Is Easter all about chocolate eggs and cute bunny rabbits? No, surely not! The emoji on my iPhone for Easter is a chicken, so is Easter really about chickens?
As Jesus journeys to the Cross in the Gospels he calls us twice to be like chicks with a mother hen. The first time is when news comes to him that Herod Antipas is planning to kill him, and he calls him ‘That fox!’ (Luke 13:31-32). Jesus sees Herod like a cunning would-be predator, and he treats him with contempt. Then, as he looks forward to being rejected and crucified in Jerusalem, he cries out,
“How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” (Luke 13:34)
Several times we read of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem, the city that has killed prophets and stoned those sent by God. He also knows the fate of the city that will reject him and feels pity and compassion for her inhabitants.
The second time is during Holy Week when Jesus addresses the crowd, pronouncing a series of 7 woes on the religious leaders for their hypocrisy. Even after the strongest rebukes, he expresses sorrow because of their stubborn pride and refusal to recognise his authority. These are the last words of Jesus in a public setting before his private discourse with his disciples on the Mount of Olives.
“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!”(Matthew 23:37).
The image of God as a bird whose wings give refuge is an image from the Old Testament. Moses in his farewell song (Deut 32:11) and David in several Psalms refer to this safe shelter (Psalm 91:4). Even Ruth, the Moabite, found protection under these wings because she was willing to come (Ruth 2:12; 3:9).
Jesus pictures himself as a mother hen covering her chicks and shielding them from harm with her own body. Are we willing to come to him, acknowledging our human smallness, our doubts and fears, our vulnerability and need of God’s warmth and loving care, or are we too proud and self sufficient? Perhaps, like the Pharisees, we’re guilty of hypocrisy. Does our pride cause us to project an image incongruent with the true condition of our hearts? Jesus offers the welcome embrace of his presence to us all.
At Easter we see Jesus stretch his wings as he is pinned to the cross. He does this to save us completely and gather us to himself forever. Our refusal to come to him will leave us abandoned to face the foxes in life alone.
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