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Monday, August 24, 2015

PJ: XIX

Communion. During the meal, this Passover before Passover, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and passed it out. “‘Take it and eat. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to all of them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.’” They all did. “This is the blood of the New Covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And he said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine “from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Mt 26, Mk 14, Lk 22)

The narrative is divided between the gospels, so the sequence of events is vague. It seems that Judas ate the bread of remembrance, or was offered it, but left before the passing of the cup of the New Covenant. What? – he looked backwards, to the curse and the law, but had no part in the Kingdom? A fleshly man unwashed by the Blood? I expect there’s significance in this, as there would be in the fact that remembrance is commanded only of the bread, not of the wine. The two rituals were combined. Nothing wrong with being practical. Jesus himself did not drink the wine – he did not take communion. He did not spill his blood for himself.

 When Judas had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in Himself, and glorify him immediately.” This is ecstatic speech, mystical and incomprehensible save on its own terms. The disciples didn’t understand it then, and we don’t understand it now. We can imagine meanings, as I just did about Judas and his communion, but it’s like interpreting prophecy: best done afterwards. Jesus calls them “little children,” says he is leaving, they cannot follow, love each other.

 Peter says, “Where are you going?” He cannot follow now, only later. “Lord, why can I not follow now? I will lay down my life for your sake!” “Will you lay down your life for my sake?” (Jn 13) “This very night you will all fall away on account of me…” “Even if all fall away, I never will!” (Mt 26) “Simon, Simon” – not the Rock, here – “Satan has asked for you all, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail…” (Lk) “Most assuredly, I say to you, the cock shall not crow till you have denied me three times.” “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” (Mt)

 Jesus then reminds them of how, before, they had been sent out to preach without purse, bag or sandals. “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag, and if you don’t have a sword sell your cloak and buy one.” “‘The disciples said, ‘See, Lord, here are two swords.’” “That is enough.” (Lk)

Let not your heart be troubled. Many mansions, a prepared place, “and where I go, you know, and the way you know.” Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” (Thomas is my favorite.) And Jesus makes it clear, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. And from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” For Jesus to be this explicit is unusual. He must, must think he has been very clear already. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.” So very little time is left, and not one of the disciples seems truly to be understanding what he says, who he is. We might expect him to feel frustration, exasperation, but these don’t fit his image. We’re told of his anger, amazement, joy, compassion, zeal, indignation, mourning. He has just called them “little children” – that answers it: he’s feeling patience. (Jn 13)

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip?” Is this the first time we hear Jesus address someone by their name? Jesus preaches to them, and says he will send the Holy Spirit to help their understanding. They seem not to have such a helper, now. “And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Well that’s a big promise. “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word…’” He preaches again. He says, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (Jn 14)

 “When they had sung a hymn, Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” (Mt 26, Mk 14, Lk 22) Perhaps they are walking and talking, because Jesus continues to preach, on the True Vine, love for one another, the hate of the world, the Helper … and so on. “Then some of his disciples said among themselves, ‘What is this he says to us? … What is this that he says? … We do not know what he is saying.’” Jesus heard them, and preaches some more. Sorrow will turn to joy, ask and you will receive. “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language, but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father….” “His disciples said to him, ‘See, now you are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech. Now we are sure you know all things, and have no need that anyone should question you. By this we believe that you came forth from God.’” (Jn 15,16) Well, that’s fine for them. It doesn’t seem any clearer to me. I’ve already said that Jesus’ logic depends on his authority. We have to suppose this is the best way to teach these subjects, but we can also see why there have been so many heresies. Then Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and for all believers. (Jn 17)

“When he had finished praying Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.” (Jn 18:1) Had they paused along the way, perhaps at the Temple courts? Or is it now that they sang a hymn and left the room? On the far side of Kidron they went to an olive grove, Gethsemane. “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter, James and John with him, “and he became deeply distressed, sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” (Mt) This is his communion. “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them…” (Lk) He fell with his face to the ground and prayed. “Abba.” Daddy. “Everything is possible for you.” (Mk) “If it is your will, remove this cup from me.” A leper had used the same words, ‘If you are willing you can make me clean.’ ‘I am willing,’ replied Jesus, full of compassion. We must believe that the Father was filled with compassion, and we’re told here that it is possible. It has to be that God was not willing. Indeed: “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” If you ask that God’s will be done, every prayer is answered. “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Lk) Perhaps every prayer calls out an angel from heaven. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” There’s another emotion.

 “When he arose from prayer and went back to the disciples he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” (Lk) If the disciples were asleep, who saw the angel, and the sweat falling like blood? They were awake for that, but Jesus prayed for an hour. Which of the disciples provided the excuse, ‘exhausted from sorrow’? One of the mamma’s boys, no doubt. “‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Could you not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.’ Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back he found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say.” Maybe it was the other mamma’s boy who gave this excuse: heavy eyes. Jesus went and prayed the same prayer, a third time. This is what is meant, about praying persistently. Returning, he said, “Are you still resting and sleeping?” It would be funny, but, well…. 

“Enough. The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go. Here comes my betrayer.” (Mk 14)


J

Thursday, August 20, 2015

PJ: XVIII

Walking away from the Temple, one of Jesus’ disciples commented on the splendor of what Herod had built. Magnificent buildings of beautiful massive stones! “As for what you see here,” responded Jesus, “the time will come when not one stone will be left on another.” (Lk 21) Later that day, “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us when will these things happen, and what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?’” (Mt 24, Mk 13)

Deceivers, war and rumors, quakes, famines, plagues, signs in the heavens, persecutions. “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, make up your hand not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. Just say what is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Hatred, betrayal, false prophets. “You will be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. But not a hair of your head will perish.” Abomination of desolation, flight to the mountains, distress until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. (Lk 21) False Christs and false prophets, deceiving signs and wonders, dark sun, lightless moon, falling stars. Roaring seas and heavenly bodies shaken. “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mt 24)

The disciples, these four, had asked some big questions, and the answers were epic, epochal, eschatological, and outside our scope. We’re looking at Jesus and his life as a human being. Of course we cannot separate out his, uh, Christianity, so we’re facing it here. What does a prophet sound like when he’s teaching about the end of the world? Ranting? Sorrowful? Gentle? He’s teaching so that these four will teach. “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

 What did they hear, when he said ‘not a hair on your head will perish’? Christendom has more martyrs than saints, I think. And when we hear ‘this generation will not pass away…’, well, it’s been nigh on twenty centuries and that generation is dust so fine we’re breathing it now and not noticing. Many of these prophecies have happened many time; almost all of it, save maybe the shaking of heavenly bodies, and the angels with trumpets. But if we take the words literally, Jesus is obviously wrong.

We’ve seen however how prophecy is fulfilled: unexpectedly, as with the colt, given a hundred colors by cloaks. And really, if we hear of a King being raised up, we wouldn’t expect it to be through crucifixion. So we might expect these endtime prophecies to be figuratively fulfilled literally. Grammar and symbolism. We have to understand ‘not a hair will perish’ to be spiritual, and not naturally physical – hair of the resurrection body; and ‘this generation’ must mean not that of the First Century AD, but the final generation of the endtime.  This generation of which I speak… When Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth’ – he is investing the statement with all of his credibility. He’s either completely right, or an antichrist.

 He speaks of suddenness and watchfulness, faithful servants, ten virgins with lamps awaiting the Bridegroom. He rephrases the parable of the departing master who gives his servants money to invest – not minas, but talents here. (Mt 25) Sheep from goats, and what is done to the least brother is done to the king. 

“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, ‘As you know the Passover is two days away, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’” (Mt 26, Lk 22) Mark makes a distinction between “the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread...” (14:1) It’s Tuesday. Wednesday will be “the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it is customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb…” (Mk 14:12) This ‘First Day’ is not the same as “the Passover” or “the Feast” or the “Feast of Unleavened Bread”. Passover, the Feast of Passover, is Thursday. Friday is “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” The terms can be confusing, used almost interchangeably. Metonymy and synecdoche.

 If you look at Mk 14:12, or Mt 26:17, you’ll see it says, “on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread…” But it was not on that day. “On” is a Greek dative preposition, here meaning “toward” or “regarding”. Sorry, it’s a mistranslation. My Greek is worse than my French, but there are lexicons to help in such matters. John is clearest, or clearer, or clear.

Meanwhile, “the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the High Priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. ‘But not during the Feast,’ they said, ‘or there may be a riot among the people.’” (Mt 26)

 “Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover. …As you enter the city a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says: My time is near. Where is my guest room where I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready.’” (Lk 22, Mk 14, Mt 26) And so it occurred. “When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.” (Mk 14:17) Word study shows it to be after dark. This, the Last Supper, is not the annual Passover meal: John says, “It was just before the Passover Feast. …The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.” (13:1,2)

 Don’t you suppose it should always say, not the Twelve, but the Eleven plus one? Maybe the point is that corruption is embedded in every system. Seems like it should be surprising, the fact that Jesus picked, picked Judas. By accident? On purpose. Sort of like picking someone to go to hell, a deepest part of hell. Would just any betrayer have done? – or did it take a uniquely depraved character. Our word character comes from the Greek, meaning inscribed. Who does the carving? We do it to ourselves. I think, in human terms, it was just another betrayal, and any betrayer would have done it.

