The Life of Jesus

Jesus on Name-Calling: “Go Tell that Fox!”

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On becoming like Jesus…

“I want to be like Jesus, So lowly and so meek, For no one marked an angry word, That every heard Him speak”.

But as we read the scriptures, we realize that Jesus is not always ‘so lowly and so meek’, and that sometimes He calls people names and even resort to the use of a whip! But does Jesus endorse such approach?

There was this face-off in Luke chapter 13 between Jesus the Savior and a King named Herod. And it makes me wonder. Although it’s not every time that we can literally hear the ‘edge’ in Jesus’ Voice or the severity of the satire in His expressions like we read in this chapter, but when He did He meant it. He came to Earth for a very serious business, and sometimes human beings are so thick-skulled and only respond to extreme reactions, strong language, maybe violence.

“Go and tell that Fox!” 

Luke 13:32 – Jesus replied, “Go tell that Fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people [performing cures] today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose”.

Did Jesus just call somebody a fox? And that ‘somebody’ was not just anybody; he was King Herod, the Roman-controlled Monarch/Ruler in Galilee  at that time. Jesus here openly mocked a powerful figure who was trying to have him killed.

Jesus addressing the Pharisees, “Go Tell That FOX!”

“Go and tell that Fox!” Jesus calling Herod a fox catches us a little off guard here. Did Jesus really call people names?  This isn’t the gentle, meek and mild Jesus. This isn’t that picture of Jesus sitting somewhere up there in the clouds whispering nice things to people. Luke shows us that Jesus had an edge to him, maybe he was even a little bit of a rebel. Yes, Jesus dis call people names but only when appropriate and absolutely necessary. He did not do it to hurt people’s feelings or out of childish anger or to be unkind; Jesus was only calling a spade a spade, referring to Herod’s cunning, sneakiness and insecurity, referring to him both as a puppet ruler and a dangerous man!

He at this point slowly shifted His attention to Jerusalem, lamenting over it and describing it as “the bloody city”, “the Prophet’s slaughter home”!! He would be returning to Jerusalem soon and He knew his death was imminent. Yes, the edge in His voice at that time was perfectly normal!

Luke 13:33 – Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!

He mentioned with sarcasm that it was “unacceptable” for any prophet to be murdered anywhere outside Jerusalem; like “How on earth can a Prophet be killed outside Jerusalem?” He was confident that Herod could not kill him because his death was going to happen in Jerusalem. “I’m not going to fly or run away from you Herod out of fear, when I’m done with my work here, I will go ahead to Jerusalem!”

Jesus And Herod

Jesus and the Herod dynasty shared a long history. Herod the Great was a ruthless Ruler who was also the reigning Monarch when Jesus was born. As a child, following the visit from the Wise Men, Herod the Great had tried to kill Jesus. And in his rage, he had ended up killing hundreds of male children aged 0-2 years, but somehow he managed to miss Jesus! Jesus was taken to Egypt where he grew up until a certain age when the Angel appeared to his adoptive father Joseph telling him it was safe to return home because Herod the Great was now dead.

They returned to Judah but discovered that the new Herod was Archelaus who was just as ruthless as his Father, so Joseph took his family to a small city in Galilee called Nazareth where it was safer to live, and where he had raised Jesus and his other children.

And there in Galilee another son of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas also became the King. Herod Antipas was not as powerful as the Father, he was more of a puppet ruler but he survived by cunning means. He was unstable and untrustworthy, and that unstable men in power are the most dangerous! He married Herodias his half-sister who was also the ex-wife of Philip, another half-brother of his.

Closer home, Antipas had arrested and murdered Jesus’ cousin at a very tender age – in his early thirties, without fair hearing. John the Baptist had been uncomfortable with the incest in Herod’s palace, and had condemned Antipas for marrying Herodias. For that ‘sin’, John had been arrested and beheaded, just like that. And to make matters worse, a young girl, Herodias daughter had been used to plot the murder. And now Jesus’ own life was being threatened by the same Herod. Jesus definitely had personal reasons to speak against the entire Herod Dynasty, especially Herod Antipas whom he described as a fox!

Why would Jesus call King Herod a fox?

A Fox is a small, weak, wily animal that survives by cunning rather than strength (compared to a lion both of  which are in the cat family, yes fox is in the cat family). A fox has a reputation for cunning, for sneakiness, and trickery. Herod might not have had red fur and a bushy tail like a fox; but Jesus was using strong language to draw attention to Herod’s crafty and treacherous side.

Herod was threatening Jesus. And the messengers he sent to warn Jesus were the same Pharisees who attempted to kill Jesus recently; he was even now playing the ‘sly’ fox by sending these kind of messengers.

“Go away, leave here. Herod wants to kill you”, they warned him. But Jesus was not afraid of the ‘bully next door’. He said, “Tell that fox I’ve got work to do first, today and tomorrow and the third day.” He used remarkable language to express the successive steps of His work yet remaining and the calm deliberateness with which He meant to go through with them, one after another, to the last, unmoved by Herod’s threat.

Jesus – The Mother Hen!

In the same setting, and in contrast to the fox, Jesus offers himself to the people of Jerusalem as a Mother Hen.

Luke 13:34 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a Hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem, Calls it ;The Bloody City”!

Now, it may be hard for some of us to imagine Jesus as a Mother, let alone as a Hen! Many of us probably aren’t used to female images for God because most of our images and ideas about God are very, very male-oriented. But we forget that the Bible does show feminine images for God also.

Here Jesus compares himself to a mother hen gathering her children under her wings. Earlier he called Herod a fox; a conniving, selfish, untrustworthy beast. Now he likens himself to a nurturing mother hen. Hens are known to be protective.

God seeks to gather us under her protective wings, as a mother hen gathers her chicks. God wants a relationship with us that is as personal and intimate as that of a mother to her children. It is God’s desire to gather us together under her protective wings, when our enemy, the fox, tries to prey upon us. The question is, Will we gather together under God’s motherly wings?

Did Jesus Encourage Calling People Names?

No He did not. Name-calling is not a Fruit of the Spirit and it is against what Christianity stands for.

We need to be careful here. As Christians we are called to love, forgive, forbear and be courteous to others. We should not go around calling people names as a general rule. Jesus rarely did. We have no other instance where Jesus used such a contemptuous expression for any other person; but Herod richly merited it.

However, there are times when we also must call a spade a spade. Sometimes a thief needs to be called a thief; the unfaithful spouse must be called an adulterer; the person who engages in pornography or who is a pedophile needs to be called perverted. There are times when evil must be confronted and named. There are times when Herod must be called a Fox.

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