Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Archive for February 2012

Sorry, I haven’t been on top of sticking to a daily routine. Vacation – what can I say?

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps[a] and went to meet the bridegroom.[b]2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Mmm hmm. Still talking about the Kingdom of Heaven (whatever that is) and what it means when it comes… still not sure. We already established at the beginning of Matthew that nobody is quite sure what “Kingdom of Heaven” means, so I’m not positive how we are supposed to interpret anything else.

The Parable of the Talents

14  “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[c] and ent

rusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[d] to another two, to another one, to each according to

his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[e] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.29  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Again I am confused. Let me see if someone can interpret this for me…

In Matthew, the opening words appear to link the parable to the parable of the Ten Virgins, which immediately precedes it.[1] That parable deals with wisdom in an eschatological context.[1] This parable, however, has been interpreted in several ways.

As a teaching for Christians

Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God.[1] These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities (“talents” in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth.[1] Failure to use one’s gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgement.[1]

The poet John Milton was fascinated by the parable (interpreted in this traditional sense),[13] referring to it repeatedly, notably in the sonnet “On His Blindness“:[13]

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent, which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He, returning, chide

This interpretation seems to be the origin of the word “talent” used for an aptitude or skill.[14]

As a critique of religious leaders

Joachim Jeremias believed that the original meaning of the parable was not an ethical one about every man. Instead, he saw it as aimed at the scribes who had withheld “from their fellow men a due share in God’s gift.”[15] In his view, Jesus is saying that these scribes will soon be brought to account for what they have done with the Word of God which was entrusted to them.[15]

Jeremias also believed that in the life of the early church the parable took on new meaning, with the merchant having become an allegory of Christ, so that “his journey has become the ascension, his subsequent return … has become the Parousia, which ushers his own into the Messianic banquet.”[15]

As a social critique

William R. Herzog II notes the traditional interpretation of the parable,[16] but gives a liberation theology reading in which the image of the absentee landlord, who reaps where he didn’t sow, is taken literally. On Herzog’s reading, the third servant is a “whistle-blower”[16] who has “unmasked the ‘joy of the master’ for what it is, the profits of exploitation squandered in wasteful excess.”[16] He is punished for speaking the truth, not for failing to make a profit. For Herzog, the point of the parable is the need to act in solidarity when confronting injustice.[16]

Sociologist Robert K. Merton used the parable of talents to describe the reward system in science in which famous scientists often receive disproportionate credit for their contributions, whereas lesser known scientists receive less credit than their contributions actually merit. called this phenomenon the Matthew effect; see also Stigler’s law of eponymy.[17]  (Wikipedia)

Okay. The first part makes sense to me as a traditional interpretation, and one that does make some sense to me, too. Still a little hazy.

The Final Judgment

31  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separatesthe sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 Andthe King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Okay! Goats and sheep! I’ve been called a goat before by Christians because they say that I don’t follow their flavor of Christianity correctly – and therefore I’m going to hell. It’s hurtful, but I also find it hubristic. This verse clearly shows that he’s saying that people who are kind, generous, caring, and loving are his sheep – that has nothing to do with the political merit or the way the bible is interpreted such as how people have tried to ascribe to me. I would never tell someone that I believe they are going to heaven or hell. That’s not for me to decide. God knows our hearts – even better than we know our own. And besides all that, we don’t even know what heaven and hell really are, when it comes down to it.

Jesus kind of describes something of eternal punishment and eternal life, but that’s still pretty vague.

Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple

24  Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them,“You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Things are really starting to heat up over here in Matthew. Instead of fulfilling prophesies, Jesus is prophesying now.

Signs of the End of the Age

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them,“See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away[a] and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13  But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

I guess the real question is “What does the ‘end of the age’ even mean?”

The disciples were really asking three questions. First, they wanted to know when “this” would happen. The “this” could be a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which Jesus had just finished describing as being threatened with destruction. Second, they wanted to know what the “sign” of his coming was, which as we shall see, Jesus finally gave them in 24:30. Third, the disciples also wanted to know when the “end of the age” would occur. This is something Jesus told the disciples they could not know (24:36).

