Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What do you mean by that?

John 8:31-36 records a conversation that Jesus had with "those who believed in him." So we know that these are not people trying to trap him or test him, but ones who truly are listening to his teaching and following him in order to learn from him. To them Jesus connects obedience to his teaching with true discipleship (which is an obvious one), but then continues this chain to connect with knowledge of the truth and ultimately freedom. In some sense it sounds a bit like gnosticism. Get the wisdom and achieve enlightenment. The major difference being that Jesus and obedience to his teaching are the source of truth and enlightenment, not some journey of self-discovery within each individual.

But the reply of his followers demonstrates that they are as confused as we are at this point. As Jews they see themselves as free people and no one's slaves, so consequently the question arises just what does Jesus mean with the word 'free'. Free from what? Free from whom? How will they be free?

Jesus' response is more to the point, but those who defined the lectionary readings cut off his reply in mid-sentence. Now Jesus begins speaking of slavery to sin and the lack of permanence of the slaves position in the family. Only the son's place is permanent. Only a son can give real freedom. But again there is a lack of clarity in Jesus' explanation.

So just what does he mean by this?

Friday, October 14, 2011

In whose image???

Matthew 22:15-22 presents some interesting points.

The question of the Pharisees to Jesus..."Is it against our Law to pay taxes to the Roman, or not?" If Jesus says 'Yes' then he can be sidelined with the Zealots and defined as a traitor to Rome. If he says 'No' then he betrays his own people. Tricky question.

Jesus' request for a coin is also interesting. The coin carried the imprint of Caesar and words implying his divine nature. Therefore it was in breach of the first 2 Commandments of the Torah. So how is it that the Pharisees and their crew just happened to have the necessary coinage. By rights, no Jew could handle the money without being made unclean or breaking the Commandments. A whiff of hypocrisy and compromise perhaps.

Jesus' answer is, quite frankly, of little help. Just what does belong to Caesar? Doesn't everything belong to God?? Isn't he the one who appoints the authorities and allow rulers to rule??? So is Jesus really speaking of the division between church and state, as if one can actually make such a divide?

Spirituality and spiritual beliefs are intrinsic to our nature, our being, our lives. Just as they are intrinsic to the world and universe we live in. To attempt to somehow separate them from earthly rulers and authorities, or from taxes and other economic forces is foolishness. Just maybe Jesus' comment is not so much about division as it is about identity. It's not so much about whose image is found on the coin as it is whose image is found on you and me. Intriguing thought...

I may have been created in God's image, but in whose image am I living now?