Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus compares himself to a mother hen who longs to gather her chicks under her wing. As the theologian N.T. Wright points out, this is much more than a sentimental image. It refers to the gesture of a hen when fire is sweeping through the barn. In order to protect her chicks, she will sacrifice herself, gathering them under her wing and using her own body as a shield.

On the cross, Jesus used, as it were, his own sacrificed body as a shield, taking the full force of the world’s hatred and violence. He entered into close quarters with sin (because that’s where we sinners are found) and allowed the heat and fury of sin to destroy him, even as he protected us.

With this metaphor in mind, we can see, with special clarity, why the first Christians associated the crucified Jesus with the suffering servant of Isaiah. By enduring the pain of the cross, Jesus did indeed bear our sins; by his stripes we were indeed healed. 

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