Reclining at the table, Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” (Lk 22:15) Levitical law – or rather, tee hee, Numerical law (Num 9:11) – allows a time-displacement for those who cannot eat the meal on the appointed day. That’s the principle Jesus is using. He continues, “…I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” The real, the true Passover meal had to that point never been eaten.

 Yet again, “a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” (Lk 22:24) Well, James and John would have been at it (this must be what was meant by ‘sons of thunder’), and Peter saw himself as a leader. Andrew along with these other three asked about the end times, so he has an eye to the future. Is anyone else ever named in a way that points a finger at their ambition? Thomas seems too matter-of-fact to waste his time bickering about the future. Philip was a bean counter. Judas was already bought and paid for, but he still may have argued about his greatness – a double mind is what we should expect from him.

 Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist.” (Jn 13) He washed the feet of all the disciples. Peter, from his humility and his pride, said, “No, you will never wash my feet!” “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” So Peter wanted his hands and head washed too. That’s pretty funny. Says Jesus, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” We can be sure that Jesus knelt before Judas and washed his feet, so they were clean. I expect Judas could hardly endure the touch of Jesus’ hands on his feet. No anger or resentment from Jesus. Jesus resumed his seat. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so for that is what I am. … I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Lk 22:28-30) What twelve tribes? Ten of them never came back from their Assyrian captivity. Resurrected? Reconstituted? Called out from the nations by some allele in their genome? What kingdoms? Political states, with borders and ambassadors? Jesus’ kingdom is not of this earth. If theirs is conferred in “just” the same way, can they be earthly?

 “I am not referring to all of you. I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’” (Jn 13:18; cf Ps 41:9) Jesus knew those he chose; he chose Judas: Jesus selected the character of his betrayer. Offences must come, but woe to them through whom they come. Having said this, Jesus “was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him, but woe to that man who betrays him. It would be better if he had never been born.’” (Mk 14) That answers that questions: not every human life has value.

 The “hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” (Lk 22) Did hands reflexively pull away? The disciple Jesus loved was at one hand; was Judas at the other? Did he occupy himself by grabbing some bread and sopping it in the bowl of wine? “His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.” (Jn) They questioned among themselves. (Lk) “They were very sad and said to him, one after the other, ‘Surely not I, Lord!’ Jesus replied, ‘It is one of the Twelve. The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.’” (Mt) Greek has a definite article, and Matthew uses it – paints a picture: Judas, his hand suspended mid-way to his parted lips, a drop gathering to fall from the bread to the tabletop, drip, the hand moving again, slow chewing, silence. Jesus says Judas “is going to betray me.” Future tense – the deal had been made, the silver collected and heavy in his purse at his side, but there is time to back out. Peter motions to John, pssst!, and whispers, “Ask him which one he means!” “Leaning back against Jesus,” John asked, “Lord, who is it?” “It is he to whom I give this bread when I have dipped it.” (Jn) Judas. “Rabbi, is it I?” Did Judas ever call Jesus ‘Lord’? Even in his hypocrisy and playacting? Answered Jesus, “You have said it.” (Mt) “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. ‘What you do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him…. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. It was night.”

Jesus called this meal ‘the Passover.’ But there was no lamb. Bread and wine only. On the other hand, and this would be the point, there was a Lamb present, and its ‘body’ was eaten. That sopped bread Jesus handed to Judas was all the communion Judas got. He took the bread; did he eat it? When Satan entered him, what part was occupied? His heart, mind, entire being? His belly – his god in his belly, next to a blob of dough?

 “No one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.” (Jn) No buying or selling during the Passover Sabbath, so it was  now, after sundown, Preparation Day, Wednesday, the day the lamb is to be slaughtered.


J

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

PJ: XVII

If I were somehow made to be a First Century Jew and found myself in the company of Jesus, I hope that I would follow him, but I expect I would argue with him. A fact is something that you can demonstrate, like Euclid. All those miracles would have to count as unanswerable proof that he was somehow divine. But he was teaching a new thing, that the Messiah was actually God Himself. Sure, the idea can be found, or can be made to be found, in the Hebrew Scriptures. For Jews, the Trinity must seem very much like a backstep away from monotheism, which itself was so forcefully drilled into their culture with very many painful lessons. So it would be confusing, this man with his claims and his proofs.

 I might split hairs and parse words, because that’s how I am, and it’s a rabbinical trait anyway, and I would have been a rabbi. I expect I’d be clever, but Jesus would brush the words aside and cut to the heart of it. I would question his claim to be the Son of God, and he would say that he who speaks to me is HE. I would question how God could be a man, and he would say “Before the world was, I AM.” I would fall back to the ground, but I would rise, as we will, and promptly forget the lesson of that experience, as Peter forgot walking on water, and Judas forgot the loaves and fishes. He would always show power and make declarative statements. I would watch, carefully, for the slightest hesitation or inconsistency. There is only one thing, in fact, that would mute my diligent skepticism, and that is love. I would only believe him, in him, if I loved him. This shows us how Judas was different than the other disciples.

 Tuesday, April 8, 32 AD. On their way back into Jerusalem that morning, they saw the fig tree was utterly withered, “from the roots.” (Mk 11) Peter remembered the curse and expressed amazement. Said Jesus, If you have faith without doubt, you can do not only this, but cast this mountain into the sea. Believe you have received and you shall. When you pray, be sure to have forgiven those you hold anything against. All this is no doubt true, and there is a sort of connection to it all, but the truth of the logic depends on the authority of Jesus. Is fig-tree withering a useful act of undoubting faith? Faith as herbicide? Getting a mountaintop to throw itself into the sea must have its uses, but no one in the Christian era has ever done such a thing. Yes, if we had faith – but it is a faithless age.

 Of the three items, figs and mountains and forgiveness, only forgiveness in our hearts seems doable. I think that takes as great a faith as these others. The first mountain to move is within ourselves; the first root to kill, likewise. Jesus speaks often enough about forgiveness for us not to complain that he doesn’t here start his reply with it, instead of tree roots. Then again, he knows how dim and dull we are, yet doesn’t make it easy, or even clear. Meditation, reflection, is a demand, then, unspoken. Indeed, the lessons we figure out are the ones we remember.

Jesus arrived in the Temple courts and yet again preached the gospel, and the chief priests, teachers of the law, elders, once more demanded by what authority he did so. (Lk 20) “I will also ask you one question. If you answer, so will I. John’s baptism, was it from heaven or from men?” They puzzle over this – if it was from heaven, why didn’t they follow him? – if it was from men, they’d be stoned by the crowd, who loved John. “We don’t know where it was from.” A truthful answer. But how then, or why, are they leaders, if they cannot discern or be decisive? They are called leaders; in reality, they were merely powerful. Jesus answered them in kind – not at all, but instead teaches them parables.

A son says he will not work, but does; the other son says he will, but does not – who was obedient? (Mt 21) “The first,” answered the powers. “The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” They believed John and repented, and the leaders did not, even having seen such repentance. A landowner rents out his vineyard, but the tenants beat his first messenger, club the second, wound the third, kill the forth; still more messengers, and yet more of the same. The son was sent – surely they will respect him? No – ‘let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours!’ You may think people are not that stupid. The landowner will bring the wretches to a wretched end, and rent the vineyard to other, less-stupid and -wicked tenants. “When the people heard this they said, ‘May this never be!’ Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written…’” and he quotes of the capstone, rejected. “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to people who will produce its fruit.” (Mt 21) The leaders understood this, were offended, wanted to arrest him, were afraid of the people.

 Another, similar parable: A king invites guests to his son’s wedding feast – they refused, abused and killed the messengers; the king was enraged and destroyed their city, then had his messengers invite anyone they could find; at the feast the king “noticed a man who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited but few are chosen.” Only those who are suited to the occasion. Judgment comes not only upon murder, but upon negligence.

 Meantime “the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.” (Mt 22) “Spies” Luke (20) calls them, and Herodians, looking to “hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.” Pilate. Up they sidle, lips dripping flattery (Mk 12): “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity! You aren’t swayed by men! Because you pay no attention to who they are! But you speak and teach what is right! And you teach the way of God! In accordance with the truth!” Upshot: should we pay taxes or not? “But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, duplicity, said, ‘You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me?’” A coin, and the reply, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s. Amazed, astonished, they fell silent and went away.

This is what people do, when they want to argue with Jesus. Baffled, befuddled, dumbfounded, then departed. What Jesus does is insult them with the truth, then give some Socratic koan that almost nobody understood, or wished they didn’t. Not Jesus as Trickster, but engendering the same discomfiture. We think we’re emperors in extravagant finery, but we’re naked in public.

