There is an old phrase that goes something like this: “Don’t let the fox guard the chicken coop.” No kidding! Everyone knows that foxes like chicken for dinner. The phrase has the same merit today as it has throughout the generations. No one would obviously put the chickens at risk by letting the fox run the place. No one would want political leadership to take advantage of the people they are entrusted to protect. Yet this is the situation the reading is taken from for today.
Herod was in charge as the appointed ‘King of the Jews.’ He was a sly fox. Herod tried to appease the favor of the people by the many building projects he oversaw, including the Temple. Herod was also very brutal as he crushed any opposition which kept him in good standing with Rome. Herod was a sly fox. He knew how to work the system for his benefit and not for the good of the people.
A few Pharisees came to Jesus and told him to get out of town. Herod was there and wanted to see Jesus killed. Jesus called Herod a fox and then defined his position. The Kingdom of God was near with him. This kingdom would not be pushed aside for the likes of Herod. Do you want proof? Demons are cast out. People are healed of their diseases. Jesus was bringing the presence of God’s reign to the people. He was going to be busy doing this today, tomorrow and on the third day reach the goal. This work will be finished in Jerusalem. Too bad if Herod objects.
There is comfort in knowing Jesus would not be deterred from his goal. There is also sadness from the reality of how many times have I sided with the fox. How many times have we let a sly fox deceive us into our own destruction? The result is that the place where we should be most alive and feel the most secure is empty. We are left with a world that we have handed over to the foxes.
Jesus lamented how he longed to gather us together under his protective wing like a mother hen does to protect her chicks from the fox; the hen willing to sacrifice herself to satisfy the fox’s hunger. For now Jesus must be about his work today, tomorrow and finish on the third day. This will come into focus when the people shout, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” We observe that moment as Passion Sunday.