Monday, January 28, 2008

Herod's Official and Jesus

Monday, January 28, 2008 -- Week of 3 Epiphany, Year 2
(Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Friar, 1274)

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 945)
Psalms 41, 52 (morning) 44 (evening)
Genesis 14:(1-7)8-24
Hebrews 8:1-13
John 4:43-54

Jesus returns to Galilee in today's reading from John's gospel. We've followed his journey through Samaria and his fascinating encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. He arrives in Cana where he gave to people the first sign of his ministry and identity, where he turned water into wine at a wedding feast.

Word of his return reached Capernaum, a town on the lake, about eighteen miles from Cana. A royal official traveled from Capernaum to Cana to see Jesus. This royal official would have had a position in the service of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee who ruled there for forty-two years, including throughout Jesus' ministry. It was Herod Antipas who arrested and executed Jesus' cousin John the Baptist. John had publicly condemned Antipas for his marriage to his half-brother's wife. (In a confusing bit of naming, the wife was Heroditus, wife of Herod, son of Herod the Great.) There is a place in Luke's gospel where a group of Pharisees warned Jesus that Herod Antipas was plotting to kill Jesus as well.

The encounter between the royal official and Jesus is interesting. One wonders if the official might have taken some risks in approaching Jesus on behalf of his dying son. Some among Jesus' group might have suspected some sort of trap. Is this official up to something that would lead to Jesus' arrest? Don't follow him back.

It turns out to be a legitimate request. The man's son is ill. Jesus honors his request, speaking to him, "Go; your son will live." It is important to John to say that the man "believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way." During the eighteen mile journey home, he was met by servants with the news that the child was recovering. The child took a turn for the better at the hour of the conversation with Jesus.

Jesus does good without recourse to the relative merit, or lack of merit, of the royal official. He did not reject the man because he was a servant of Herod Antipas, despite the cruel treatment to John. He did not lecture or correct the man, or demand that he cease his service to Antipas. Jesus did not refuse the heal the child because of the questionable status of the father. (That might be something to reflect on the next time a Christian legislator introduces a policy recommendation to the Arkansas legislature to restrict public medical or educational funds to children whose parents have immigrated here without having gone through the nearly impossible business of being legal about it.)

Jesus offers compassion to the royal official of Herod Antipas. He heals the man's child. How might that instruct the way we relate to those who misuse their power and authority? How might that inform us about our attitude toward our enemies?



Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

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Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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