 “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.” The eldest of seven brothers dies without a child, so the next brother marries the widow to provide an heir for the first. It’s Mosaic law. The second brother promptly dies, without issue, and so on, for all seven brothers. “Now at the resurrection whose wife will the woman be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” This must have been a hot topic for debate, a set piece of rhetoric, a sort of how-many-angels-can-dance-on-a-pin to a later age of theorists.  To-be-or-not-to-be was a debate topic among Elizabethan university students. Exactly the sort of thing Jesus knows how to deal with.

Sadducees are not called atheists merely as a courtesy. Secular Jews. As if Jewishness were a race, or a culture. It is both, but only in relation to God. I suppose disrespect, or disbelief, is a kind of relationship. Like adultery is a kind of marriage. What is ‘marriage’? Just as with ‘baby’, it is whatever the Sanhedrin instructs us that it is. In First Century Israel, there were three sorts of Jew: legalists, atheists, and potential Christians – Pharisees, Sadducees, and seekers.

 “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” The two revelations, from prophets, and from creation itself. The heavens declare it, as do mustard seeds – cosmology and genetics, screaming power, yet so hard to hear. Jesus teaches the Sadducees that the dead, like the angels in heaven, do not marry. (Angels fallen from heaven do.) Then Jesus says that God told Moses, “I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob” – not I WAS. Therefore these patriarchs are not dead. Jesus is giving weight to the exact meaning of the words beyond that which normal usage would justify – they require special, shall we say, insight. We cannot complain about this, because his exactitude bears more weight than our generalities. To the Sadducees he then says, “You are badly mistaken!” There was general astonishment, and some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” Is this the first, and only, time Jesus is complimented? And no one dared ask any more questions.

 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.” (Mt 22) One of them, an expert in the law (Mk 12), “heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer he tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?’” First, love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. Second, love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. There is no commandment greater than these.” ‘Law and Prophets’ means ‘Scripture’. Where had this particular teacher of the law been, all this time? Is he just now hearing about Jesus? Clearly he did not pay attention to what crowds were doing. This is a man who kept lamps lit in the daytime. Studying. “Well said, teacher!” And Jesus replied, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” So this is a second compliment. And no one dared ask him any more questions.

But we’ve heard that before. No one of that group asked, at that time. Some new clique is always moving in. There will have been any number of Pharisee schools, the faculty of which would push forward to confront the Galilean. That’s how reputations are made, and one faction rises above another. Cobra Kai. Just because someone argues well doesn’t mean they’re wise. And innumerable wise men still believe lies. Aristotle said wisdom is knowledge of the things that do not change. But Aristotle believed that lead ingots would melt in extreme cold as well as heat. Wisdom is not false knowledge, or knowledge of false things, or of things that do not exist. The danger of being the best arguer around is that there’s no one to correct you.

 Those other debating-together Pharisees who dared ask no more questions were then questioned by Jesus. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The Son of David!” Jesus then made what would seem an abstruse observation from Psalms, where David calls the Messiah ‘Lord’: “How then can He be his son?” Luke has said it, Mark has said it, and now Matthew says it (22): “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” Indeed, this is Jesus’ last day of preaching. He was crucified on a Wednesday. His accusers ask him questions, but by now we understand how the gospel writers use language: generally, except for Jesus, who uses it with exquisite precision. As for his point, indeed, how the Son of David could be the Lord of David boggles conception. Why do the good suffer? How can we be free yet have a fate? How can a particle be a wave? Samson had a riddle, the Sphinx had a riddle, and Jesus does too: “How then can He be his son?” I think I know how Jesus would answer his riddle: “I AM.”

“The large crowd listened to him with delight.” (Mk 12) Jesus warns them about pharisaic hypocrisy. (Mt 23) “They sit in Moses’ seat, so you must do everything they tell you.” He’s saying he is no revolutionary, very conservative, in fact, even to paying taxes he doesn’t need to pay; he’s saying even leaders who are hypocrites must be obeyed, with regard to being under lawful law. “But do not do what they do. …Everything they do is for the eyes of men.” Long tassels and flowing robes and seats of honor, devouring widows’ houses while declaiming long prayers. “Such men will be punished most severely.” He pronounces many woes upon them – blind guides, whited sepulchers. “You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers.” I wonder what Thomas Jefferson did with all this. Leave it in? – snip it out? Jesus sends prophets to blind guides – perhaps they will escape hell? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings, but you were not willing. Look, for your house is left to you desolate, for you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Jesus sends prophets to those who kill prophets. They stone the messengers – perhaps they won’t kill the Son?

Then Jesus sat down and observed people making offerings into the treasury. The widow and her mite gain great praise from him. (Lk 21) Then he left the Temple. (Mk 13) This widow’s great sacrifice, then – after so much condemnation of the hypocrites – is the last thing, the very last thing he teaches about in the courts of the Temple.

 “Each day Jesus was teaching at the Temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives. And all the people came out early to hear him at the Temple.” (Lk 21) Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Bethany is on the southeastern slope of that hill. It had been a long day. He will spend some of the long night on the Mount, but he will never sleep again, in a body of flesh and blood.


 J

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

PJ: XVI

Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 AD. Jesus approached Jerusalem via the Mount of Olives (Mt 21, Mk 11, Lk 19, Jn 12). He sends a couple of men ahead to the village of Bethphage, saying “just as you enter it you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt which no one has ever ridden. If anyone says anything to you, ‘why are you untying them?’, tell him that the Lord needs them and will send them back here shortly, and he will send them right away. ” And so it happened. The owner, standing in a doorway, said, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” “The Lord needs it.” Right you are. Is this a miracle of prophecy? – or something prearranged? It’s likely to be the same phenomenon as with Nathaniel meditating under the fig tree – Jesus knew he was there by being told, by seeing, or by envisioning. We’re not told.

 The men threw their cloaks over the colt, and Jesus sat on them. The Babylonian Talmud (Sanh98a) says the colt would have “a hundred shades of color.” Ah. See? It was the cloaks that had a hundred shades – like Joseph’s coat of many colors (Gen 37). Interesting. An almost superfluous prophesy, fulfilled. Prophecy, then, seems to be a sort of eyewitness testimony from God, just mentioning some detail from the future that presents itself as part of the story – the way the leper Bartimaeus in his telling mentioned how he threw aside his cloak and jumped to his feet – the way John tells us the house was filled with the scent of oil.

 This ride was Jesus publically and consciously assuming the role of the Messiah who rides on the back of a colt into Jerusalem (Zech 9:9; Gen 49:11 – Jesus is the “true vine” - Jn 15:1). Indeed, anyone who made such a ride would be making that claim. No one else ever had. Prophecy does not exist as a sort of fortunetelling. It provides touchstones, checkmarks – fulfilling them is not absolute proof, but failure to fulfill them is disqualification.

 A crowd gathered along the way, throwing their cloaks and branches before him on the road. A crowd came out of the city, waving palm leaves, shouting “Hosanna in the highest!” “Hosanna to the Son of David.” “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” All this was, to say the least, extraordinary. Revolutionary. Hysterical. It was the multitude throwing off ambiguity, proclaiming Jesus to be Messiah the King. It’s called “the Triumphal Entry” for a reason.

The Pharisees said what you’d expect: “See? This is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him.” To Jesus they said, “Rabbi, rebuke your disciples!” They had to call the crowd “disciples”, because to think of this throng as ordinary Jews would be to acknowledge a revolution, and Romans had no compunction about massacring Jews or, well, anyone. Replied Jesus, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Why would stones cry out? Jesus believes he is the Messiah. Meanwhile, the disciples didn’t actually understand that prophecy was being fulfilled. Zechariah chapter nine verse nine was on the tip of almost nobody’s tongue. The celebrating multitude? Caught up in the thrill of it. Not understanding the depth.

 “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it, and said, ‘If you had known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” (Lk 19) Then he prophesies not peace but great destruction, because they “did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” All this while he’s riding on the colt. Where is the failure? In the crowd? – just caught up in an ignorant enthusiasm? – and they would cheer after anyone on a colt headed into the city? In the leaders, civic and religious? – conspiring against him regardless of the miracles? Something, says Jesus, would have brought peace, if only they knew what it was. Some failure of recognizing the time, at that moment, made them blind. This moment is as much a hinge of destiny as the death on Golgotha.

 Given the plan, and prophesy, regarding redemption, how could Jesus have taken his throne at that time? That’s an interesting alternative outcome, told HERE.

Jesus entered the city and went to the Temple. It would be at this point that he dismounted from the colt. “He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” (Mk 11) It was already late? Bethany is a mile and a half from Jerusalem – a leisurely hour’s walk. Very much went on that day of which we are not told. He looked at everything in the Temple? An inspection of the priestly quarters? – the Temple treasures and sacrificial implements? Come the Millennium, the King will perform blood sacrifice – a raised King David, who would need those tools? I know of no legends about this inspection. Perhaps it’s never been sermonized.

