Summary: Our courageous and wise Lord Jesus Christ unfolds the greatest military stategy ever conceived.
Ever once in awhile a minister has to deliver a hard message. When I am called to do that, I like to offer a little bit of sugar or humor to help the medicine go down. So here is a bit of sugar. Laugh now while you can.
An Elderly woman went into the doctor’s office. When the doctor asked why she was there, she replied, “I’d like to have some birth control pills.” Taken back, the doctor thought for a minute and then said, “excuse me, Mrs. Jones, but you’re 72 years old. What possible use could you have for birth control pills?” The woman responded, “They help me sleep better.” The doctor thought some more and continued, "How in the world do birth control pills help you to sleep?" The woman said, "That’s simple, I put them in my granddaughter’s orange juice every morning; and I sleep better at night."
This, of course, is a made up story, But I know grandmothers who would probably do just what this grandmother did in order to keep their grandchildren straight. And depending on the character and personality of the grandchild, it would be a good bet that the grandmother who did such a thing would be living rather dangerously.
For a somewhat different (but not totally unrelated) reason, Jesus took drastic action in dealing with the loose-living people of his day. His role as bold and fearless prophet (while not illustrated explicitly in the narrative before us) is nevertheless clearly in the background of this text. He is dealing with the shadowy figure of King Herod who besides killing children, was into killing prophets, and that of course would include Jesus.
It is hard to tell what specifically Jesus did to merit Herod’s wrath. One possibility is that Jesus may have reopened the adultery case against Herod which got side railed when John (Jesus cousin) lost his head. We have no reason to believe that Jesus would have been any easier on Herod than John. He spoke out against adultery in general just as his cousin had. And it is conceivable that Jesus might get specific about about the matter, especially since Herod had killed his cousin. We don’t know for sure! Whatever the reason, we know Jesus has done something to make Herod mad; mad enough to want to kill him.
What is Jesus’ response to the threat by Herod? Jesus does not move! He stands his ground! If living dangerously was characteristic of the typical prophet, living fearlessly was a vital part of that identity as well. Jesus (in the nature of a true prophet) maintains a demeanor of courage and speaks with a voice that seems unequivocal. Listen again to how he responds to the news of Herod’s threat: “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and the third day I will reach my goal’.
What boldness we see here! What utter disregard for the threats of a powerful man! But how could Jesus respond any differently? He was a prophet and he must speak the truth without regard to the consequences; and he must do it courageously.
It takes a brave person to call the reigning king a fox. Where does this bravery come from? For Jesus it comes out of a deep devotion to his Father. As I think of the courageous words which Jesus speaks to King Herod, I am reminded of an English Reformer by the name of Latimer.
He was preaching once in Westminster Abbey where King Henry of England attended church. Standing in the pulpit and realizing that the king was in his audience, Latimer said to himself, “Latimer, Latimer, Latimer, be careful, the king is here. But he quickly continued his thought process in another vein; “Latimer, Latimer, Latimer, be careful, the King of Kings is here”.
Even prophets are human and will momentarily fall into fear. But they cannot afford to stay there. They must recover quickly from any fear and the way they do it is to keep everything in perspective.
For the true prophet, love and devotion to God trumps the threats of any tyrant. Knowing you are in the service of the King of Kings breaks the grip of intimidation from any earthly king.
I want to tell you that this courage on the part of Jesus is a great inspiration to all who are called to minister the truth. Quite often it is tempting to preach what people want to hear rather than the truth of the gospel. If there were no tomorrow, I suppose that I and all the other preachers of this generation could preach a sweet little rosy sermon every Sunday. If there were no judgment day coming, we could tickle your ears, put a smile on your face, and solicit from you....a hundred plastic compliments.