Key Texts: Luke 12:11-12, Luke 13:31-35
Speaking ‘truth to power’ is a non-violent political approach, employed by protesters against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive and authoritarian.
The prophets of the Old Testament operated outside of the established religious, social and political hierarchy. Their job was to speak the truth to power. Remember Nathan (2 Samuel 12) speaking truth to King David after his affair with Bathsheba. Jeremiah spoke truth to the King of Judah (Jeremiah 22) and so on.
The role of the prophet is to speak truth to power and after Pentecost this became one of the roles of the church. Since the day of Pentecost all believers are now prophets in some sense.
In Acts 2:16-18 we see the prophet Joel being quoted and reminded about.
“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy”.
The out pouring of the Holy Spirit brought the church into being with a mission to be the prophet to the world. John the Baptist did it and it cost Him his head. Jesus did it and it took Him to the cross.
In this session we will be exploring further what truth speaking to power looked like for Jesus and ask what does it look like for us today.
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
“At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to Him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
What jumps out at you?
What questions do you have?
Q. It is important to note that Jesus speaking truth to power was not about Him protecting his own status or position but about challenging the wrong use of power in the other. Here Jesus is challenging Herod, what was it about Herod that needed challenging?
Q. What does Jesus reveal about Himself here in v.32-33, including his intentions?
Q. What strikes you about Jesus’ prophecy?
Q. What does it mean for us to be gathered under Jesus’ wings?
Q. If the Pharisees wanted Jesus dead then why are they being helpful by telling Jesus about Herod wanting Him killed? Are they being truthful here or are they using a situation for themselves?
Q. Jesus calls Herod a ‘fox’. A European reading of this passage will think the meaning is simple. The modern meaning of the word fox is that of a ‘sly’ creature, one that can’t be trusted. But the first uses of the term fox found in the scriptures give us another picture.
Within the Hebrew world, lions and foxes can be contrasted. The fox is seen as a ‘wanna be’ lion, but without the wisdom. Lions are great men and foxes are inferior men.
Song of Solomon 2:15 “Catch for us the foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards in bloom”. The vineyard is a symbol of Gods provision and blessing of which the fox is bringing destruction.
In the Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi’it 39 Ch 9 Halachah 5 “There are lions before you, and you ask foxes”. In other words, why do you ask the opinion of foxes when you have the wisdom of lions in front of you.
Herod considered Himself a lion and Jesus is considering Him a fox. This was a clear slap in the face for Herod. Do we have similar modern phrases that would be a slap in the face?
Q. Jesus uses the ‘Herod the ‘fox’’ phrase. Are you able to think about any modern animal metaphors that can be used to undermine someone? Eg. Dirty Rat. Sly Fox, Dead as a dodo, Rat bag, a leopard does not change his spots.
Q. Are you able to name other occasions Jesus speaks truth to power? Think about the religious leaders, Pilot and any others. Is there a theme in what he challenges?
E.g. – Pharisees he calls white washed tombs, disciples are challenged by Jesus’ feet being anointed with oil and his saying “you will always have the poor”.
Q. Jesus says they will not see Him again until they say “‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”. What incident is Jesus referencing here? (see Luke 19:28–44)
Q. It is time for the Church to speak truth to power. We often feel like a minority voice but we have just what is needed to be truth tellers. What truth needs speaking to power today?
Q. How do we make sure our ‘speaking truth to power’ isn’t just an excuse to be rude?
Consider putting in some questions or thought provokers about how to speak truth to power, as well as who are the powers and what do we speak to them about. I’m sure you can’t march up to Buckingham Palace and ask to see the Queen to tell her some truth, or Downing Street, or Windsor Palace etc etc. How can ordinary, everyday people access the power structures and representatives in the UK and give a message of truth? Apart from government, who else needs to hear these truths? Church leadership? Corporate CEOs?
We walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
Make us instruments of your peace but also like Jesus to call out the bad conduct, and speak truth to power.
We also don’t want to be people who are rude and obnoxious,
We don’t want to mask our personal anger as ‘truth to power’.
Help us Lord keep out hearts pure and our mouths prophetic.
Fill us afresh with your spirit so that all that we do might come from your anointing.