If we separate out the three questions, and see how Jesus answered each of them, we can clear up a number of problems or misinterpretations associated with Matthew 24. Jesus was telling his disciples that Jerusalem and the temple (the “this”) would, indeed, be destroyed intheir day. But the “sign” they asked about, Jesus said, would be associated with his coming, not with the destruction of the city. Finally, as to the disciples’ third question, Jesus said, no one could know the answer to the question of when he would return and “the end” of the age would occur. (Source: GCI)

Ah, okay then. Whenever Jesus said anything, the interpretations I got as a child were ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS about the rapture. Or the Tribulations. Or another part of Revelations as fictionalized by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Man, did I have serious nightmares growing up about being left behind.

The Abomination of Desolation

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place ( let the reader understand),16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17  Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23  Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27  For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.28  Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Jesus would be AWESOME at telling scary stories around the campfire. As for me, the part that has always stuck with me is verse 19 – perhaps this is one of the reasons I’ve always been afraid of getting pregnant and having children. Not necessarily because of THIS EXACT EVENT happening, but whenever I think about the Holocaust or Hurricane Katrina or whatever, I think, if I had a kid, that would be terrible for both of us.

The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Okay. Still talking about the end of the age/the rapture/I don’t know what.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35  Heaven and earth will pass away, butmy words will not pass away.

No One Knows That Day and Hour

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[b] but the Father only. 37  For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43  But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant,[c] whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’49 and begins to beat his fellow servants[d] and eats and drinks withdrunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Okay I’m lumping all of that together because he is still talking about… what? The second coming? I’m going to be honest – although I look forward to the proverbial heaven on earth that has been prophesied, I can’t let myself dwell on it. It is important to me – and to God, too, I think – that I am doing what I can HERE and NOW on THIS earth to spread goodness, love, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, etc.


Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi[b] by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.[c] And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11  The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.[d]15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[e] as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it.22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

23  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside ofthe cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside ofthe cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you alsooutwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34  Therefore I send youprophets and wise men and scribes,some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood ofZechariah the son of Barachiah,[f] whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

HO.LY.SH*T. Seriously all I have to say. Scary.

Lament over Jerusalem

37  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say,‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”


The Parable of the Wedding Feast

22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants[a] to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

I do not even understand this…

Okay, after looking it up, this is another parable Jesus uses to show the Jews that, when it comes down to it, they are going to miss everything and not follow him, and that his gifts are going to go to the Gentiles. Also, the last part about the clothes seems to be lost on many scholars as well.

Paying Taxes to Caesar

15  Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.[b]17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.[c]20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Don’t test Jesus. HE KNOWS EVERYTHING. Also, we gotta coexist with our governments; they aren’t meant to represent our religion or our spiritual beliefs.

Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32  ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Okay. I’ll just go with this one.

The Great Commandment

34  But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Nice. I seriously always try to just keep things simple with these two rules (the second one is basically the Golden Rule, no?). I’ll be honest though, I am way better at the second commandment than the first one. I’m not the best at loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind. I don’t have enough respect; I take him for granted.

Whose Son Is the Christ?

41  Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Hahahahahahaha! Oh man, he was like, “You wanna mess with me? I’ll totally screw you up. You think you know everything, and you know NOTHING. Don’t mess with me.”

The Triumphal Entry

21  Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

I love how Matthew is kind of like a researcher. He’s documenting all of the things Jesus did and citing his sources for each prophesy. I have a couple of questions about that though: How did Matthew know the prophesies so well? He wasn’t really trained in these things. Also, when did he write this all down? It had to be some time after this all took place. How did he know Jesus’ origins so well? Did Jesus tell him? I think bible scholars say that Matthew wrote this like, 30-50 years after the fact. I’m not doubting that everything wasn’t seared into his brain, but it does make me wonder how he got all of this information written down so accurately.

Look at verse 11: This is the PROPHET. Did they see him as their Messiah? Or simply another prophet from God?

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12  And Jesus entered the temple[b] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them,“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” 14  And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15  But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple,“Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them,“Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”

17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Dang, these guys just do NOT want to have an open mind about this, do they? Also, I only remember Jesus coming in like a badass and tossing everyone out – nobody tells the rest of the story about more healing and more prophesies being fulfilled.

