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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's Up with Jesus?

Morning Prayer provided a Gospel (Mt 13:54-58) which gives insight into the frustrations of Jesus. He has returned "home" (Capernaum, not Nazareth). Matthew said He taught them in their synagogue. The choice of pronoun is interesting, perhaps because when Matthew wrote the separation of Christians from the synagogue was well underway (us and them language) and the Jewishness of the believers  had receded into the past. Or maybe it is not theologically intended at all. We are told the crowd marvels at both His wisdom and His deeds of power. The preaching, teaching, healing and exorcisms were mind boggling to those who encountered Jesus. The people who knew Him "before" He hit it big are more skeptical it seems. This is important because it reminds us that believing in Jesus was no easier for the ones who knew Him than it is for us. The ordinariness of Jesus is a stumbling block to understand the extraordinary at work in and through Him.

The folks had a list of reasons to question "what's up with Jesus?" He is the son of a tekton which means carpenter, or stone worker. He is from a laborer's family. The father is unnamed here. His mother is named ("his mother called Mary") as are four brothers (James, Joseph, Simon, Judas). His sisters are mentioned without names. And there you have it. In the ancient world when we know the family we also know what the status is. Jesus can not receive accolades above His family status in a honor/shame culture. Remember, the Ancient Middle East is different from middle America!

The lack of faith keeps Jesus from working miracles among them. It is important to understand that there is a strong element of faithfulness and loyalty implied by the word faith in its original Jewish context. For us, faith means believing (i.e. thinking, feeling) Jesus can do it. For them believing meant giving yourself in faithfulness to Jesus and entrusting yourself to Him. The mental/cognitive & emotional functions were not emphasized. The ancients were NOT psychologically centered as we are. The internal workings of the psyche were less significant than the outward behaviors and choices. They still cared about integrity, but the 'real' for them was more external than it is for us.

It is hard to reach across time and culture to fully appreciate Jesus. We tend to repack Him in our own terms. What else can we do, it is the only terms most of us understand?!?! Perhaps it may aid the interpretation to note that the rest of Chapter 13 in Matthew has  been a collection of many parables with an emphasis on who is fruitful, the last judgment and the cost (everything) of finding/entering the kingdom. The story immediately following will be the death of John the Baptist. The story of Jesus' rejection at home, nestled amongst the teaching and the death of John Baptist (foreshadowing His own) provides us with the material to ask two questions:

What then do I do in response to this Jesus?
What are the implications of my response?

Choose well!

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