The Death Threat: Luke 13:31-35

Focus Passage: Luke 13:31-35 (NCV)

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away from here! Herod wants to kill you!”

32 Jesus said to them, “Go tell that fox Herod, ‘Today and tomorrow I am forcing demons out and healing people. Then, on the third day, I will reach my goal.’ 33 Yet I must be on my way today and tomorrow and the next day. Surely it cannot be right for a prophet to be killed anywhere except in Jerusalem.

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone to death those who are sent to you. Many times I wanted to gather your people as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me. 35 Now your house is left completely empty. I tell you, you will not see me until that time when you will say, ‘God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Read Luke 13:31-35 in context and/or in other translations on!

One thing that I’m curious about in our passage for this entry is whether Herod had legitimately called for Jesus’ arrest, or whether the “Pharisee-messengers” were simply trying to trick or intimidate Jesus into leaving their area.

The passage opens by saying, “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, ‘Go away from here! Herod wants to kill you!’” (v. 31)

This event comes right after Jesus has shared about coming to God through a narrow door, and that many of those people who wait to the last minute will miss out. While it doesn’t appear to be very insulting to the Pharisees or religious leaders, perhaps what Luke chose to include in His gospel avoids drawing upon these parts of this event. If the Pharisees felt insulted by Jesus, then they easily could craft a death threat to deliver, regardless of its truth or not.

Or perhaps, if these Pharisees were some of the more important ones, they had shared a rumor about Jesus, or met with the governor to give substance to their message. If they told Herod that Jesus wanted to be more famous/popular/important than him, this could result in the governor being jealous and wanting to kill Jesus. A previous generation’s Herod was also interested in killing Jesus because of the prophecies that said He would be the coming Messiah.

This is the skeptical side of me. When I see a group of people described as Pharisees, I don’t really see them being focused on helping Jesus. There are plenty of examples of Pharisees trying to trick or trap Jesus, and perhaps Jesus’ message back to Herod when there was no actual death threat issued is really a message for those who crafted this rumor in the first place. It is as though Jesus is saying, “I’m doing what God wants Me to do, and only when I have reached My goal will God allow Me to die. Jerusalem is the only appropriate place for Me to give up My life.”

However, these Pharisees could simply be trying to help Jesus. Just like we can easily be caught up stereotyping groups of people as all being similar, the Pharisees have been stereotyped as opposed to Jesus, but the broad group consensus does not always represent the individual or small group.

In Jesus’ response we don’t find an accusation back at the Pharisees for lying to Him, but we do find a great example for how to respond when someone tries to intimidate us. We can simply say, “I’m doing what God has called me to do, and only when I have finished what God has called me to finish will He allow me to die.” This is how Jesus responded when threatened, and it is how we can push back those who would try to intimidate us into backing down from the life God has called us to live.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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