 Early Monday morning Jesus was hungry, and seeing a distant fig tree by the roadside he went to it. Many leaves, but no figs, “because it was not the season for figs.” Nevertheless, Jesus cursed it for its figlessness. “Immediately the tree withered.” God expects fruit, regardless of season. Any tree with that many leaves should have been able to hide away some figs to satisfy a hungry Messiah. It should have had figs from last season. Other traveling fig pluckers had plucked it bare.

 Find a pleasant fig plucker, plus a pheasant plucking fan, and please plan putting four pleasant plucked figs in the pheasant plucker’s pan.

Back within the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus goes to the Temple, this time to cleanse it. Yesterday’s inspection must have proved dissatisfying. So that answers that question: Jesus could go to the Temple, find it defiled, and not immediately cleanse it. It was tolerable. We knew that anyway, though, considering what God puts up with. Zeal does not mean a lack of self-control. Using self-control, Jesus flipped the moneychangers’ tables, the dove-sellers’ benches, “and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the Temple courts.” He would not have blocked the way – he dispatched his agents, or simply gave the order which his authority ensured. The blind and lame came to the Temple and were cured by him. Children called out, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and the leaders were indignant. Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise’?” Did you know infants could give praise? Should have, since John the Baptist in the womb did so.

“Every day he was teaching at the Temple.” The leaders looked for a way to kill him, “because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. Yet they could not find a way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.” “Every day” was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday; perhaps “each day” would make it more clear.

 Some Greeks told Philip they’d like to see Jesus. (Jn 12) Philip went to Andrew and both went to Jesus, who then preached about the need for his death. Why these initial and gratuitous details about Philip and Andrew? Because that’s how the story would have been told. Philip, for years afterward, would repeat the story, ‘First I went to Andrew…’ Not interesting to us, but evidence of primary testimony, firsthand accounts. I think we’ve already seen that the gospel writers are not gifted storytellers. Their gift is telling the story. If fiction is a truth told with lies, the gospel has to be the truth told with truth. So much is left out that would be fascinating. Much is told that seems superfluous. Yes, the four gospels read like barely edited early drafts – think of them as letters rather than books, pace Luke, who writes an “orderly account” to Theophilus.

 Says Jesus of his imminent death, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this very reason I came to this hour! Father, glorify your name!” What troubled the heart of Jesus? It must be fear. But that’s what courage is – facing fear. It seems radiantly obvious, but I’ve never thought of it before: Jesus is a hero. Many people have said they’d go through hell, but only one man did.

 “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.” Three times in the gospels there is a voice from heaven – at the Baptism in the Jordan, at the Mount of Transfiguration, and at the Temple. To some it’s just weather, meteorology, something of nature; to some it’s an angel speaking for God. What are we to make of thunder in our own lives? Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world. Now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” What a volume of theology, here. After preaching, “Jesus left and hid himself from them.” Where did he go? We’re not told, but we have been told that there was a garden in which he liked to find solitude. He left the city at evening and spent Monday night in Bethany. (Mt 21)

Jesus as moral teacher is just another rabbi. A guru gets followers because he has new things to say; that Jesus said new things proves nothing. The difference between brilliant imagination, and revelation, isn’t found in brilliance. The only reason we should listen to Jesus over some other teacher is that we believe him to be the Messiah. Any other reason is arbitrary. If you leave out his miracles and claims to be divine, Jesus is a self-righteous bore preaching an impracticable perfectionism. Thus, Thomas Jefferson, in his hollowed-out scrapbook bible, was showing only a vitiated middlebrow piety.

 Maybe ‘self-righteous bore’ isn’t quite a prudent way of putting it. But what’s the difference between Confucius and Buddha, or Locke and Rousseau, or Adam Smith and Karl Marx? Plenty, and not much. If opinions were provable, they’d be facts. If following smart teachers were the goal, we’d all be Platonists.


 J

Sunday, August 2, 2015

On 'Crito' and How I Am Smarter than Socrates

Socrates had a demon. Of course, a daemon, but a demon. I’m reading Plato again, after 40 years, and I just thought I’d share the fact, that Socrates was a demoniac.

 Well, maybe not, but maybe. I’ve got the complete works, 1800 pages, and I’ll go through it over the next few months. I spent probably 20 minutes whiting-out the loopy girl-writing with which some deb had defaced a number of pages – you know, with hearts for i-dots and so on. It was intolerable. I don’t mind the pink highlighting, but the girl-writing all over the margins was too much. She read only the Apology and books 1,2,3 and 5 of the Republic, so it’s not too bad. I didn’t like the Republic the first time I read it, but that was the ‘70s and this is the ‘Teens, so maybe it got better.

 In the Apology, his defense at his trial, Socrates speaks of how he’s always had an inner voice that told him not to do any wrong thing. So he always knew he was doing right, because he obeyed the voice of his familiar. You might not call that a demon, but he does. He was accused of atheism, denying the gods of Athens while introducing other gods, and of corrupting the youth of the city. I won’t go into that. He affirms his belief in the city’s gods, and denies the corruption. Frankly, he proves his case, but he’d made many enemies, what with constantly proving how not-wise everyone else was, and the majority of his jury consisted of such people. It was a close vote – out of the 500 jurymen, if memory serves, a shift of thirty votes would have acquitted him – 221 to 279, then.

 The vote was corrupt. This was not justice. He did prove his case. He was innocent, according to the evidence Plato gives. In the next dialogue along, Crito, Crito comes as a friend and wants Socrates to escape. Socrates uses his method and demonstrates how he has no choice but to obey the verdict, and die. And here’s why I’m writing this. It’s not that Socrates has a demon. It’s that his logic is wrong. Yes, I, your humble author, am smarter than Socrates and Plato. And Aristotle. After nearly two and a half thousand years, I, even I shall bring light.

 First he gets Crito to agree that it’s always wrong to harm someone, even if they harm you. And this is true. Then again, it’s not. What is harm? It involves motive, and justice (eg, the surgeon and the cutthroat). Socrates is not against justice, and not against punishment – he argues for it. Punishment that corrects a wrong-doer is actually a good, a painful good; punishment that does not correct, hurts only, and is a harm to the recipient; it may be good for the city, good for justice, good to the gods, but it is harm to its victim. True? Yet the greater good is that justice be done, regardless of its effect on the person punished. So it is not wrong to harm someone, if they harm you; as here described, it’s justice.

 Next Socrates demonstrates that the citizen must obey the laws. To break the law is to destroy the city – we would say, it violates the social contract. And he is correct. Then again, he’s not. To break a law is not to destroy the law – it is an insult, a disrespect, but not an annihilation; to disobey a parent is not to kill a parent. If he planned to run away, the state personified would come to him and say, “Do you not by this action you are attempting intend to destroy us, the Laws, and indeed the whole City…? Or do you think it possible for a city not to be destroyed if the verdicts of the courts have no force but are nullified and set to naught be private individuals?” If his reply were, ‘The courts have wronged me’? The reply would be, ‘Was that the agreement? – or was it to respect the judgments’. Contracts must be obeyed.

And he’s right. Then again, he’s not. Here we need to get, uh, philosophical. What if the city is taken over and ruled by a tyrant? And the tyrant, whose word is the law, arbitrarily condemns? The contract is to obey the law, and thus here to cozen tyranny? What if it’s not a tyrant, but a corrupt jury? Is the citizen’s contract with the law, or is it with justice. Is it right to be complicit in the city’s corruption of justice and of the meaning of law? What is law for? What does it protect? Stability and power only? Or does it protect what is good, what is right, and just, and beautiful. Well, it’s only law, the product of politicians, but there is an ideal behind this sad fact that is the inspiration of what a society is – the communal striving for the greater good. Innocent people may be sacrificed for a great cause. A corrupt jury acting out of spite and committing judicial murder is not that.

 Says Socrates, “one must obey the laws of one’s city and country, or persuade it as to the nature of justice.” To persuade, one needs opportunity, which may require time. Socrates complains in his Apology that by law he had not enough time to properly defend himself. There is an illogic here: he is required to persuade, but not given what is needed to do so. The law requires what it forbids. Why doesn’t this most clear-sighted of men see this?

 If the City went to war and Socrates believed the war was unjust, if he yet agreed to fight he must do so. Or he could refuse and protest, and attempt to dissuade the city from the war, and if not convincing, he must accept the consequences, most likely of death. He must be true either to his agreement, or to his conscience. Neither is shameful. To refuse to fight and refuse to accept the consequences would be reprehensible.

 Likewise, Socrates agreed to obey the law, and to accept the consequences if he didn’t. Yet he had an obligation not only to obey the law, but to protect the city. He must do what he could to keep his city just, to keep it from committing injustice, to keep it from spilling innocent blood, in this case his own. That after all was why there was a curse and a plague upon Thebes – the gods were displeased by the unknown crimes of Oedipus. Socrates’ obligation was to not allow an innocent man’s blood to pollute the earth and curse his city. That it was his own blood was irrelevant.

