28 September 2017
The “Good News” in our Liturgy today is from Luke 9:7-9.
It is a pithy text. Commentators call it an “interlude” between one section of Luke’s Gospel and another. We read:
Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.
But Herod said, “John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?” And he was anxious to see Jesus.
The scene prior to this “interlude” has Jesus choosing the twelve for a mission. They are told to preach the Kingdom of God, expel devils and heal the sick. Then Jesus says to them:
“Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.”
The scenes after the “interlude” recount the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Peter’s brave confession of faith in Jesus, the foretelling of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Then follows the conditions of discipleship. We are given the imperative to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.”
So, is our Gospel passage today an interlude and no more? Or might it be an interlude and something more? Luke does have a habit in his Gospel of mentioning things as if they were an aside, but in fact are a preparation for important things to come.
On this theory, the mention of Herod today is not just an aside. Rather, he is that violent man who finally encounters Jesus in his passion. We are told in Luke 23 that “Herod was anxious to see Jesus.” Jesus made no answer to him at all, and Herod and his mates mocked Jesus and treated him with contempt and sent him back to Pilate.
Before Herod – and Pilate and the lynch mob – Jesus is completely and utterly vulnerable. And by commanding us to “travel light on our journey”, we in some way share in that mysterious vulnerability. We sense the connection, through this clever “interlude.”
In theology, we have discovered that being vulnerable is the key for opening ourselves up to God. In sociology, we have discovered that being vulnerable is the key for opening ourselves up to others.
“Help us,” we pray, “Holy Spirit, to be honest with ourselves. Help us ‘to see’ that we are quite vulnerable before you and others and not to be frightened. Help us to embrace the gift of vulnerability.”