What I’m Thinking: Rival Monarchs

Herod saw Jesus as a threat to his royal power – but Jesus was also a threat to the notion of what royal power was for.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the thirteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 13:31-35), when Jesus was warned about the hostility of King Herod.

Now truthfully, chapter thirteen starts ominously in Luke’s Gospel, although that’s somewhat coincidence (Luke did not put in the chapter numbers). It begins with Jesus being asked about the fate of some Galileans who had been slain by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and now here at the end of the chapter a group of Pharisees come to Jesus warning him that King Herod wants to kill him.

You see, not all the Pharisees were against Jesus. These Pharisees clearly were interested in preserving his safety.

Now this was a real danger. Herod had already executed John the Baptist. Herod was known to be both thoroughly wedded to his power and authority, and ruthless in his maintenance of it. Popular movement leaders like John the Baptist or like Jesus could be seen as potential rivals for the throne. When that word “Messiah” went floating around: Messiah was a royal claim to the throne that Herod occupied. So it’s no great surprise that Herod thought that his life would be easier or safer if Jesus weren’t in the world.

Jesus’ response is a curious one. I think it actually does assert royal power. For one thing, Jesus told those who warned him, “Go and tell that fox…” Hardly a complimentary name for your monarch.

He said, go and tell that fox what it is I have been doing. I have been healing. I have been casting out demons. And I am going to continue to do these things. That is: your royal power, Herod, does not match my royal power, and I will not let your ruthlessness or threats deter me from my chosen course.

But what’s distinct about it, of course, is that Jesus’ way is one of healing. Those who are before him on Jesus’ journey are those who will be healed, who will be renewed, who will be restored to their communities. Whereas Herod, Herod is always a danger not just to leaders of popular movements like Jesus, but to the communities that embraced him, to the people who followed him.

In these days we have far fewer monarchs but we have plenty of people who exercise all the power and prerogatives of royalty. Do they exercise that power for healing or do they exercise that power in order to simply maintain that power, that privilege, that wealth, that safety? I think the answer’s clear.

And as for me, my preferred monarch, leader, guide, and friend is Jesus.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , | Posted on March 7, 2022

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