This article on Luke 13:32-33 is about the struggle of Jacob and Esau, and the work of Herod.

Source: Clarion, 1990. 2 pages.

Luke 13:32-33 – Outfoxing the Fox

And He said to them, 'Go and tell that fox, behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course. Nevertheless I must go on My way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem'.

Luke 13:32, 33


In one of His more poignant expressions the Lord Jesus, after hearing from some Pharisees that Herod Antipas wanted to kill Him, refers to him as a fox, and then outlines to him the way of the coming of the Messianic kingdom. Herod was known as a crafty man, but the Lord Jesus focuses specifically on his crafty attempts to oppose the gospel. Did Herod really want to kill Him? It is generally believed that he was only trying to get the Lord Jesus out of his territory, because he no longer wanted his subjects to be stirred up in any way. Apparently he also wished to see a sign done by Him, and thus could not have been fully decided about Jesus' fate, Luke 23:8. So he arranged to have this rumour come to Jesus' ears.

On the other hand, his conscience was still tormented due to his murder of John the Baptist. One can assume that he also would not have objected to Jesus being put to death, and this alternative must have occupied his mind. However, he wanted it done by stealth, without anyone suspecting him of such a deed. He was an opportunist, and sought his enemy craftily. He did not mind engaging the Pharisees – renowned enemies of Jesus – to harass the Lord concerning His movements.

This is the picture the gospels give of Herod. He was by all accounts a tormented man, undecided in his approach to Jesus. John the Baptist had undoubtedly told him about the One who was to come, the Messiah whose shoes he was not worthy to untie. John had even inquired about the Messiah while he was in prison, and Jesus had sent messengers to Him with words similar to those here directed to Herod. He said,

Go and tell John what you see and hear: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at Me.Matthew 11:4, 5

We can assume that John did not hide all this good news from Herod and we know that Herod listened to him gladly, Mark 6:20. All this only served to compound his problems, and to turn him into an inwardly restless, double-minded, and unpredictable man – a man so obsessed with guilt that he could do anything. He really was a fox, and a dangerous one at that.

Yet this response of the Lord Jesus is designed to torment him even more. For he hears that the Messianic reign has begun! He had long sought to see Jesus, Luke 9:9, and had never yet seen Him. He was also driven by many fears and superstitions, supposing that John the Baptist had risen from the dead. He sought for peace of mind, but all the works of the Messiah only heightened his anxiety.


The response of the Lord Jesus shows how Herod is caught in his own craftiness. For, much as he wanted to. He would not be able to get rid of the Lord Jesus by his schemes, or make Him a prisoner in his court. Jesus was on a divine timetable, and God had determined the way He had to go. And no one could dislodge Him from His fixed purpose to follow the timetable given to Him by the Father! The Pharisees said: Edom wishes to destroy Israel's great Son. But the Father had said: The elder shall serve the younger. This prophecy governs Jesus' message to Herod. For He would not be a victim of Herod's schemes, but would manifest His triumph over Herod in the execution of His mission. He even exposes the deceit of his would-be helpers, who later became His executioners. "It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem!"

Precisely the mention of Jerusalem shows how Jesus outsmarts His opponents. For Herod represented the hostility of the Idumean dynasty against the Messianic promise. But Jesus was not to die at the hand of a son of Esau. For He was not appointed to win a victory over the children of Esau alone. He was appointed to win the victory for the Gentiles who later would believe in Him. Therefore He was to die not in the jurisdiction of Herod, but in the jurisdiction of the representative of the world-ruler, Pontius Pilate. Pilate represents not Esau, but the rule of man estranged from God. Jesus was not only a son of Israel; He was also a son of Adam. Thus He had to triumph not over one race, but over the whole world! His death had to take place in the public forum, before all the world. And Herod's final torment and defeat is seen in his alliance with this representative of the world government, Luke 23:12.

And how does Christ triumph? Not by worldly standards, but by fulfilling the demands of God's justice. He dies in Jerusalem, and so fulfils the Scriptures. For it is Israel's and Jerusalem's rejection of the gospel which brings light to the nations. So He disarmed principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in the cross, Colossians 1:15. This is the timetable of God's counsel of redemption which Jesus fulfils. He triumphs not just over Edom, but over a world of sin! The stone which the builders rejected becomes the head of the corner!

Here we see what kind of a Saviour we have. He destroys the wisdom of the wise and thwarts the cleverness of the clever, 1 Corinthians 1:19. The gospel of the kingdom still makes its sovereign way in the world! He has condemned and renounced underhanded ways, and His Word proceeds by an open statement of the truth, proclaiming amnesty and life to all who believe. And still to us He says:

Blessed is he who takes no offense at Me!

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