Acts 12 invites us into Lenten preparations by reshaping our expectations for justice. The story questions who is king, and it seems to be Herod (at least it appears so when we begin). Herod is a violent man; his sword slays James, and soon hovers over the head of the imprisoned Peter: But Passover pardons Peter’s life for a moment as the city gathers to recall when God delivered Israel from Egypt. With Passover in the background, we ask again: Will this captivity also be met with deliverance? The Kingdom of God itself seems to quake under Herod’s gaze. Where is the deliverance that Jesus won? Like Moses before, all Jesus seems to have done is make Peter and the Church a “stink” to Herod. In a world where domination appears to be the rule and death awaits even the faithful, why bother taking up your cross and following Jesus? What kind of king leaves his people to suffer injustice at the hands of earthly tyrants?
But the ground beneath earthly thrones has grown unsteady. Such a seismic shift can be unseen like an underwater earthquake, but its effects are rising to the surface. Unaware of the new power arising, Herod, “royal robes” and all, takes his throne with “the voice of a god”. Here is a king offering bread and safety and power if only the people bow. What kind of people wouldn’t take up such an offer?
Maybe this is the question that eats away at Peter’s mind in jail, and ours as we try to follow Jesus? How much easier is it to trust the bread offered right now? To bow to Herods and Pharaohs than to follow Jesus into the desert and the cross? As Jesus sets his face to the cross, we are invited during Lent to ask if we’ll trust this King and his unorthodox warfare. He shall triumph but not by worldly means or tyranny. He will call us to fight by the same means and to trust that graves and cells are not places of his absence. Remember how he wins at the cross; remember what he does in the grave. The ground beneath earthly thrones is unsteady for Christ has breathed in the heart of the earth and the dirt heaves with him.
So take heart, resurrection took time; Jesus will not abandon you; he is not that kind of king.
Jesse Kane and Jordan Constantine