 The truest argument Socrates makes is that it’s not the laws but men who wrong him, so he should obey the laws. But by obeying the law he is harming the men, by making them guilty of wronging him. And it is wrong to cause harm to those who harm you. Socrates is not being Socratic with himself. He does it so well, usually. Wonder what’s up.

 He wanted to die, and no argument could have changed this. At his trial he was given a voice to choose his own punishment, and he chose free meals for life – the appropriate response for his actions. His accuser urged death. In Crito, Socrates admits he could have suggested exile. You know, life. He talks about how ridiculous his life would be as an exile, but what does that have to do with justice? What has ridicule to do with the conduct of a righteous man? Why is public opinion a factor now, when it never mattered to him before? Irrelevant, inconsistent and illogical. Odd. Given the two posited choices, his multiple enemies chose the one that was, you know, a punishment. He arranged his death, conspired in it – a good defense, and if he didn’t get justice he wanted the greatest injustice. Doesn’t seem moderate.

 It’s not that his demon, in its silence, proved the rightness of his course. It’s that his demon, as is the wont of subtle evil beings, was truthful until the greatest harm could be done. For 2,414 years, a catastrophic argument has been supported by the authority of a man who was correct in almost everything.  Scores of millions of people have been murdered by totalitarian states because of the error.

The citizen is not the property of the state.


J

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Creepy Feeling

I haven't been active here, as once I was, save for the current and obvious project.  But I'm called to entertain the faithful readers of these pages with a report of a sort of communication that's been going on.  Every few years in the history of this blog there have been individuals who want me to be aware of them in a deeper way than is, well, normal.  If it's just some snarky punk, I'm pretty brutal.  But sometimes it's mental illness, in which case, frankly, silence is the most prudent response.  You don't know about the illness, though, for sure, unless you engage.  That's what's been happening.

Someone with an interest in arcana and a good internet connection appears to note individual words in some of the historical works I've posted, and then proceeds to dump virtually random excepts in the comments of a single post at Historic Christianity.  No rhyme or reason, no attempt at framing a context.  Now that it will be over, there will have been about 150 such comments.  No formatting or any attempt at such, very many multiple empty lines between items.  Chaotic.  Anonymous.

Below, the few comments I actually posted, with my own attempts at civility. The // represents multiple empty lines.  I offer it for what it's worth.

============


At July 8, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said... 
As keen as I remain regarding internet socializing as something best avoided (multiple occasions of having had computers compromised, and other annoyances etc.) the misalignment of the pictured cruciform zodiac bothered me to distraction. Pardon the intervention.

[I've deleted the rest, very similar to what follows.]

At July 8, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said... 
not relative to the post but rather than scatter notes everywhere

BABYLON

 לבב (lebab) and לב (leb), both meaning heart, come from.

 @ abarim-publications.com/Dictionary/l/l-b-b.html

 IDOLS

 Most significantly, however, maskit is used to refer to looking at "the chamber of images" in one's mind.

 (HEART / LE BAB) the mashith is the death of the self through the perversions of the maskit/imagination

 The seven headed beast of the Apocalypse represents the perversion of the reflected Seven Spirits of G_d (represented by the 7 branched menorah of the Temple @ godasagardener.com/2011/02/01/almond-tree-in-the-tabernacle: The Spirit of G_d [godliness/piety], Wisdom, etc., Isaiah ) by the imagination, that turn against the sinner at the approach of death

 At July 08, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said... 
the following may not transpose to this format

 A/S beyond, beyond

 ____________________ ____________________

 K 1 beyond and manifest ____________________ ____________________ // C2 [Z/H] // ____________________ ____________________

 ^ ^ ^ ____________________ ____________________ // H // ____________________ ____________________

 T5 (5) etc… ____________________ ____________________ v I I ____________________ ____________________ C(9)6 > (7)C6 ____________________ ____________________ I I ____________________ ____________________ N(2)8 > (4)N8 ____________________ ____________________ I I ^ ____________________ ____________________ C2 [Z/H] B3 [D/P] MIM4 [D/P] B3 C2 [Z/H] ____________________ ____________________ I I ____________________ ____________________ G(6)7 >D04 (8)G7 ____________________ ____________________ I I ____________________ ____________________ H(3)9 > (1)H9 ____________________ ____________________ I I v ____________________ ____________________ Y5;10 ____________________ ____________________ // H ____________________ ____________________ v v v ____________________ ____________________ // C2 [Z/H] /// upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Blason_ville_fr_Toulouse_(Haute-Garonne).svg // Not gibberish - if it correctly transposed // from Ain Soph to the Kingdom (as evidenced in men of goodwill on Earth)… // The enneag. placement was there for a Sufi discussion and I chose to leave it as is // The circles of creation // Kether, Binah etc. containing the lightning strike // In the Greek sense (Plotinus the best reference) // the greater spheres reflect the qualities of Zeus/Hera Demeter/Poseidon Hera/Hades / they can be thought of as our sense perceptions - which time Cronos consumes // Apollyon and Artemis part of the principalities and powers (slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.) eclipse and sun… and so on //

 At July 09, 2015, Blogger Jack H said... 

I find your several comments to be indecipherable. We can get very much into our own particular studies, and fail to take the extra steps to avoid over-specifics and jargon. Communication must start with an attempt to be accessible. Thank you for your interest, though, and feel free...

At July 16, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said... 

A question: // What do you mean by implying that this Tersin / Toisson fellow was Arthur (or Uther?) // His blazon was three lambs … how does this relate to the Pendragon? // www.theoi.com/Ther/DrakonKholkikos.html // … // Gettius Ursulus de Chapteuil // de Fay de Chapteuil

 At July 17, 2015, Blogger Jack H said... 
Now, Anonymous, you've left nearly 50 comments on this particular post, which seem in no way to be correlated to anything here. There appears to be much of interest in what you're leaving, and very much that is incomprehensible in its present form and lack of identifiable antecedent. Take the above comment/question for example. Nowhere in HEAVENS do I mention Tersin or Pendragon. Are your comments simply random? If they're meant to footnote some specific datum I've noted, I need a context for it to make sense. I've written millions of words, and do not remember every detail.

 At July 21, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said... 
We can get very much into our own particular studies, and fail to take the extra steps to avoid over-specifics and jargon. Communication must start with an attempt to be accessible. // ~ // tumblr.com/search/william%20of%20gellone
[This is the picture that shows up from that address.]

 At July 21, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said... 
William has arrived at Aigniennes. He entered the gate disturbed and lost in thought, often calling on the name of the true Father of Jesus. The porter was in a panic: “God, Father in heaven above,” he said, “what demon did this man come from? I’ve never seen a man of such stature, so ill-fashioned, so big, and so stoutly-built. Look at those shoulders, those arms and that body! I believe he's come from the depths of hell or from master Beelzebub. I wish he was in the depths of Montagu! - he would never come in here again. Holy Mary, where was such a man born?” // A few remained among the vaults, saying to each other, “We are lost! Antichrist has come among us! We will be destroyed by him.” // When the count saw this happen, and that all the monks fled at the sight of him, “God in Heaven!” said William, “What the devil have these monks seen? In my opinion they have gone out of their senses. May they all be hanged!” And then he realised what he had said, and went on: “God, what have I said? I am deceived! God, I have sinned, I want to be a monk, but my brothers have sent me out of my senses.” ... // Count William began to get angry: “God, Father who will judge the world,” he said, “I thought that I would put myself right with you and acquit myself of my mortal sins, but these people are giving me a lot of trouble. // They don’t want to approach me. But, by St Peter, it won’t do them any good! I will be a monk, no matter who gets upset about it; and I will serve and exalt the holy monks...” Then the lord began to weep. “God, Father,” he said, “have pity on me!” // cont.at Cardiff University; School of History, Archaeology and Religion // How William became a monk. cf.ac.uk/hisar/people/hn/MilitaryOrders/MILORDOCS2.htm /

At July 21, 2015, Blogger Jack H said... 
Dear Anonymous -- The above is in no way an improvement in your communication attempts. I apprehend your allegorical intent, but gnomic utterances and tertiary allusions hardly represent a striving toward accessibility. I don't publish the very much vast majority of your comments because I do not think they represent at actual attempt at responsive communication. You have intimated that some of your previous internet correspondences were problematic. I'm a disinterested observer, and I assure you that to some large degree the responsibility will be your own. I've used the words 'unintelligible' and 'incomprehensible' regarding your comments. You seem to know they arrive in a garbled form -- why send them then? Take the trouble to format them, or deliberately be an imposition upon your correspondent. You must surely know this. If you are not capable of change, no worries. Be at peace.


[The following quotes from one of my 'Psychology of Jesus' 
posts.  By "provenance"  is meant "context".]

