The rulers sneered at Jesus, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him, there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Christ the King Sunday
A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, rose to power in Egypt. He told his people, “See! The Israelite people have multiplied and become more numerous than we are! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave the land.” Exodus 1:8-10
“Come, let us deal shrewdly with them,” I remember forty-two years ago, and many times since when this question came up. How did Pharaoh deal shrewdly with the Hebrews? What did he tell them? Exodus does not say, directly. But it is implied.
Israel set out with all that was his. When he arrived at Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called: Jacob! Jacob! He answered, “Here I am.” Then he said: I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will also bring you back here after Joseph has closed your eyes. So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba, and the sons of Israel put their father and their wives and children on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. They took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan. So Jacob and all his descendants came to Egypt.” Genesis 46:1-7
The first thing Pharoah said in the name of being shrewd was, “You chose to be here. That the one true God called them, vocare, vocationed them to enter Egypt was simply left out. Pharaoh did not believe in the God anyway. Likewise, in the case of Jesus, God called Jesus to be on that cross, to save us all. Likewise, God calls each person on our planet to live where they live, and to do what they do for a living. People today call the poorest of the poor to save themselves. When they leave their places of poverty, in particular when it is south of the border, they then tell them they are not welcome here, to go back.
‘We, your servants, like our ancestors, have been owners of livestock from our youth until now,’ in order that you may stay in the region of Goshen since all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.”
They are the wrong vocation, the wrong vocation. They are not C.P.A.s and they do not have M.B.As. Many do not have high school diplomas. They are janitors and file clerks and are therefore not welcome in the proper community. They are liberals, not good conservatives because they want help digging out of their poverty. They come asking for help, just as Joseph and his brothers did. We also read of Goshen, Delta land. Delta is about the last place one wants to put herds of sheep. They will trample the ground and the ground will not recover. Pharaoh can then say, “See, we gave them the best of the land, and look what they did to it. They do not deserve any more. Let them die in poverty.”
Last, comes Genesis 47:1-26. This long section tells of how Joseph swindled the Egyptian people out of their land and gave it to Pharaoh, and to foreigners living in their land. Pharaoh can say, “You did it to us first.”
We then read Exodus 13:18 and chapter 14. God, in essence, says, “Hold on Moses; I want to give this clown swimming lessons.” We read in these chapters of how Pharaoh has sclerosis of the heart. “Sclerosis,” is the Greek term the Septuagint uses to describe Pharaoh’s heart. The warning is clear. Eat your vegetables and stay away from the alcohol, grease, and meat that will give you sclerosis. Be compassionate and kind, not carnivores of others.
St. Paul writes in this regard, “In him, all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him, all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
For St. Paul, if Christ is really at our head, there is no room for any of Pharoah’s excuses. We also read in Luke 13:1-17 “At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He replied, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!…
“He was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. A woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. The leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, replied to the crowd, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” Kyrie replied, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated, and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.”
Why 18? Why not, “Almost twenty.” We have Roman numbers. “I” is 1, “C” is a hundred. “V” is five, and “L” is fifty. Hebrew does the same thing. “I” is ten and “CH” is eight. Chai spells eighteen and it also spells, “Life.” This is our first clue as to what Luke tries to tell us in this passage. Life comes before everything else except God, who is Life. Again, we read about bad choices. The Pharisees come complaining about the bad choices of others and Jesus, in essence, says, “It was not their choice, but if you do not straighten up and get your act straight, you are next.” There is only room for seeing Christ as the head of his Church, and that he calls us to see each other as differing pieces of his body. In relation to that, there is no room for excuses. If one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.
St. Paul speaks of perichoresis, the word from which we derive our words, choir, chorus, and choreography. There is only the one divine dance of the Godhead, Father/Son/and Holy Spirit. Within that, we dance as the bride of Christ. There is simply no room for finding the faults of others within this dance. There is only room for helping others to have the full potentiality of life. Le Chaim!