking around looking to devour you. Jesus pictures Himself as a hen. And what does the mother hen do? She opens her wings. She spreads them wide. There is safety under her shadow. She clucks and clucks for her little ones to come near and escape the danger of the fox. That is Jesus clucking toward Jerusalem. That is Jesus clucking toward you. Inviting you to the shadow of His wings, which is the Holy Christian Church. This is the place where you hear the Hen’s clucking and calling. We accept that invitation and gather together under His wings in Word and Sacrament, prayer and praise.

The Hen’s wings are always hovering over us. His love is always nearby. He will never turn away a helpless fuzzy little chick once that chick realizes just how helpless and little it is. When we have finally had our fill of the devil’s lies; when we are tired of going it alone; when we are beaten up and bruised; when we are sorrowful and repentant; Jesus lifts His wings so we can scurry under. There we can hide in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8). There we are safe under the shelter of His wings (Psalm 61:4). There under His wings we find our refuge and sing for joy (Psalm 91:4; 63:7).

A mother hen is not the picture of strength – no fangs, no talons, no threatening roar. But don’t try to mess with her chicks. If you want them, you’ll have to go through her.

Imagine the picture. A fox is in the chicken coop. Mother hen calls her chicks under her wings. But now she can’t move. She has bound herself to her chick. So, who is the fox going to get? The hen will die to save her clutch (group) of chicks. But the really great ending to this terrifying story is that the fox chokes on the hen – the very meal he longed for ended up killing him.

That is the story of our Mother Hen Jesus. He spreads His arms wide to shield you from the attacks of the fox. Jesus allowed Himself to be the bait for the devil. For how could the devil refuse killing the Son of God?! And so the one who baits us away from Christ, was himself baited into his own destruction.

Jesus shed His divinely human blood so that He might save your soul. He bound Himself to you – God becoming human, being made sin for you. He sacrificed His life to protect you from the fox’s bite, sin’s snare, and death’s hold.

Jesus continues to come with His wings spread over you, calling, inviting, imploring you to repent and return. Quit running away from Him. Stop refusing His Word. Stop rejecting His messengers. Instead, come to the Lord. Take refuge under His wings. Receive His forgiveness in Holy Absolution. Receive His new life in Holy Baptism. Receive His strength in Holy Communion.

Jesus weeps outside Jerusalem. He weeps because the fox has gotten into the henhouse. He weeps because they don’t recognize the danger they have let in. He weeps because not everyone He dies for comes when He calls.

This is the weakness of Jesus’ love, the mother hen in Him. He won’t force you to come. Love does not snarl or snap. He clucks and calls. To you. For you. He knows the danger a fox can do inside the henhouse. He has seen too many of His fuzzy little yellow chicks with broken necks and carried away into the devil’s den.

Mother Hen Jesus wants you safe. He calls you away from your sin. He invites you out of your stubborn panic. Come and live under the shadow of His wings. You are safe here. Repent, return, and find refuge.

In our chicken coops, the fox is always stronger than the hen. But in Jesus’ kingdom, the hen always defeats the fox. Amen.