Sunday, January 22, 2023
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Third Sunday after Epiphany
watch this service online (readings start around 13:55; sermon starts around 19:55)
(originally preached 1/26/20)
The first verse of our gospel reading for this morning quickly glosses over a very serious bit of news: John the Baptist has been arrested. This news doesn’t exactly send the same shiver of fear down our spines as it would if we lived in the first century instead of the twenty-first century. For one thing, it’s not news – we already know very well that John’s arrest is part of the story. And for another thing, our modern conception of things like “arrest” and “imprisonment” is a very far cry from what these things would have looked like in ancient Rome.
Being arrested and thrown into jail in Roman times was not like being thrown into jail today. Unlike us today, Romans didn’t really have a practice of putting people behind bars to serve out a certain number of years before being released. In most cases, there were only two ways out of a Roman prison: either succumb to starvation and die in prison, or survive prison long enough to be executed. And as an added bonus, the practice of torture wasn’t considered a form of punishment, but rather just a standard interrogation technique.