by Pastor Ed Visser
A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return … But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want this man to be our king.”
Near the end of a long day in the Judean desert, our tour group made our final stop at Jericho. Being a Palestinian city, entry was controlled by the Israeli military (in the last few years, Jericho was given over to Palestinian control). After about 30 minutes, we were given permission to enter — a rather rare feat. The city itself has been ruined by a poor Palestinian economy. Our interest, however, was a different sort of ruins.
We made our way along Wadi Qelt (a dry riverbed) until we came upon the ruins of Herod’s palace across the wadi. What must have been magnificent in its day was in ruins and being over-run that day by a flock of goats. Just to our left (west), were the hills to which the Israelite spies escaped when scouting out Jericho (Joshua 2:16-24). In front of the palace and through these hills was the beginning of the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, made famous in Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable.
But our attention was drawn to a different story in the Bible. In Luke 19, just after Jesus had encountered Zacchaeus in Jericho, he continued on his way toward Jerusalem and the cross that awaited him. His route would have been the Jericho road. And, at some time, he and his disciples (and others making their way to Jerusalem for Passover) would have walked right past this palace of Herod the Great — now used by his son, Herod Antipas, when he was in town. But before Antipas, it was used by another son of Herod, Archelaus, who was king of Judea for about ten years. As dreadful a king as Herod the Great was, Archelaus was much worse. After Herod died, Archelaus went to Rome to ask to be made king over Judea in his father’s stead. A delegation of Jews also went there to dissuade Caesar from naming Archelaus king. Once he was given rule over Judea, Archelaus had his enemies killed ruthlessly. Within 10 years, after another Jewish request to Rome, Archelaus was deposed.
As Jesus tells the parable of the minas in Luke 19:11-27, he puts it in terms of a man going away to be named king, whose enemies oppose him but are eventually killed. Given the fact that Jesus was leaving Jericho to go to Jerusalem, it is very likely that he used the occasion of passing Herod’s palace to tell a story right out of the pages of their recent history! While his point in the parable has nothing to do with Archelaus, we see the typical way Jesus taught: drawing on current events and local landmarks to teach truths about a very different King and kingdom — the Kingdom of God. It reminds us of the importance of being able to apply truths of Scripture to the events of our world & lives.