 At July 29, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said... 
provenance. // . // "Got it? It’s Jesus who went to a distant land to be made king. See? " // I 'see' … something entirely different. Had I presented a personal opinion, well, what is that? Whether or not one is articulate was never the point. An opinion is only worth as much as the facts it is based on… should someone agree with conceptions couched in the language of scintillating intellect, it is little more than flattery if the giver has failed to examine the facts. // In which case common courtesy requires material evidence be generously provided, so rather than occupy myself casting about for opinions to ballast a floundering theory I have done as much // in return my vision has been beset with images of foodstuffs of dubious providence and caloric content and enough vehicular pastiches to garnish a junkyard // (the occasional mountain range an excepted and welcome relief ) /

At July 31, 2015, Blogger Jack H said... 
The above seems to be an attempt at disrespect. Comments here are a privilege not a right. These posts are honest with some humor. The appropriate response is appreciation, or silence.


=============

And there was some response, which I lost while moving it here.  I regret that, because the use of the word "onerous" was unique -- my work is somehow "onerous" ... what is meant isn't clear -- he's used a big-sounding word with some sort of negative association and he thinks that's a riposte. His word usage is so stilted that I wondered if English was his native language; now I think he's just trying to sound smart.  (Son, drop the thesaurus and read good writers -- the Penguin translation of Montaigne would be a fine start.)  The lost last comment was a promise to be silent, henceforth, with some further attempt at being insulting, in parentheses.

Well.  My correspondent is either a quite socially backward young male, or a mentally ill adult male.   Because of the use of words bigger than he actually knows, like 'providence', I'm going with young.  I hope so, anyway, because social skills can be learned.

Dear Anonymous:  Yes, it's best that you don't leave any more comments.  I scan them for relevance, coherence, and honest intention, but you've seen what I think about the matter.  No insult meant, and I want to be gentle, but your communication skills are truly horrid.  Less cut and paste, more framing.  Because right now you give a sort of Ted Kaczynski impression -- whirling around in your own isolated imagination, an imbalanced flywheel tearing itself apart.  

Maybe I'm wrong, but please feel no need to correct me.  

If you have a copy of that last comment, though, I'd like to add it here ... it was precious.  

Again, I'm not trying to be unkind.  The truth just feels that way.  Again, not unkind.

Best,

J

Thursday, July 23, 2015

PJ: XV

Then they head toward Jerusalem, the Twelve astonished and the followers afraid. Jesus tells the Twelve that, as prophesied, he will be betrayed, condemned, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, crucified. That’s what will happen to him. What he will do for himself is rise from the dead on the third day.

To take the Bible literally one must be rabbinical. One must understand the subtlety of words and context and convention. Thus, here, Matthew (20) and Luke (18) say “on” the third day, and Mark (10) says “after” the third day. Elsewhere Matthew uses “after.” (27) Precision is justified only by detail. Clearly Jesus did not say both, on and after, in a single sentence. Both are true, however. He rose on the third day of his death, and after the third day of his crucifixion. We will assume, because it pleases us to do so, that Jesus used an Aramaic preposition or its linguistic equivalent, that allows for this Greek ambiguity. Maybe I’m right. Latin, after all, articleless, has no word for ‘the’ or “a”. Translation is always approximation, and we’re getting it third hand. As memory serves, Hebrew is rich in imagery and quite vague in its indications of time – useful for prophecy. When we throw in the fact that what we call Wednesday, to the Hebrews is Wednesday from midnight and six hours into their Thursday. On and after become the same thing, depending on frames of reference.

“The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.” (Lk 18) We commiserate. Hearing impossible things is confusing.

 Then James and John, sons of Zebedee (Mk 10), Boanerges, fierce and ferocious Sons of Thunder, said to Jesus … no, wait … it wasn’t them, it was their mommy (Mt 20). Their mommy came with them, knelt and begged a favor for her precious darlings. In your kingdom, let one of my sweet angel babies sit on your right hand, and one on your left. I might be editorializing a tad. We can’t help what our mommies do, but there they were alongside her, aware of it all. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can!” “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to whom they have been prepared by my Father.” Drinking from that particular cup is not the immediate reward the boys were hoping for. He’s not referring to the wine of the Last Supper. Gethsemane, rather, and gall.

 The other ten disciples heard about this and were “indignant” with the two brothers. When Jesus was indignant it was because the disciples were holding children back; when the Ten got indignant it was because two were pushing themselves forward. Immaturity in children is innocence; in disciples it is something to burn out with anguish. Jesus called them all together. Rulers lord it over the Gentiles and take authority. “Not so with you.” This is why the Roman Catholic church has so deeply discouraged Bible reading. On the road to Capernaum, the Twelve had argued about who would be greatest, and were told the first shall be last. Now Jesus tells them, who would be greatest must be a slave. Teachers have to repeat themselves quite a lot. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to give his life as a ransom for many.”

As Jesus and yet another throng were leaving Jericho, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, called out, “‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quite, but he shouted all the more…. Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.” (Lk 18) “‘Call him.’ So they called to the man, ‘Cheer up, on your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see!’” (Mk 10) “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight.” (Mt 20) “Go, your faith has healed you.” (Mk 10)

Huh? Matthew tells us it was two blind beggars, while Mark and Luke speak of only one. Matthew and Mark tell us Jesus was leaving Jericho, and Luke says he was entering. Contradictions. Christianity must be false. Or, there were two beggars, but the writers choose to speak only of one. Editorial judgment is not dishonesty – that we refrain from giving every detail makes communication possible. Likewise, Jesus was both leaving and entering Jericho, at the same time – the Old and the New city, between the gates of which beggars would sit, you know, because it was busy and a good place to beg. You know that such an explanation will not do, won’t be accepted, by many skeptics. A thought experiment: is there any explanation that could be accepted? That an objection can be made is proof that the objection is valid? Not everything that is thrown to swine is a pearl; in fact, no matter what is thrown to swine, it’s garbage.

 Upon entering one of the Jerichos, Old or New, a tax collector, Zacchaeus (a very little man) climbed a sycamore tree to see what he could see, of Jesus. “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Lk 19) Glad welcome, and the sinner gave half his wealth to the poor, and repaid those he had (being a tax collector) cheated, fourfold. Doubtful that he had any wealth left. Said Jesus, “Today salvation has come to this house…. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Then Jesus tells the parable of the noble who gives some servants each a mina (a season’s wages) to tend, while he goes to be made king of a distant land. One servant gets a return of ten minas, another five. When the king returns, he rewards the productive men, a city for every earned mina. But one servant said, “Sir, here is your mina – I kept it laid up in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.” You wicked servant. You knew I was a hard man? Why didn’t you put my money on deposit and earn me interest? Take his mina from him and give it to the man who has ten. For the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. And those enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be king? Bring them here and kill them in front of me.

Got it? It’s Jesus who went to a distant land to be made king. See? And he gives blessings not so they can be wasted, but used. And he is a hard man. He will never listen to excuses. And he wants his enemies killed, immediately, in front of him. Remember back when we were wondering if Jesus is nice? In no way.

 From Jericho Jesus approached Jerusalem, for his final Passover. The chief priests and Pharisees gave orders in the city for anyone who knew where Jesus was to report it so they could arrest him. Six days before Passover Jesus arrived at Bethany and has the evening meal at the home of Simon the Leper. It was a Saturday, the Sabbath. People found out and flocked to see Jesus, and Lazarus too. “The chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.” (Jn 11) Shall we suppose Lazarus had been out of town, travelling with Jesus?

At the evening meal, Martha serves again and Mary is at the feet of Jesus. Of course. “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (Jn 12) That’s the sort of detail that sticks in the memory. Matthew (26) and Mark (14) don’t tell us it was Mary, but give us the added detail that she anointed Jesus’ head, also, and that the spikenard was in an alabaster jar, which she broke. No doubt symbolic of something.

 “Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray him, said ‘[Why this waste? (Mt)] Why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?’” A year’s wages. True, it was Judas who asked, as only John (12) is specific to identify, but it is a fair question. And the disciples “rebuked her harshly.” (Mk) There is a conspicuous consumption that amounts to conspicuous waste, and both liberals and conservatives could conspire here in agreement. But wealth exists for a reason – to be used in appropriate circumstances. As for Judas, he was “indignant” (Mt, Mk), as would I have been – but Judas said this “not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and had the money box and used to take what was put in it.” (Jn) This m¬ust have been something the disciples figured out later. Iscariot means ‘man of Crete’, and all Cretans are liars.

 “But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good. She has done what she could. She has come before hand to anoint my body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, where ever this gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what this woman did will also be spoken of as a memorial to her.’” (Mk 14:6-9)

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. So when they heard it they were glad and promised to give him money.” (Mk 14:10-11) “‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.” (Mt 26:15, 16) “Conveniently” – when there were no crowds. (Mk) What was Judas buying for himself, that he had this major need of cash? Drugs? Gambling? Women? Real estate? Was he supporting an aged mother, as I am? Thirty silver coins. Dimes used to be silver. Three bucks? Thirty pieces of silver is the Old Testament price for a gored slave. Funny, Caiaphus. Laughing now?

