June 21, 2020
Sunday Between June 19 and June 25 Inclusive
Proper 7, Ordinary Time 12
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Matthew 10:24-39, The Message or Matthew 10:24-39, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Quite frankly, I'm not sure why this lesson is part of the Lectionary. Where's the Good News? We should not be naive or blind to the warnings given here. We do need to know this. But as a Sunday sermon?
Verses 24-25. A disciple isn't above the teacher. OK. Got that. Never thought otherwise actually.
The unidentified "they" in Verse 25 show the power of gossip in Jesus' world. His hearers would know that "they" are the scribes and Pharisees who are trying to destroy Jesus' public reputation by saying that he casts out demons by the authority of Beelzebul. And if "they" will do that to Jesus, his followers had better be prepared for worse.
Verses 26-27. The command to be open and transparent is a high value in the peasant world of Jesus' followers. Any attempt at secrecy was met with suspicion and distrust. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees who were plotting behind Jesus' back, Jesus urges his followers to be open and public.
Verses 28-31. For the second and third time, Jesus counsels his followers, "do not be afraid."
His first advice for how to combat fear was to be open and public.
Here his encouragement is to remember how precious we are to God. Those who persecute us here on earth can only kill our body, but cannot kill our soul.
Verses 32-33. This should be read in a tone of affirmation and reward; not as a stern warning. Imagine being a peasant nobody who will be acknowledged before God in Heaven. Unheard of! At the time of Jesus only elites had access to - were acknowledged by - the highest authority.
Verses 34-38. It is difficult for us in contemporary Western cultures to realize how shocking was Jesus' associating with lepers, tax collectors, and women. Paradoxically, Jesus' radical hospitality is the source of the division he says will happen.
Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh (Page 65, see footnote below.) provide an excellent comment on the social dilemma the followers of Jesus faced:
Given the sharp sense of social stratification prevalent in antiquity, persons engaging in inappropriate social relations risked being cut off from the networks on which their social positions depended. In traditional societies this was taken with deadly seriousness. Alienation from family or clan could literally be a matter of life or death, especially for the elite, who would risk everything by the wrong kind of association with the wrong kind of people.
Since the inclusive Jesus groups demanded just this kind of association across kinship and status lines, the situation depicted here is indeed realistic ... and the price to be paid for it spelled out. ... Jesus-group members take the place of one's original family.
Verse 39. This wisdom saying guides many mainstream liberal Christians - and maybe even not so libel ones too!
We all know how to lose our life so that it is lost. The trick is to figure out how to lose one's life so that it will be found.
And the key to that mystery is to lose our life for Jesus' sake. For Jesus' purpose, aim, or end.
In this context, losing one's life might mean: losing one's social status - becoming disgraced in the eyes of others - because one chooses to associate with those outside of one's social circle. Hanging out with the lowest and the least, enemies, or maybe even one's actual neighbours.
Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, see below, pages 65-66.
Matthew 10:24-39 (NRSV)
24 "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Matthew 10:24-39 (The Message)
24 "A student doesn't get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn't make more money than his boss. 25 Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, 'Dungface,' what can the workers expect?
26 "Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. 27 So don't hesitate to go public now.
28 "Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
29 "What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. 30 He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! 31 So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.
32 "Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. 33 If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?
34 "Don't think I've come to make life cozy. I've come to cut—35 make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. 36 Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. 37 If you prefer father or mother over me, you don't deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don't deserve me.
38 "If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. 39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.