Sounds “a little bit like a beautiful old fairy story”? Helmut Gollwitzer retells Acts 12.1–17

Helmut Gollwitzer is no doubt becoming much better known to DET readers. One more installment can’t hurt, eh? This is from a sermon of Gollwitzer’s on December 11, 1977. In it he imagines what a newspaper headline addressing the events of Acts 12.1–17 might look like if put into contemporary (to him, although in many ways it still rings true) language. Please forgive some translation infelicities, as I’m only reproducing it as the volume does.

Helmut Gollwitzer, The Way to Life: Sermons in a Time of World Crisis (T&T Clark, 1981), 84.
Mysterious liberation of prisoner in Jerusalem!
Flight of Terrorist!
Legal Authorities investigate prison scandal.

Last night a Galilean prisoner Simon Jonasson, who in his circle has the nickname Petros (Rocky), under arrest in Jerusalem prison on the suspicion of membership of a criminal gang, was in a manner still unexplained set free, probably by members of his gang. Although special security measures had been taken, his accomplices have clearly succeeded in making imitation keys and drugging the watch. The escaped man is a member of the hard core of the so-called Galilean Gang whose leader Jesus of Nazareth was apprehended fourteen years ago through the co-operation of our authorities with the Occupying Power and executed. On that occasion Simon, the man who has now escaped, attempted to prevent by violence the arrest of Jesus, and inflicted a severe head wound on a police official, cutting off his ear. The gang, which confined itself to agitation hostile to the State, but had cross-connections with the Zealot Guerillas in the Jewish mountains, of whom two were executed with the aforesaid Jesus, was at first broken up by the liquidation of its leader, and the remaining members went underground, but reassembled themselves and in recent days have been thrusting themselves more and more impudently before the notice of the public. They created a commune on a communist basis, and won sympathizers by the assertion that their leader Jesus was still alive, or had returned to life. They claimed that he would soon change the whole world, and set up a Communist kingdom in the place of all present Governments. Our authorities, who rightly saw in this agitation a danger for our social order, and for the peaceful relationship between the Occupying Power and our State, have for some time been observing the activities of the gang, and have now struck. One of the ringleaders, a certain James, was executed, others, among them Simon, were arrested and submitted to a thorough investigation. It is to be feared that today’s liberation of the prisoner will give a fresh impetus to the gang. Its provocations can lead to reactions on the part of the Occupying Power, whose consequences would have to be borne by the whole population. For this reason it is only to be hoped that the activities of these messianic utopians, who have lost all sense of reality, and have become a public danger, will as quickly as possible be brought to an end. The Legal Authorities have at once begun an investigation of this scandal at the prison, and will certainly see to it that the guilty officials, who have already been put under arrest, are made to answer for their misdemeanor. The hunt for the escaped man, who has gone underground, is already in full cry.
[**]The quotation from the post’s title comes from page 83.



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