 Matthew, Mark and Luke record this anointing later, just prior to the Last Supper, handling the story not chronologically but thematically. It can be confusing, indeed misleading. For example Matthew (26:17) introduces the preparations for the Last Supper with, “Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread…” But it wasn’t on that day. “On” is a Greek dative preposition, here meaning “toward” or “regarding”. Sorry, it’s a mistranslation. My Greek is worse than my French, but there are lexicons to help in such matters. On the other hand, John’s gospel glosses over the days between the Triumphal Entry and the Last Supper, which obscures the chronology in another way. There were two Temple cleansings, two feedings of multitudes, but only one anointings by Mary of Jesus. Of course it is for Jesus’ burial, but that’s some days away. Tomorrow, Sunday, on the other hand, Jesus will enter into Jerusalem as King, if she will have it. She won’t, but all righteousness must be fulfilled, and part of that is that kings are anointed. What after all does the term “Christ” mean, but “Anointed.” Interesting. Mary assumes the function of Samuel, who if memory serves anointed both King Saul, and King David. 

Coming to the end now. But the end takes a long time. I’ve produced, almost accidentally, nearly 25,000 words so far. I’ve been glossing the teachings and focusing on the people. If and when I reformat this effort, it will be called something like “Jesus as Human Being.” We’re a little past the limit of psychology.

 Wondering how the story ends? A mystery is something that is hidden, and shall be revealed.


 J

Monday, July 20, 2015

PJ: XIV

Traveling again, now along the border of Galilee and Samaria (Lk 17), eventually toward Jerusalem, Jesus is met outside a village by ten lepers – a minyan, enough to be a synagogue – who call to him, loudly, from a distance, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us!” From a distance. Lepers were unclean, and unapproachable. When he saw them he called back, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they went, they were healed. When one of them saw this, he returned and threw himself at Jesus feet, giving thanks. Presumably this was before he went to the priests – as soon as he realized the miracle. Jesus asks, “Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” A Samaritan. “Rise and go. Your faith has made you well.”

 Faith. Faith. How empty and how full. Like light filling the void. Is the word translated properly? Is faith today what it was then? Does such alchemy work only in the physical presence of the Philosopher’s Stone? I know of no mountains that have been cast into the sea. Atolls disappear from the Pacific Ocean, but that’s no miracle. Faith is something other than conviction, certainty, enthusiasm, persistence, dedication, yearning, submission. It has nothing to do with psychology. It’s some kind of partnership. Another leper had said, “If you are willing…” “I am willing,” Jesus answered, full of compassion. Somehow, this is a clue.

 Jesus, Jesus, fill your heart with compassion.

Some Pharisees ask when the kingdom of God would come. “The kingdom of God does not come visibly.” Not here, not there. It “is within you.” Well, not within you, unless it is within you. ‘Within’ can be translated as ‘among’ – rather a different meaning. Build not your doctrine on equivocal translations. Then Jesus warns about false teachers, false Comings. Days of Noah and of Lot come before the days of the Son of Man. Lightning across the sky, people taken and people left, bodies and vultures.

 For some reason Jesus next tells a parable about a corrupt judge, importuned by a widow seeking justice (Lk 18). Says the judge to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming.” Like the man late at night who pounds on his neighbor’s door for bread; like the master who praises his sly steward for manipulating debts; lessons to be learned from the worldly. Says Jesus, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he put them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

 This is clearly not true. Not unless we count a thousand years as a day, or think of this ‘quickly’ as ‘eventual quickness’. Quickly, after the fullness of time. That must be why Jesus says “I tell you” – we need his personal assurance, because the evidence of our lives says otherwise. Couldn’t he have been more clear? But it would have been clear to everyone even then, right there in front of him, that ‘quickly’ doesn’t mean ‘instantly in sequence.’ It would have been easy to test, and falsify. To understand the bible you have to understand the whole bible. Wisdom must accommodate complexity.

 Luke says, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable…” The Pharisee and the tax collector: the first prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – this tax collector.” The tax collector did not approach close to the temple, did not look to heaven, but in abject humility said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Who is approved? It’s not about righteousness or humility. It’s about sufficiency.

 This parable, as much as anything in the bible, separates the atheist from, well, me. What god could demand self-loathing? Fasting, which is self-control, and tithing, which is social generosity, are philosophical virtues, but this sadistic tyrant volcano god demands groveling. I hear celebrated atheist Christopher Hitchens, his passionate rolling indignation, eloquent indictment – and there’s a part of me that wants him to be right. I don’t want to face a judging God who demands faith and selflessness. These are two of my least favorite things. I’d rather be a Pharisee, just following a few rules, preferably of my own invention – be a good-enough person, do some nice stuff, volunteerism, non-GMO, choice, climate change, amnestia, gay marriage. Don’t worry, be happy. Why be exceptional? – that’s not equality.

 It seems the chosen, if they are chosen, are chosen whether they want to be or not. Addiction, unlike leprosy, is never really cured. “I do believe – help me in my unbelief.”

Across the Jordan, then, Jesus healed many and taught large crowds (Mt 19). Some Pharisees asked about divorce. Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read that in the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” What God has joined, let man not separate.

Shall we count his errors? God did not make male and female, as transgenderism proves; gender is a rainbowlike continuum. Did you know that my spell-checker thinks “transgenderism” is a word? My pc is very PC. A man leaves his birth-family, which may be male-male, female-female, innumerable other bi- and multi-sexual polygamous variants. A man unites to a wife, a husband, a spousal declines-to-self-limit, polyphonies of any gender-variant. The two or more shall become whatever their bliss decides for the moment, or not. God? Goddess. It may very well be, you know, that I am a man in a man’s body, integrated and identifying as a man, but really I’m a woman, who just hasn’t realized herself yet, and never will. It’s impossible to know for sure, empirically. It would be a matter of revelation. I’m waiting for this group to be celebrated. We’ll get protected status, so we get free college tuition, and can never be evicted. 

Says Jesus, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” Infidelity is the only true reason for divorce. We’re speaking spiritually here, or rather, soulishly: the bond, joining, one-flesh of marriage is severed by sexual betrayal. Only adultery can shatter the union, and only adultery can follow it. Guilt redounds to the adulterer; the betrayed partner is free. Well. We need not concern ourselves. The polygamous marriages of the patriarchs, of even Moses himself? Adulterous, and overlooked. In a fallen world of death, the ideals of original creation are elements of the divine law that demands perfection, and can never be met. Don’t sin, and when you inevitably here’s what do do…. Don’t commit adultery, and when you do, marry the other woman polygamously. 

 Said the disciples, “Then it is better not to marry.” Replied Jesus, “Not everyone can accept this teaching.” Some are born eunuchs, some are made so, some choose celibacy. Who can accept it, should accept it. Better to marry than to passionately burn. We must not allow the atheists to tell us our theology. Law demands perfection; God overlooks our weakness.

People brought babies and little children for Jesus to bless, and the disciples rebuked the parents. Who knows why. It made Jesus “indignant.” (Mk 10) “Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them.” He took them in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. So, parents and Jesus on one side, disciples and Pharisees on the other. Imagine, being a follower of Jesus, and making him indignant. What is indigence? Being offended somehow, with something of being angered and disrespected. A complicated emotion. An intransitive verb? To be indignant; to indignify. The disciples indignified Jesus. Must every emotion have an object?

Then a rich young ruler falls before Jesus. “Good teacher, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Mark (10) and Luke (18) have “good teacher,” and Matthew (19) has “good thing.” “Why do you call me good teacher?” (Mk/Lk) “Why do you ask me about what is good?” (Mt) Is somebody misremembering, or selectively paraphrasing? However we resolve the question, the answer is the same: “No one is good but God alone.” That’s not an answer to the man’s question; it’s the answer Jesus wants to emphasize.

Jesus goes on: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” “Which ones?” Because there are many, not all of which really matter – as we’ve just seen, regarding divorce. “You know the commandments.” Jesus lists seven, five of the Ten in Luke, with fraud unique in Mark and love unique in Matthew. “All these I have kept.” “One thing you lack,” says Jesus (Mk). “If you want to be perfect,” (Mt) “go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” (Mk) It isn’t the riches, it’s the love of riches. The man’s face fell and he was very sad. And he went away. So much for falling at the feet of Jesus. Everyone falls. It’s what you do when you rise that counts. This young man was rich in goods. Good teachers, good doings, good goods. Good is not good enough. ‘Perfect’ means ‘complete’. Goods made him incomplete.

 The camel and the eye of a needle, and how hard it is for the rich to enter heaven. Everyone should know it: “Eye of the Needle” is supposed by Sunday school teachers to have been the name of a narrow low gate in Jerusalem. Heavy-laden camels could not pass through it – they needed to be unloaded first. No historical evidence exists for such a gate. The Talmud speaks of an elephant through a needle’s eye, as an undreamt-of thing; a midrash on the Song of Songs says God, to save a repentant sinner, will reciprocate a needle’s eye with a wide door.

