He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will finish my course.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“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, and you were not willing. 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!’
This is not Herod the Great, the king who rebuilt the Jewish temple, built the port city of Caeserea Maritima, and massacred infants at the time of Jesus' birth. This is Herod Antipas, one of his sons. Herod Antipas was one of three sons of Herod who split Herod the Great's kingdom when he died. He was largely hated by the Jewish people whom he ruled. He built his capital city in Tiberius on a Jewish cemetery. He placed idols and images of Caesar in the city. He is also the ruler who ordered the beheading of John the Baptist at the request of his wife after being enticed by a dance from her daughter at a party (Matthew 14).
Some Pharisees came to warn Jesus that Herod wanted him dead. Maybe these Pharisees actually liked Jesus - we know a few of them followed him. Perhaps they just wanted Jesus out of their region. We do not know their motivation or the motivation of Herod. Perhaps he was threatened by Jesus because his superstitious nature associated Jesus with John - even suspecting him to be John the Baptist resurrected. Maybe he saw Jesus as some sort of threat to stability in his region, and instability could lead to repercussions from Rome.
Whatever instigates this warning, Jesus sends a message to "that fox". It is unusual for Jesus to call someone a name. What would be symbolized by a fox? We think of a fox as sneaky and wily. They are quick with their in and out destruction of your chicken coops or vineyards. This is definitely not a compliment.
Jesus' death was not three days away, he is speaking in the fashion of the time to mean that the events of his death would happen at the appointed time, when his course or work was complete. No human, no matter what earthly power they wielded, could deter the divine timetable. Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem, the place where so many prophets of God had been killed that it was a tongue in cheek sign of authenticity to be killed as a prophet in the holy city.
Thinking of Jerusalem, Jesus mourns for their disbelief and disobedience. Jerusalem here signifies the entire Jewish nation, not just the city dwellers. As a hen gathers her chicks when a hungry hawk circles overhead or lightened threatens in the sky, God desired to gather his people under his protection. But most rebelliously went their own way, sure that they knew a better way to defeat the hawk, certain that a storm was not even coming.
"Your house is forsaken." As in the Old Testament when the Shekinah glory of God left the temple and it was destroyed by the Babylonians, God would leave his unbelieving people. It reminds me of a parent saying to a young adult wayward child, "You want to be on your own, fine. But you will no longer enjoy our provision while you destroy your life." But a remnant would be saved when they believed in Jesus, saying "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Many Messianic Jews are saved, and many more will be transformed at the second coming.
Like the unbelieving at the time of Jesus, we face consequences when we ignore God's will for our lives. We are not promised to be materially blessed if we seek him with all our hearts, but we are promised to be spiritually cursed if we reject him with all our hearts. Many times he uses drastic measures to get our attention and draw us back to him, but other times we slowly drag our sins and misconceptions down the broad road leading to destruction. Let us seek his will for our lives with all our hearts!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.