Summary: As Christians, we can face death with confidence, not fear
31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."
32 He replied, "Go tell that fox, ’I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’
33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day-- for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ’Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’"
Years ago, the Ku Klux Klan would make an annual march down Auburn Street in Atlanta, which was the main street of the Black population during the 1950s. One Black resident of Atlanta that I talked to recently remembered those marches. He said it was a frightening thing to see. All these white robed figures would march down the street. Hoods over their heads. At one time, they were even masked with their faces covered. The Blacks would watch with fear as these people would demonstrate a hatred for them – a hatred based only on the color of their skin.
Then one year, sometime in the 1950s, there was a change in the way the marchers were greeted. The Black Americans, instead of being afraid of the Klan, laughed at them.
And that was the last time that the Klan ever marched down Auburn Avenue.
You know, laughter really is an effective way to pull the rug out from under some folks, or in some cases, to pull the thrown of power out from under them.
It is the very way in which Jesus handles Herod in our Gospel lesson for today.
Herod wants to kill Jesus. And Jesus is warned by a group of Pharisees. And in response to this frightening situation, Jesus laughs, and says, “You go tell that old fox, I was working yesterday, I’ll be working tomorrow.”
I’m not too sure of who is being laughed at here and being called an “old fox.” Oh I know that on the surface it looks like Herod is the old fox that is being laughed at, but I’m not so sure. I have the feeling that the old fox whose throne of power is being pulled out from under by means of laughter is not Herod, but the death that Herod brings.
The old fox is death.
And Jesus dethrones that old fox called death by saying, “You go tell that old fox, I’ve been at work yesterday, I’ll be at work tomorrow.”
Most of us could not dethrone death’s power over us in such a way. Most of us would be more like the Black Americans on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue, frightened at the passing Klansmen.
It’s difficult to laugh at the shadow of death. For most of us are so frightened of it. Most of us have no idea how to handle the prospect of our death.
I heard about a Priest recently who, at the end of a funeral, turned to the casket and with the sign of the cross said, “My friend, may God grant you peace through all eternity.” And then he turned to the congregation and family gathered around the open grave and continued, “And to whichever one of our group may be next for this cemetery – it may be the youngest or the oldest – it may be the most informed or the strongest in health – we do not know who it will be – but whoever’s time is next, may God grant you a peaceful death.”
Now the person telling me about this had a strong negative reaction to these words. I can understand why. None of us likes to be reminded that ours might be the next funeral held in the church. We don’t want to think that we might be the next ones headed for the grave. There is something frightening about death. There is something about it that you don’t laugh at in death.
But there is Jesus, laughing, and saying, “You go tell that old fox, ‘I’ve been working yesterday. I’m going to be working tomorrow.’”
He calls not only Herod an Old Fox, but also the death that Herod brings. Laughing at it. Not being intimidated by it.
Jesus is not intimidated by death. He doesn’t avoid his death or try to deny it like many of us do. In fact, he sees everything in life from the perspective of his death. And not just from death, but beyond death, from the perspective of his Resurrection.