 In the Greek New Testament, the needle in Matthew and Mark is rafic, for sewing cloth, and in Luke, the physician, it’s belone, more likely for surgery. And there’s a pun: kamelos is camel and kamilos is rope. The pun works in the original Aramaic: gamla means both camel and rope. The disciples were very “greatly astonished” asking “Who then can be save?” Jesus answered, “With man this is impossible.” Camels, the largest animal commonly seen in Jerusalem, are more impossible than ship riggings, so the disciples are most likely hearing “camel”.

 Peter pipes up (Mt 19): “We left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us!?!” More of that who will be the greatest in heaven argument. Jesus doesn’t slap him down. Rather, “when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Twelve of you who have followed me. But not Judas. He had a replacement, Mattathias, voted in by the rest. He was there from early on. He was probably there now. Their reward is given a hundred times over. There’s a kind of capitalism at work here, of investment and reward. It’s just that the investment is total, and the reward so delayed.

 A capitalist parable (Mt 20): a land owner hires laborers at sunup, and in the forenoon, and mid-day, and afternoon, and evening. At sun-down he pays them all the same wage, at which the sunup-workers grumbled – We worked all day, they worked only an hour! The owner replies, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous.” Yes. Envy. It’s Jesus saying, yet again, Don’t worry about what others get; it’s not your business; mind your own business. “Fairness” has no reality in this world or the next. Fairness, in fact, may be a teaching of Satan.


 J

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PJ: XIII

Jesus teaches in the land across the Jordan. (Jn 10) Someone asks, “are only a few people going to be saved?” (Lk 13) He doesn’t answer those sorts of questions, why, how many. You.  Now. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” We may have heard him, eaten his food, but that’s not enough. “I don’t know you or where you come from.” It starts with us knowing where he comes from. Nazareth? God? I’m not preaching here. I’m trying to understand Jesus, the man. He is a man who knows how to say no. Gnashing of teeth. The first are last.

 Some Pharisees said, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. …no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem.’” He has a plan. He is not afraid that it will fail. And what is a fox? It sneaks and skulks, but it is a most ferocious killer. “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he says, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you are not willing.” Foxes kill hens and their chicks.

He heals a man with dropsy on the Sabbath. (Lk 14) Is it lawful to pull your son out of a well on the Sabbath? The Pharisees can say nothing, nothing. They don’t agree, but the point is unanswerable.

 He says, don’t invite the rich and your friends, but the poor, lame, blind to your feast, and you will be rewarded at the resurrection. He tells a parable: a rich man gives a banquet, and his friends give excuses why they cannot come. “Then the owner of the house becomes angry” and invites the poor, the lame, the humble; there is still room, so he tells his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” Israel is a family, not of the nations; some of that family will be at the banquet, but many unfilled places will be filled. It’s not about the family. It was Abraham’s faith that created the family; faith, not the family, is the point. Why God uses the symbols and types that he does is arbitrary as far as we’re concerned. Symbols are necessary to make the point. There is no birthright. We’re entitled to nothing.

 Great crowds were traveling with Jesus. “If anyone does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Every natural affection, Jesus rejects. It’s inhuman. Now there’s an emotion, in our hunt. Hate. God so loved the world that he hated his only begotten son. We have ears, but hate, we must agree, is a hard word to hear. If we retranslate it as strong dislike and revulsion we can avoid childish objections.  If we can love what is good we can hate what is evil.  It's symmetrical.

The parable of the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to find one that is lost, and finding it, rejoices. (Lk 15) Somehow that one seems more valuable than those that never wandered. “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Rejoicing.  Sinners stray, Pharisees stay – well there it is: while the shepherd is gone, the wolves move in and cull the herd. Jesus calls them sheep, but some were goats. It’s a wheat and tares thing – they just look like sheep.

 The parable of the prodigal son. Wastrel, famine, pigs. He “comes to his senses …. while he is still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion…” The fatted calf is killed and the older brother is angry. ‘All these years I have slaved!’ ‘Everything I have is yours, but this brother of yours was dead and is alive again…’

 I have brothers who have never loved me. I do not love them. My father never rejoiced to see me. God’s familial metaphors are keyed to our nature, so we understand them, in the abstract and regardless of our own specifics. We know how things should be, even if there is a sound in the background of our minds like a screaming we refuse to hear. So we weep to see such love and forgiveness, and we recoil when we’re told to hate our father, brother, son, our very life. We are required somehow to know when words mean other than their meaning.

 Witness then, a demand for wisdom (Lk 16, 17): A wasteful steward is going to be fired. He goes to his master’s debtors and slashes their debts. The master commends the steward for acting shrewdly. This is not a hard teaching. Jesus is clear: “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Use money wisely. “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.” And there is much that follows: Law until now, the Kingdom henceforth, yet law does not pass away; the rich man and poor Lazarus, and Abraham’s bosom, and the futility of preaching to deaf ears. “Things that cause sin must come, but woe to that person through whom they come.” So watch yourselves. Forgive those who repent, many sevens of times. “Increase our faith,” said the apostles. Jesus speaks again of a mustard seed. Do your duty, without thanks.

In Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha was gravely ill: Lazarus. (Jn 11) This is the Mary who poured oil on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.  Messengers came to Jesus: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death … God’s son may be glorified through it.” Lazarus died. Jesus tarried for two days, then said, “Let us return to Judea.” The disciples remind him that the Jews wanted to stone him. He speaks of traveling when it is daylight, and says, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up.” “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” “Lazarus is dead.” But really, Jesus, how do you expect to be understood? Please yourself with artful metaphors, but don’t be exasperated if little children can’t follow your meaning. You were doing things that had never been done before. Of course we were confused.

 Thomas said to the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” There’s blunt for you. In Bethany Lazarus had been in the tomb four days – so it was at least a two-day walk. Martha, Martha met Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you want.” “Your brother will rise again.” “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Well this is just not true. Except he’s demanding that we be wise, again, and understand the complexity of his simplicity. “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world.”

Surely this is as rocklike a confession as that of Peter. Is there a difference between his “you are” and Martha's “I believe you are”? Is there a difference between her “Son of God” and his “Son of the Living God”? It must be that Peter said it first; otherwise, the first Pope would have been Martha.

 Mary arrives and falls at his feet. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” If, if, if. ‘If’ is not a prayer. Neither is ‘why.’ Subjunctives and hypotheticals are not about reality. Just because we do not understand reality doesn’t mean we should retreat from it. When Jesus saw Mary and the mourners all weeping, “he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” There follows the shortest verse in the English-language bible. “Jesus wept.” He’s not weeping for dead Lazarus, whom he knows will soon live again. Nor for the tears of Mary and her neighbors – soon they will rejoice. Jesus does not weep over temporary problems.

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. … ‘Take away the stone.’” Martha, practical pragmatic Martha said, “there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” They moved the stone. Jesus looked up: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” The same dynamic had played out in the throne room of the heavenlies, when Satan and the Lord spoke about Job. God watches us, but we watch God. Then, in a loud voice, Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he did, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, a cloth around his head. Wonderful and horrible. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

We aren’t given the details. No indicators of time, how long it took Lazarus to fit himself back into his flesh, rise, walk. Before Jesus calls Lazarus out, he has thanked God for already having heard.  Lazarus must have been as surprised as all the others; whatever he died from was cured, and he was alive again in a strong body. The spirit of Jairus’ daughter returned immediately, and Jesus told them to get her something to eat. She must have died hungry. Here, Jesus wants Lazarus dressed properly – winding sheets soaked in preserving oils would be uncomfortable. This moves me, learning how thoughtful Jesus is.

 Later, when Jesus rises, at the end of this story, he leaves his grave clothes behind. He will not have eaten since his Last Supper, four days prior, but such a body upon rising will not be hungry.

 Meanwhile, back at the Sanhedrin – what we would call The Supreme Court – the Pharisees convene over the Jesus situation. “What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this everyone will believe in him and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Personal ambition and national pride are how nations are destroyed. Caiaphas rose and pronounced: “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people then that the whole nation perish.” John tells us “as high priest that year Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation…. So from that day they plotted to take his life.”

 Holders of high office bring judgment upon nations. It is a truism. Scum can speak ex cathedra. Pagans can give true prophecy. It is no longer fashionable to see national judgment as coming from God. The Russians, maybe, or the Caliphate, in the form of invaded borders or exploded airplanes. But even Ninevah repented. It’s hard to think of your own country as the Whore of Babylon. But there were many whores in Babylon, and being one now is no special thing. Caiaphis had said “it is better for you”; for all his pro forma nodding to “the people,” he’s thinking about “our place”, not “our nation.”

 “Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews.” He retreated to the edge of the desert. Prior to this grand conclave, hatred of Jesus was a personal choice; now it became official. Who could argue with the law of the land? Settled. Case closed. Next. Doesn’t it bother you, the way people are allowed to believe so many unprogressive things?


J