Herod, Jesus and Prophets

Ched Myers commentray on Mark, Binding the Strong Man, is really helping me understand the socio-political significnace of Mark’s Gospel.

Herod, who had used intermarriage to consolidate and protect his fragile dynasty, was threatened by the preaching of John the Baptist. Perhaps John’s preaching of repentance could cause people loyal to his former wife to rise up in rebellion. Josephus contends that Herod had John killed for political reasons. As we unpeal Mark’s account, we see the political implications. With John dead, Jesus will inherit John’s mission. Jesus will also inherit Johns’ fate for preaching truth to power. Thus, at this point in the narrative, Mark is highlighting the road to Jerusalem and the cross.

Is Jesus prophet, Elijah or John redivivus? They have already dishonored Jesus as prophet—he is without honor in his own country. He is not Elijah. Mark will soon make it clear the John was Elijah. He is not John redivivus. Jesus will emerge as the nonviolent face of God. He will preach repentance and reform. He will suffer at the hands of the powers.

Paul lists prophecy as the second charism in his list of charisms. Prophets do not read tea leaves and foretell the future. Prophets speak truth to power. Speaking truth to power today means that we must challenge wars for oil and hegemony, the use of torture, the greed of bankers and brokers, the unjust treatment of the strangers among us, a defense budget which is 50% of all combined defense budgets worldwide, the exploitation of the poor, the lack of adequate shelter, education and medical care for citizens of the United States and people around the world.

Like John the Baptist and Jesus, we must realize there will be consequences when we speak truth to power. Merton says that anyone who thinks they are a prophet is not a prophet. Don’t worry about whether you are a prophet or not—speak Gospel truth when convenient and when inconvenient. Shout it from the housetops if necessary!

Justice requires prophets to campaign for right order and right relationships. Justice requires ultimately that each prophet look at his/her own life and evaluate it in terms of Gospel values. Francis of Assisi had it right. If you have possessions, you have to have arms to defend your possessions.

My “representative” in Congress says that he will do everything necessary to protect the U.S., the State of Georgia, and the American way of life. Defending the bloated American way of life is costing us dearly. We are maintaining it on the backs of the poor here and abroad. The money we save at Wal-Mart comes out of the hides of people in sweat shops around the globe. Greed runs rampant as Wal-Mart is one of the few companies showing a growth in sales during this economic recession/depression. When Wal-Mart executives went around the country during the primaries and urged employees not to support a democrat who would make it easier to unionize workers, I decided then and there never to shop at Wal-Mart again. And I have not.

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