Jesus says some strange, even disturbing things. One time he told people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. In the same sermon, he claimed the meek were due to inherit the Earth; not the strong. He eschewed violence by telling people to turn the other cheek if assaulted. Some foreign policy Jesus! He wouldn’t be Secretary of State, Defense, or Homeland Security in my imaginary cabinet. Can you imagine, loving people instead of killing them with predator drones? Today Jesus says one of the wackiest things in the entire New Testament. He compares God to a chicken!
To really pick up on these strange statements, you have to pay attention. If you’re not listening carefully, they’ll fly right by. If you are clued in, you’ll find yourself saying, “What did he say?” If the politicians and religious figures of today said many of the things Jesus said, no one could run for any kind of office. Like Jesus, they would be running for their lives. Jesus judged the faith of the Pharisees. Jesus made provocative statements. Jesus couldn’t keep his nose out of politics. With his whole body, he stepped firmly into the political arena between the Roman Empire and those who ruled Palestine. Jesus spent most of his time healing the mentally and physically ill. We call that “health care”. Jesus called that his day job. He preached about the misuse of money and the coming kingdom of God. Rome called the economic policy. Jesus said it was the best parts of Leviticus. And yes, he also said God was like a chicken.
Jesus talked about holy chickens. Your God (my God, our God) is like a chicken. I don’t know much about chickens. I’ve never kept hens, roosters or chickens of any kind. I’ve seen a plenty both here and in other places. I do enjoy eating chickens; particularly if they are dipped in ranch dressing or some kind of buffalo wing sauce. I love eggs. Scrambled, fried, omelets; I’ll will consume eggs in most ways you place them on a plate. I have a great deal of love for the chicken and everything it has given to human civilization. Here’s where the problem occurs. I’ve never really associated a chicken with God. If I were to be captured by ISIS or some other rogue organization and forced at gunpoint to, “associate your infidel divinity with a bird”, I NOT would choose a chicken. And that’s assuming my intimate knowledge of the 13th chapter of Luke. I might say the “the Bald Eagle”. I know it would irritate ISIS. I might name some mythical creature like a Phoenix or a Griffin. I would not name a chicken.
However, we go back to the Bible. Into the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke, to Jesus’ own words, and there it is in black and white, and what does Jesus say, “God is like a Chicken”. Wouldn’t it be crazy if we get to heaven, and instead of old man on a cloud it’s a large mother hen?
What an interesting metaphor for Jesus to draw when illustrating who he is, who God is, and who King Herod is. Despite anything else Jesus may or may not offer at this moment, people get the relationship between foxes and chickens. Foxes do one thing and chickens do another. Within the world of chickens, Hens have an even greater protective role. The rural people Jesus knew understood this. The city folk with a basic exposure to education (they read fairy tales, like Aesop’s) also knew about foxes and hens. Jesus puts everyone on the same page. Who has your best interests? Who is looking out for you? You need to understand, you are a character in this story. The story will not end well if the fox is allowed to roam unchecked. The fox is not your friend. Have you realized this? These are all the things Jesus is addressing by making this strange comparison, “God is like a chicken”.
This whole thing started when someone came to Jesus and said, “Herod wants to kill you.” What’s new, right? Someone in that family has been trying to kill him since the day he was born. This is Herod Antipas, son of the original gangster King Herod. This Herod, Antipas, has already killed John the Baptizer and now wants Jesus. This isn’t an idle threat. Antipas, with the full backing of the religious authorities and the Roman Empire, can have Jesus killed. Everyone, including Jesus, knows this.
There’s something about how Herod kills that’s passive aggressive. He’s motivated to kill John by his wife and daughter, he’s a puppet to the Romans and the high priest, and sends death threats through messengers. Whether that’s fox like behavior, I don’t know. Jesus thinks so. It is shady, indirect, wasting his time. He doesn’t need to be worried about the fox. Jesus has a whole farm to tend to.
Jesus wants to send a direct message back to Herod. Jesus has work to be done. One thing you’ll find in Luke’s gospel is an obsession with time. Jesus is always on the move. You’ll see three day countdown clocks (like watching the television networks until the next primary). Yes, these are hints which point us toward Easter. More importantly, they tell us Jesus is on a schedule and his tasks are life giving.
What is Jesus up to? What’s so important that even Herod’s death threats seem like a minor bump in the road? Jesus is throwing out demons and healing people. It’s going to take up most of the next three days. If Herod wants to see him, it’s going to have to wait. That’s it. You’re listening to Jesus’ agenda, his plan, straight out the man’s mouth. He’s healing people. Again, we call that health care. He’s restoring the physical and spiritual well being of the mentally and physically ill. He’s charging no money. He’s simply doing it.
Can you see why Herod was scared to death of Jesus? Are you able to envision why Herod wanted him dead? He made sick people spiritually and physically better. He sacrificed no bulls, goats, or paid no taxes to the temple authorities. He worked on roadsides and in synagogues most rabbis had forgotten. He said God was a bottom up experience not a top down encounter. God meets you at the bottom, where you are. God doesn’t force you to climb stairs, begging and pleading for forgiveness.
It does seem natural, if Jesus is going bring up foxes, comparisons to chickens and hens will soon follow. I agree with that idea up to a point. As many times as I read this passage, I can’t get over the image of the tough talking, demon expelling Jesus who has just told Herod to go to Hell than comparing himself to a fat mother chicken. Welcome to the irony, the paradox of Christian living. This is who we are, people of the paradox because Jesus placed us on this path.
Jesus wants to care for us the way a hen cares for her chicks. He wants to protect us. You can’t get much clearer. However, there is something within us that resists this kind of relationship with God. I don’t know what pushes us away. Jesus says we go as far as trying to stone those God sends (prophets and others). In other words, we try to eat the chicken instead of letting the chicken love us. It’s easier to hang out with Herod and the foxes. We might even buy into the foxes’ lies about the hen and the chickens. Foxes are going to lie. They’ll say, “A chicken isn’t a real God, it isn’t strong, can’t offer real protection and won’t come back from three days of anything.”
Jesus said it for us, “But you didn’t want that.” We didn’t want the safety the hen provides. We wanted something else. We thought chickens were gross and icky. What do we want? Is it something triumphant, like a man on a donkey or hanging on a cross? That didn’t do it for us either. Maybe you want something or someone stronger? As for me and my house, I’m sticking with the chicken.