Liturgical Readings for the Second Sunday in Lent
Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31)
With assistance of Fred B. Craddock writing for Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching; Luke; Craddock also shows that not all Pharisees should be grouped into a Hate-Jesus group. Craddock writes, “In fact, according to Luke, Paul himself acknowledged near the close of his ministry, not “I was a Pharisee” but “I am a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6). (Craddock; Interpretation 1990; Luke; p. 173) Craddock goes on to say that some of the members of the early church were indeed Pharisees.
This is the idea I quickly came to as I read the opening of this passage. These Pharisee were not trying to trick Jesus. They were trying to warn him. Herod Antipas of Galilee had already beheaded John the Baptist and there was talk that Jesus was a reconstituted John. Herod now wanted to be done with this once and for all. But Jesus knew that in spite of Herod’s yearning, prophets are killed in Jerusalem and nowhere else. Jesus even taunts him sending the message that he will be in his territory for three more days and then on to Jerusalem. So there, Herod.
This lesson about the Pharisees is like the one about “The Jews” as written especially in the Gospel of John where the term is used as if to say that all Jews were instrumental in the death of Jesus. The term “The Jews” is pointing to the Temple authorities only. And, perhaps not even all of them. This leads to the focus of this pondering. We need to own the deep level of understanding God has given us to look deep into people and the groups to which they belong.
Today we tend to be as divisive as we can be. Sometimes this happens only for the sake of being against the other group or team. We do this most effectively with labels. We label the others progressive, conservative, liberal, literal, fundamentalist, democrat, and republican, Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic, Muslim and back to Jews again. On these labeling platforms we initiate polarization, and too often, tribal hate for those not on “our team.”
We need to be open to being loving friends with those who belong to groups that we don’t feel comfortable being a part of. Jesus went to dinners with the Pharisees. But he never became a Pharisee. If we look, and we can, there is some good in all groups that attract loving community. This is true because some aspect of God is present in that loving community too. And this too is true because God is love. We can’t, and shouldn’t, just be done with them once and for all. So there, Herod.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying through and to God’s people and “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” John Thomas Frazier Sr.