Where do prophets go to die?
I love Sundays (and all other days) the day when Jesus rose, affirmed as Son of God by the Father, carrying human destiny out of the grave. I am so happy to be predestined in him and able to taste glory now. (No I don’t read interpretations into Paul’s phrases about predestination… seems simple to me: Jesus is the one who carries destiny, so in him I am destined.) But the Scriptures I have been mediating on are about where prophets are to die.
Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! (Luke 13: 33-34).
Earlier in Luke we read that Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51). He was determined that his death was to take place in Jerusalem. The city that had sought to live above the prophetic (Jeremiah), and so now by the time of Jesus was opposed to the prophetic and killed prophets. Jesus said “because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem” (NRSV), yet Paul set his face to go to Rome, making his appeal to Caesar. He did not look, nor expect, to be killed in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem for Jesus and Rome for Paul
Both symbolise places of power, centres of control. Jerusalem symbolised religious power and Rome political and economic power. Jerusalem had lost its call, with the Temple falling under judgement as it was no longer a house of prayer for the nations. It was not a source for reconciliation but for division. Jerusalem was compromised (and the priesthood were very willing to sacrifice Jesus so that the Romans would allow them to keep the Temple). So in going to Jerusalem Jesus sets choices out very starkly. Choose him or maintain the status quo. His death though spells the end of that system – symbolised by the Temple curtain ripped in two.
So on to Paul… Interestingly his route to Rome is via Jerusalem. In Acts 21:11,12 Agabus gives Paul a word:
And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, this is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
He travels to Jerusalem but it is the catapult to get him to Rome. He refuses to go back to Jerusalem (Acts 25:1-3) but rather appeals to Caesar Acts 25:8-12 with the famous words “I appeal to Caesar”. Agrippa says that Paul had no case to answer to Caesar… and he was right. However, Paul knew that Caesar had a case to answer.
To shift economic and political power it is necessary that religious power is broken (see Ephesus – no city in the New Testament is shaken without the final sign being the shaking of economic power… en route religious power is confronted). Christianity was never designed to be a good state religion. How can it be? Our allegiance is not to a system, nor to a state, nor to a constitution. It is to Jesus alone.
So prophets had made pigrimages to Jerusalem where they were killed, culminating in the death of Jesus. All people (and prophets) must go there. If relgion can buy someone that is the end of the journey. But if they cannot be bought by that power, and although some damage can be done in Jerusalem, they should not stay focused there. That power is broken; there is no Temple curtain. The goal is the centre, that place that takes on the name ‘kingdom’ that offers success to the kings of this world, and total financial freedom to the merchants of the seas. Rome for Paul, Babylon in name to one and all.
Where are they to die post Jesus and Jersualem?
(A reminder to me to do some more videos on Revelation…) In Revelation 18:20 we read the answer to that:
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth.
A shift has taken place. Thank you Jesus: it is finished. You died never to die again.
Thank you also Paul. It is not finished… not yet.