“After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee.”
Tuesday, 26 January 2021
Looking at this sentence, knowing in advance the fate of John the Baptist – and, indeed, of Jesus himself – I found myself remembering that great anthem of reggae star Bob Marley, Redemption Song. In particular, the lines,
How long shall they kill our prophets, While we stand aside and look?
kept ringing through my mind.
It seems strange, even masochistic, that in the face of persecution and death, time after time, the death of prophets leads to new people taking up the mantle. After John is taken, Jesus begins his ministry, perhaps even an act – some historians have suggested – in response to the event. The clue to why this happens may be hinted at in Marley’s lines – while most of us ‘stand aside and look’, there are always those who are so driven to respond that they cannot but stand up.
They are usually people driven to stand up and speak out, witnessing to often uncomfortable truths that the powers that be don’t like to hear. So driven, in fact, that they are willing to risk everything for the truth. They are often awkward people, who unsettle us – even at times when we substantially or wholly agree with them.
Why are we unsettled? Because they say things that are inconvenient: about race, economics, gender, sexualities, the worldviews we take for granted. They remind us that our world is far from perfect, if not unjust at its core, that our institutions are flawed and need changing. And that our settled way of life is often settled in indifference and injustice.
Who are the prophets today that frighten us, call us to look again at our status quo?
Do we dare to consider to take up the mantle of prophecy?