The bottom line is that when someone calls other people unclean, dirty or disgusting, they are working counter to the program of Jesus
This week’s passage on “the rich man who walks away” has been troublesome for Christians since its earliest tellings. Can the rich not be saved? Does Jesus disassociate himself from God? What’s all that business about camels and needles? There is so much that is confusing here.
Scholars of Second Temple – and early Rabbinic – Judaism know that Jesus’ teachings on divorce were wildly out of step with mainstream opinion. This is one of the times in scripture that Jesus is much more stringent than even the most fastidious of his interlocutors. But as is always the case, Jesus’ teaching is not given merely to condemn, but to point to what full life in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like.
Real wisdom is displayed not in being coldly intelligent, but in acting out loving righteousness. This week the revised common lectionary strings together passages that help us contextualize the performance of true wisdom in the Kingdom of Heaven. All the passages point to the necessity for us to move beyond merely accumulating wisdom, and for us to act with wise, sacrificial love on behalf of the weak, with whom Jesus stands in solidarity.
We may see many of our friends, family and fellow citizens running after systems of power or idols who they think have the power to save. If only we/they debase ourselves or compromise a little bit, we’ll secure some temporary safety. This is not what Jesus says or wants. We are to flee from stupid, foolish, ungodly idolatry or trust in other powers for safety.
Jesus’ mission was not ever to be ethnically limited, but it does have a starting place in a specific people.
No matter if it is a grand palace or an otherwise healthy tradition, if it prevents us from partnering with what God is doing, we need to be freed from it.
It’s a fact: sometimes following God is difficult, unpleasant and confusing. We are called to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. But while we attempt to walk faithfully with our God who has claimed and saved us, we are offered guidance and reassurances through words of spirit and life.