One of the retreats I sometimes lead looks at images of Jesus from different times and different cultures as we try to get a grasp of what Jesus means to each of us, in different times, places and circumstances of our lives.
An image that is both popular and controversial is the one known as the “Laughing Jesus” (Original name Jesus Christ- Liberator). Drawn in 1973, by Willis Wheatley, a member of the United Church, in Canada , the picture shows Jesus giving a great belly-laugh, head back, eyes sparkling.
Some find the picture irreverent…surely, they say, Jesus never laughed or felt such undignified emotion. Others see in it a picture of the human side of Christ, who attracted people in their droves and who was especially a hit with children.
I believe that there is ample evidence in the written record that Jesus shared with us in the full spectrum of emotion. Today’s passage is a passionate example of this.
 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”  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 reach my goal.’  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.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
Luke 13:31-35 NIV
The bit about hens and chicks reminded me of a story I heard at a summer Beach Mission when I was a child in the 50s or early 60s. It was a made-up story, originally written by Floyd McCague as a series of pamphlets for children in 1945, but it has taken on the status of an urban myth, with some even quoting (spuriously) National Geographic magazine as its source. Even Tom Wright includes the story in both “Matthew for Everyone part 2” and “Luke for Everyone”.
“In that parable from long ago, the bird was not a wild creature in the forest but rather a hen living on a farm. As a fire engulfs the farm, she gathers her chicks under her and protects them, giving her life for theirs.
The Little Red Hen was one of the thirteen original pamphlets published as part of the Illustrated Gospel Series, also known as “The McCague Lessons.” (Floyd McCague). The tale of a self-sacrificing mother fowl was not a true account but rather a yarn meant to teach a Bible lesson about the love Jesus felt for his children, a love so great that he gave his life so that they could be saved.”
Some people say that the story is trauma inducing…there is at least one instance in a blog online where the author tells that he was put off Christianity for life after hearing the story, because chickens were so much more relevant to his life that Jesus was!
Stories apart, what is inescapable in the gospel story is the passionate love of Jesus for his own people, and his desire to see them come to believe that he was the promised one, sent from God. The passion is made even more compelling by our knowledge (and maybe Jesus suspected, if he didn’t know) what awaited him in Jerusalem. The warning from the Pharisees (not all Pharisees are bad!) and the fate of the prophets who went before him must have painted a stark picture of future probabilities.
Jesus is not deterred. His love is total…he must press on.