Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday at 10:00 am CT, Adam and Lindsey host a live Girardian Virtual Bible Study following the Sunday lectionary on the Raven Foundation Facebook page. We invite our listeners to join the conversation with comments and questions. I take some notes to help me prepare… and share them with you to help you do the same! This is the Girardian Virtual Bible Study preview!
Wow! Salty language, Jesus!
As Jesus went from town to town preaching on his way to Jerusalem, some Pharisees, apparently concerned for his safety, warned him to go and hide away, because Herod Antipas was seeking to kill him. It is Herod Antipas, who became tetrarch of Galilee upon the death of his father, Herod the Great, whom Jesus contemptuously calls “fox.”
Herod “kept the peace” by being a puppet enforcer of the Roman occupation. As long as he ensured that the people paid heavy tribute to Rome and recognized their utter subordination to Roman rule, Herod himself could live quite lavishly, and his wealthy supporters – Herodians – could do the same. So Herod acquiesced to power above him while being ready and willing to smother dissent below. Like his father before him, he would ruthlessly crush opposition, but this was to keep the approval of those in authority over him.
So Jesus calls Herod a “fox.” Modern connotations for fox are cunning and cleverness, so I once interpreted this rather sarcastically, as in “Go tell that clever chap…” Like, “He thinks he can fool me, but…” However, while reading Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, I discovered that Jesus’s insult is far more direct than sarcasm. Foxes are predators, but the cowering, sniveling kind. They will steal and kill what is small, but will not fight off a larger opponent. As Claiborne and Haw comment: “The rabbis spoke with images, one of which was the lion, an animal of power and prestige, often called king of the wild. … The fox was often mistaken for a lion but wasn’t king of anything. The fox was an impostor, a poser, a wannabe lion.”
Whoa. Jesus is very directly challenging Herod’s authority, as his entire ministry has implicitly done. Jesus is going from town to town preaching another kingdom, a kingdom whose values are in direct opposition to the strong-dominating-weak values of Herod and Rome. Jesus is preaching servant-leadership and care for the least of these. And in a land where the people are subjugated by fear and a sense helplessness, Jesus is showing even – especially – those cast to the margins that they are beloved.
And Herod wants to kill him for it.
But Jesus won’t be frightened into submission or hiding. “Go tell that fox, I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing.”
Jesus will continue to cast out demons: demons of insecurity and self-doubt, demons of trauma and abuse. And he will continue to heal: not just individuals, but whole communities of the sickness of exclusion and self-righteousness at the expense of those deemed exploitable or expendable. He will continue to build God’s kingdom – that is, he will continue to rebuild the governing structures of the world – on a foundation of mercy, not sacrifice. And this means the end of sacrificial power and authority is drawing near.
And Jesus can go without fear for a little longer, though later he will sweat drops of blood in the terror of imminent betrayal, abandonment, suffering, and death. He knows he will die, but not yet.
“It is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside Jerusalem.”
Why is this impossible? Because Jerusalem is the city of sacrifice. It is the city in which people come to offer sacrifices in the temple to God. But it is also the city that kills the prophets, the messengers of God. How can this be?
What if God never desired sacrifice in the first place? What if we truly learned what it means that God desires mercy, NOT sacrifice. (Not a little sacrifice. Not mercy more than sacrifice. Mercy NOT sacrifice).
What if the prophets who were killed were killed precisely because they critiqued a sacrificial system, a system that said death was needed to bring life? What if they were killed for preaching a God beyond the comprehension of the people, a God who never wanted anyone killed, expelled, or marginalized for “impurity.” What if the prophets were killed by those who thought they knew God better, who thought that they were doing God’s will when they killed them?
So what about all of the instructions regarding sacrifice? We read about some in this week’s Hebrew Bible reading, Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18.
We’ll talk about all of this in the Girardian Virtual Bible Study – the beginning and end of sacrifice, the evolution of the understanding of God as God self-reveals to us and our eyes adjust to take in the light.
And we’ll see one of the most compelling feminine images of Jesus ever: that of a mother hen gathering her chicks underwing.
What protection is a hen in the face of a fox? Would we rather have a lion instead?
Whether you’re a minister preparing your Sunday sermon or a lay person trying to better understand the Bible, whatever you believe, question, or doubt, we warmly invite you to participate with comments and questions as we seek to grow our virtual community. Your presence is more than an honor and a blessing – it’s a necessity! Since we are interdividual beings, growing in relationship with one-another, we need each other! Your participation is an integral part of the Girardian Virtual Bible Study!