Wednesday, September 19, 2007

letting Scripture interpret itself

I've heard many sermons where the following story from Matthew is used to bolster the image of a hippy Jesus who doesn't want people to burden themselves with bummer rules and what not.

[1] At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
[2] But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath."
[3] He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
[4] how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
[5] Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless?
[6] I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
[7] And if you had known what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.
[8] For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath."

But then I read B16 explain that story a different way on pgs. 106-112 of Jesus of Nazareth. As he so often does, the Holy Father gives the most weight to Jesus' own words, and the purposeful reference to two significant claims that the Jews would understand:

  1. By comparing his actions to David, Jesus calls them to recognize him as the "Son of David", the King.
  2. By reminding them that the priests in the temple could violate the rules of the Sabbath only because they were in the presence of God, he is making a direct claim to being one with the Father, and thereby establishing the disciples he chose as the new priests of the new temple.

We have a school of thought in the church that wants a "do what you like" Messiah so desperately, they really miss out on the most powerful moments in Scripture - and have hidden them from others for so long. It's a shame.

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