Feisty Jesus

If someone asked you to describe Jesus’ personality, what would you say? I suspect that most of us would not say “feisty”. But the gospel (Luke 13:31-35) for the second Sunday in Lent gives us glimpse of a feisty Jesus.

Some Pharisees come to warn Jesus to flee because Herod wants to kill him. This is not an idle threat. Herod has all ready killed John the Baptizer. Most of us would take this warning seriously. But Jesus’s response is interesting. He says ( to paraphrase). Go tell that fox, I’m busy. Today and tomorrow I have demons to cast out and people to heal. The third day I’ll finish up and head to Jerusalem. I’ll have to deal with him later. I still have work to do here.

Herod is the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. How the Roman Empire divided the area and what titles the rulers held is complex. Essentially Herod is the ruler of Galilee and Perea, approved by the Roman Emperor. Herod is powerful and most people treat him respectfully if for no other reason than to avoid upsetting him.

But not Jesus. “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’ (Luke 13:32).  It’s as if Jesus is telling Herod to get in line, take a number, make an appointment with my assistant. Herod, you with all your power and authority, you are not the most important thing.  I love this vignette of Jesus.

Eventually Herod and Jesus do met, in Jerusalem and Herod asks Jesus questions and “was hoping to see him perform some sign” (Luke 23: 8), mocks him and sends Jesus back to Pilate for judgment. But for now, Jesus has work to do and Herod will just have to wait.

Jesus knows what his priorities are. People before power. Finish the work at hand and then go on to the next thing. Jesus knows he must go to Jerusalem. He knows what lies ahead. But that future does not distract Jesus’ focus in the present.

This is a good lesson for me. Clearly I’m not Jesus. I don’t heal the sick and cast out demons. The rich and powerful don’t know I exist. But in my own little way, in my own little work, I need to be aware of the future and have a plan while at the same time not letting that distract me from the work at hand. People before power. I have things I need to be about today, tomorrow and the next day. And I don’t think Jesus will mind if, occasionally, I’m just a little feisty.


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