|Jesus at Herod's Court by Duccio, c. 1310|
Even our own feeble hands
ache to seize the crown you wear…
--from “New Hymn” by James Taylor and Reynolds Price
Whatever is going on with Herod and the plot to kill the infant Jesus, it’s true that there is always a stark collision of powers between the divine and worldly. Jesus really is a threat, for not only is he the world’s true King, but his way is the way of yieldedness to the Father. And when people begin following that way, it becomes more than worldly powers can bear.
It’s paradoxical that, as long as people follow worldly powers, the worldly powers can give us something to follow. Even if one is following a competing power, at least another power can manage and manipulate the competition with marketing, propaganda, a certain brand of patriotism, and so on. But those who follow Jesus in yieldedness to the will of the Father can’t really be managed or propagandized. And that’s scary.
Sadly, though, the numbers of Christians who follow the Father over worldly powers are few. It’s hard. Herod’s palace is right up there on the hill (where I want to be). Caesar’s troops are everywhere on the streets. They all seem to be calling the shots. Even when they feign allegiance to God, we know Jesus’ way is no way to govern a super-power. The masses know and fall in line. Let us eat cake! Protect us at all costs. Poison our holy scriptures as part of your propaganda and we’ll lap it up time and again like a dog returning to its own vomit.
Jesus started life as a refugee. God told his family to run for their lives. Jesus wasn’t a Herod or a Caesar or even a magi. Jesus was a political exile who had to flee his homeland so he wouldn’t be slaughtered. That was the choice his family made. It began his whole story of one at odds with worldly powers. It eventually did cost him his life. But it all was the result of being truly free. It was the result of being a true super-power.