Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Human Jesus

August 18, 2018

I’ve been thinking some more about Jesus as human by thinking about Biblical texts that portray Jesus’ humanity. We have the story of young Jesus in the Temple giving his parents a smarty pants sort of answer, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). He sounds like a thirteen year old.

In Matt 17:17  he seems frustrated, “How much longer must I put up with you?”

But what has caught my attention most is the story of when the devil tempts Jesus. (Matt 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). There is a lot to talk about in this story- the implications of these particular temptations, how the temptations mirror the temptations of Israel, the surprising revelation that the devil controls “all the kingdoms of the world” but I want to focus on the idea of Jesus being tempted.

As the text reads, or better put, as I have read the text, the devil presents a temptation and Jesus responds promptly. But that’s not how temptation works- at least for me.

The devil could try to tempt me with lima beans( which I despise and haven’t eaten in 40 years or so) or something I don’t want, say a jumbo jet. But those aren’t really temptations are they. It takes no effort at all on my part to refuse those sorts of temptations. Lima beans? No thank you.

And some temptations would be quite situational. If I am really hungry, tempting me with a candy bar might be successful. If I am not hungry, I am better able to resist. But tempting me with, say healing for a family member, or safety for my children, even coming from the devil, I might need to take some time before I turn that down. I would really have to think about what was gained and at what cost.

The devil tempts Jesus with human necessity, particularly after a 40 day fast, food. The devil tempts Jesus over his trust in God. Would angels really save him if he jumped? The devil tempts Jesus with what Jesus knows will be his anyway, authority over the world- but without the personal suffering and sacrifice.  Real temptations.

What scripture doesn’t tell us is how much Jesus struggled with these temptations, or if he struggled at all. After these temptations, Jesus begins his ministry, evidently now clear in his own mind and heart where his allegiance was. I wonder if that essentially unshakable allegiance was forged in a struggle over the devil’s temptations?

If Jesus was seriously tempted to abandon God’s plan for him, does that affect how you think about him? Do you feel somewhat let down by this human who was tempted? Or do you feel some solidarity with, kinship with the human tempted Jesus? Or do you feel that you can take your struggles with temptation to Jesus, knowing he understands exactly what it means to be tempted?

The Canaanite Woman and Jesus

August 16, 2018

I ended the previous blog post with a passing reference to the story of the Canaanite (Matthew 15:21-28) / Syrophoenician (Mark 7:24-30) and we should give that story a little more of our time.

With respect to the previous post’s focus on the President’s language, this story is the exception that proves the rule. Jesus does make an unflattering, even offensive comparison between the woman and dogs. The point of the story is, however, that Jesus changes his mind.

It is an unsettling story for many of us. Jesus’ actions and words are out of character with what he says and does in the rest of the gospel. So what is going on here? Various scholars have various answers. Here briefly are a couple of options.

I read a book several years ago about humor in the Bible. I can’t recall the title or the author. The author thought one way to read this story was to consider that Jesus was joking. That he was mocking a common attitude at the time and didn’t really mean what he said.

Maybe… I’m not sure it makes Jesus look too much better though. The woman is shouting for mercy and Jesus makes a joke.

The other, perhaps more common approach to this story is to acknowledge Jesus humanity. To recognize he was a first century CE Jewish man. That was his world view and his understanding of his work. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v24)

Jesus has something to learn and prejudices to overcome. That may be a difficult idea for us. We talk about Jesus as fully human and also fully divine, but most of us are more comfortable with the fully divine Jesus.

I want to link you to a sermon by Rev. Wil Gafney about this text and the humanity of Jesus.

What do you think? How comfortable are you with a very human Jesus?


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