August 8, 2011

Oh Come On!

Food laws and Jesus comparing a woman to a dog?!? Are you serious? On a short week of sermon prep?!? Oh Come on!

Let's start this week with the optional reading from Matthew.  It contains one of my favorite lines in all of Scripture - a sentance that is almost a mission statement for me. "Do you know the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you siad?". Appeasing the powers that be was, at this point in Matthew's gospel, second to last on Jesus' list of lifelong goals.  He had been sent precisely because what the religious leaders of Israel were doing with the will of God.

God saw that they were bending religion to suit their own political and financial goals, and God was angry. A flood didn't work, slavery didn't work, the destruction of the Temple didn't work, exile didn't work, and so he tried again by sending his only Son to bring grace. And contrary to the current prevailing opinion, grace only comes through judgment. You've gotta know you need grace, i.e. you have to know you are sinful, for grace to work.

So, when Jesus ticks off the powers that be, he isn't doing it all willy-nilly, but in order to offer grace. The Pharisaical obsession with purity had taken the focus off of God and placed it squarely on them. Jesus says, get over it, and focus on what matters, the stuff of the heart, the place of God.

In contemporary life, we've probably gone the other way. Ignoring all calls to purity, both external and internal, and focused instead on "I'm OK, you're OK." In reality. This says, God, we're good, we don't need your grace. It puts the attention squarely on ourselves and places us in the role of the Pharisees as we use religion for our own self interests.  Jesus calls us to a higher standard. "I'm broken, but God is faithful and his grace is sufficient for me."

Now, what to do with that dog stuff?

1 comment:

Ben Rockwell said...

Thanks, Steve. I've got this one this week, too, and it's troubling on a few levels.

Reading back over it again, though, I think what we've got is an example of something going from "general" to "specific", and dare I say that Jesus appears to be falling into the same trap that he's accusing the Pharisees of falling into? The whole, "I'm okay, you're okay, and if I ignore your cries for help maybe you'll just go away."

He's talking about their ways of purity and how it's moving them away from G-d's purpose for them, and here he ignores a woman who is crying out for help from the "Son of David" himself.

Is it a moment of the Gospel writer showing that Jesus's message/work is for everyone and not just for Israel, or is it a turning point for Jesus's own understanding of himself?

I don't know where I'm going with it yet, and thanks for opening it up a little bit more.