Some Pharisees warn Jesus that he should hide because Herod wants to kill him. He responds,
“Go tell that fox, ‘Today and tomorrow I am forcing demons out of people and finishing my work of healing. Then, the next day, the work will be finished.’ After that I must go, because all prophets should die in Jerusalem.”
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets. You stone to death the people God has sent to you. How many times I wanted to help your people. I wanted to gather them together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you did not let me. Now your home will be left completely empty. I tell you, you will not see me again until that time when you will say, ‘Welcome! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’[b”
First, I love that Jesus calls Herod a “fox”–meaning a cunning and sneaky creature who kills other animals. Second, I like the corresponding imagery of Jesus as a hen gathering chicks under her wings for protection, though he himself is in danger as a prophet. His great desire is to serve the poor and marginalized, to protect them from the foxes of the cruel domination system of his time, but that’s exactly why he was himself in danger from that domination system. And we must follow in his footsteps. Think of the great world changers of history–people like Ghandi and the Martin Luther King, Jr.–in defiance of the powers-that-be and with love for the downtrodden, they stood up for love and justice. They faced hardship and even death itself to change the world for the better. May we have the courage to do the same.
Jesus exits the temple and one of the disciples points out how large the stones and buildings are. Jesus assures him that not one stone will be left on another and the temple will all be thrown down.
Later on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask him what will be the sign that these things are about to happen. Jesus says that many will come in his name and claim to be him and lead people astray. He says, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”
As we’ve learned in his previous encounters with the temple, Jesus has mixed reactions to the temple. He calls it his father’s house, but overturns the tables of the money changers. He admires the poor widow giving her all to the temple treasury, but criticizes the ostentatious giving of the rich at the same time. He accepts it as the house of God, but rejects the domination system it represents and how it fails to live up to the ideals of God–that it should benefit the poor more than the rich and powerful. So he tells his followers it will be thrown down (and it will be, perhaps before Mark is written–I think there’s some dispute among scholars on the exact date).
Apocalyptic literature uses certain vocabulary and imagery, in this case earthquakes, wars, famines, etc., to convey a larger truth. Jesus is telling us to beware and persevere in times of hardship and trial, because no power can prevail against the power of Almighty God.
I think that’s the key lesson to take from this week’s passage. Hard times are going to come but we must trust in God.
King Herod heard rumors about Jesus. One of the rumors was that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead. He was disturbed by this one because he had executed John the Baptist.
He had first just put John in prison to please his wife, Herodias (because she had previously been married to Herod’s brother and John condemned their marriage). Herodias wanted him dead but Herod protected him because he knew John was a holy man and he liked listening to John.
Then Herod had a big birthday party for himself with all the bigwigs from the government and army. His wife’s daughter (seems like she was not his daughter but rather his stepdaughter but then also his niece since his wife was previously married to his brother) danced what was probably a sensual dance, because Herod was so pleased with her that he offered her anything she asked for after her dance.
The girl went to her mother to find out what she should ask and her mother said she should ask for the head of John the Baptist.
So she asked for John’s head on a plate. King Herod felt bad, but felt he couldn’t break the promise he’d made in front of his guests. So he sent a soldier to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. So the head was given to the girl on a plate and she brought it to her mother. John’s disciples heard about it and came to take his body and bury him.
I find it interesting that this rather horrific story is nestled among stories of healing and miracles. This kingdom of Herod (not even a real kingdom as he is a tetrarch ruling on behalf of Rome–a collaborator with the oppressive conquerors) is in stark contrast to the kingdom of God presented by Jesus–a kingdom of healing, acceptance, and love. It’s a kingdom that will be hosting a picnic for 5,000 in the very next passage. It’s a dark foreshadowing of what happens when someone proclaiming the kingdom of God comes into conflict with the earthly powers of Rome as well as a contrast of the kingdoms of men with the kingdom of God.
Even today proclaiming the love of god can be in conflict with the domination system of our day. We must stand up to the domination system and proclaim that there is a better kingdom of mercy and love, and stand against hatred and bigotry.
In this week’s passage, Jesus goes to Jerusalem. He creates a big scene in the temple there, overturning tables of the money traders, driving out people and animals, and cracking a whip (literally). It’s an amazing story about a Jesus usually seen as gentle and compassionate.
I really like what I read about this incident in The Last Week by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan. I highly recommend the book to anyone for a deep dive into Jesus’s final week in Jerusalem. Christians have often been taught that Jesus is objecting to the sellers and money changers themselves, though what they are doing is legitimate business that helps people purchase animals for sacrifice–it’s part of the rituals of the temple for people to achieve purification. They were probably very busy close to Passover. They point out that the phrase “den of robbers” (usually in the English translation) doesn’t mean a den where people are robbed, but rather where the robbers go to hide out after robbing. Jesus is condemning the temple in a different way–for it’s collaboration with the evil domination system and the injustice of the time rather than for the particular rituals being carried out at that moment. In fact, Jesus declares that if they tear down the temple, he will rebuild it in three days.
But the temple Jesus meant was his own body.After he was raised from death, his followers remembered that he had said this. So they believed the Scriptures, and they believed the words Jesus said.
This made me think about Christians today. Some of us collude with those who would oppress the marginalized and with racist and sexist systems. It’s disturbing to see Christians siding with cruel injustice instead of standing up for the oppressed. It’s something I will examine in my own motives and actions.