Like this:

Okay, a couple things: 1) I always thought Jesus acted kind of like a psycho, but I guess that’s righteous indignation. 2) Is that Desmond from Lost?!

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

18  In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19  And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

I  have a few thoughts on this one, too. Jesus, CHILL OUT! Man, no mercy for a sad little fig tree. Just kidding – but it is kind of funny, right? Also, there’s that faith thing again. Man, if there is ONE SINGLE THING that re-reading Matthew has taught me, it’s that more than anything Jesus asked for or responded to, it was FAITH.

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

23  And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them,“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Haha, Jesus knew they were cowards.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28  “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Hahaha BURN/ZING/OH SNAP. Man, Jesus was a smart ass.

The Parable of the Tenants

33  “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants[c] to the tenants to get his fruit. 35  And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36  Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves,‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[d]
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”[e]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Wow, if I heard this, I think I would IMMEDIATELY tear my clothes and run to Jesus and ask him to forgive me and let me follow him. This also seems to indicate that Jesus recognized that the Jews weren’t ever going to fully get behind him, and so the Gentiles were the ones whom would receive the kingdom of God. Or is that me just reaching?

Laborers in the Vineyard

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a] a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’[b]16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Seems fair to me.

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

That’s ominous. That’s tragic.

A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her,“What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them,“You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[c]27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,[d]28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I would be indignant, too. Jesus is good at diffusing situations.

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord,[e]have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

Why are people always harping on each other. Come on, let these guys plead for mercy!

Boring chapter.


Matthew 19 

Teaching About Divorce

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a] 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

I feel like a lot is going over my head right here. For one thing, it doesn’t really seem like they want to dig into the issue of divorce as much as they are trying to trap Jesus or prove somehow that he doesn’t understand anything. But either way, we are taught them as if they were specific commandments, as opposed to a sharp answer to a snarky question.

People seem to always be using these verses to trap people. If it’s not prove that divorce is always wrong, it’s to find a loop-hole out of marriage. Here it seems Jesus would only allow for sexual immorality to come between a man and wife and bring about a permanent end to their marriage. But what about physical abuse? Is that because at the time a woman was considered property? And what’s all this business at the end about the eunuchs?

I read this article about this portion of Matthew 19. If you are interested, I’d highly suggest it. To be honest, I only skimmed it (therefore, there might be parts that I don’t actually agree with/endorse), but my favorite part is that it shows that Jesus was an expert in the law, even though it seems he never sat down and had a thorough education as the rest of the pharisees must have. They kept trying to give Jesus these hard trick questions that only an expert would understand, but he always does, AND he shoes that they are missing the point again and again. My point: if Jesus was a real person, and he knew all this stuff, it’s really a miracle in itself how SMART and EDUCATED he was.

Let the Children Come to Me

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

1) Why were they bringing children to him? What was the goal here? and 2) Why were the disciples so pissed about it?

The Rich Young Man

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world,[b] when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold[c] and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Eat it, Prosperity Gospel. Even I know that I hang on to way too many physical possessions. Some of them are out of comfort (like a home, a couch, necessary clothes), some out of personal attachment (my dog, memorabilia, photographs, gifts), and some out of sheer luxury (most of my clothes, electronics, beauty products, probably at least 70% of my possessions). So suck on this section of Red-Letters, anyone who thinks that money is proof of your amount of Christianity. I don’t think that being rich is inherently bad, but I do hate any theology that says that “faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth.” (from Wikipedia’s definition)

I also want to point out that while we Christians always say that we only have to believe in Jesus to be saved (and of course, our lives ought to reflect that belief), Jesus says right here that if you aren’t willing to give up your things, you shouldn’t expect to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. That means that basically everyone I know (including myself) isn’t going to heaven OR that this Kingdom of Heaven isn’t exactly the Eternal Jesus-ized Disneyland we’ve all been forming in our mind.

Lingering Questions:

  • What’s the deal with the eunuchs?
  • Can someone explain the part about the children? Why were they brought to him at all and what did he do to them and why were the disciples mad about it?
  • What did Jesus REALLY MEAN about “Kingdom of Heaven?” I don’t want the Sunday School answer. I want a cultural, historical, reasonable, logical answer. PLEASE!