It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Acceptance and Rejection, Reflection on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

"You've ignored all the cues. You don't respond to our joy or our sorrow." It's hard too imagine how someone could be less interested or less impressed than to be oblivious to happiness or mourning.

"What does it take to convince you?" Jesus is asking. "You criticized John for being too religious and Jesus for not being religious enough."

Current church members could compile a similar list. Evangelism is and always has been difficult.

Matthew does not intend for us to believe the accusations that John had a demon or that Jesus was a drunkard. Does he want us to believe the third accusation--that Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners? (with thanks to Ronald J. Allen & Clark M. Williamson in their Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews.)

Matthew uses two metaphors to describe Jesus: Son of Man and Wisdom.

Son of Man: Jesus had responded to a potential follower by saying, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head," (Matthew 8:20). Jesus will use this term again to describe the one who will come in glory and judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). According to the notes in the New Interpreters' Study Bible, Son of Man can refer to a human being (Ezekiel 2) or to a heavenly figure who rules (Daniel 7:13-14).

Wisdom: Hard to find, expensive to obtain, God knows where it is, Job 28:12-28. Wisdom calls out to us wherever we go. Wisdom was the first creation of God. Proverbs 8.

I've been reading Celia Deutsch's essay in A Feminist Companion to Matthew, edited by Amy-Jill Levine, in which she discusses Wisdom Christology. I'm interpreting that phrase to mean that Matthew's readers would recognize the attributes of Wisdom from their access to Job and Proverbs, as well as to Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon.

Deutsch points out parallels to the invitation, "Come to me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of my fruits. ..." Sirach 24:19-22 and to the image of the yoke, "Put your feet into her (Lady Wisdom) fetters, and your neck into our collar (Sirach 6:25).

She asserts that Matthew's description of Jesus as a teacher of apocalytic mesteries and an authoritative interpreter of Torah indicate that his teachings are superior to that of his usual opponents in this Gospel, the ubiquitous scribes and Pharisees (pp. 98-100).

Although I studied Greek in seminary, I am not a scholar. But, I do own books--and, from time to time, read them. Here's what I learned today about the word "psuche" that is translated as "souls" in Matthew 11:29:

As a verb, "psuche" means breathe or blow. As a noun, it means breath, that is, the vital force that animates the body and shows itself in breathing. Another word that we translate as breath is "pneuma." Sometimes the two terms are used indiscriminately but sometimes not. In 1 Thessalonians, pneuma is the rational part of man (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).

When I read "rest for your souls," I automatically think of after-life. Was Matthew thinking this way? Or was he talking about an immediate comfort? Or both?


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