Sermon March 13, 2022: On Countering Violence with Love
Sermon March 13th
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
In our Gospel reading today we have Luke introducing us to Herod. The same man who will play a role in Jesus’ trial. Luke is the only Gospel writer to give Herod such a place in the story of the Passion.
So who was Herod? Who was this fox that the Pharisees are warning Jesus about?
This is Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. When Herod the Great died his kingdom was split between his sons. Herod Antipas got the Galilee and Perea. He ruled at the pleasure of the emperor. His control over the territory was propped up by Rome. The Herodians were considered collaborators with Rome and were not very popular as a result!
Jesus had no use for Herod. During hisGalilean ministry he never entered 2 cities particularly associated with Herod; Sepphoris and Tiberius. These cities represented the antithesis of the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed. They were monuments to attempts to Romanize the people of Galilee.
Jesus came preaching of a new Kingdom, a Kingdom of peace and justice. He preached repentance and a return to God. Herod Antipas and his supporters also wished to lead the people of Galilee to a new world. But in this case the centre of the world was Rome - not God. And in this world the values were in opposition to the values of the Gospel.
Jesus probably viewed the Herodians as usurpers who had no place in the Kingdom promised by God to David. And Jesus was probably viewed as a threat by Herod Antipas. After all he had been a disciple of John the Baptist - beheaded by Herod. And Jesus was very popular in his own right.
So we should not be surprised that Luke has Jesus refer to Herod as “that fox” It is not a compliment!
And what about these Pharisees that have come to warn Jesus? Now they are surprising! Jesus has not had a chummy relationship with the Pharisees so why would they come to warn him?
Who were these Pharisees? They were laypeople who advocated strict separation from others and a rigorous adherence to both the written and oral Torah. Perhaps these Pharisees had an ulterior motive? Perhaps they were in league with Herod and hoped to chase Jesus out of Herod’s jurisdiction and into an area of Pilate’s responsibility.
People sometimes think that Jesus was unaware of or innocent of political machinations. A closer reading of our Gospels shows that this was definitely not the case. We see it clearly in today’s Gospel. Jesus responds to the warning by referring to Herod as a fox. His response shows that he is very well aware of politics and that he knows they are working with Herod. He is not politically unaware.
Jesus is fully aware that the Kingdom he is proclaiming is an affront to those in power. Even though John the Baptist was killed for his objection to Herod, Jesus will not turn from his mission. He will head to Jerusalem and the political intrigue & the danger will increase as he goes. But we are not there yet.
Jesus calls Herod a fox and then changes his tone. Jesus refers to himself as mother hen. This is one of the few purely feminine references in our scripture.
And it’s a good one. Like a mother hen, God wants to embrace, welcome and protect God’s children. Jesus has a motherly lament for the people of Jerusalem. With this image of protection we see Jesus calling for repentance and salvation, not destruction. When God is portrayed as a mother hen who wants to gather the people of Jerusalem under her wing the mighty are seen in a new way. Jesus points to a true and living God. The foxes are not in control as much as they think they are.
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus is always intent on bringing in those who are cast out, raising up those who are beaten down and drawing closer those on the social outskirts closer to the heart of God. This is the heart of Jesus’ mission, the heart of Jesus’ message.
The mother hen will not fight with violence. The mother hen will counter with love. AMEN