November 07, 2015

Matthew 7.28

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

"You will say, 'Christ saith this, and the apostles say this;' but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light, and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?" 

George Fox saith this, and I do believe it points quite well to what Jesus' "authority" was, and where it comes from.

Many people want a clear and unambiguous source of what they call "Authority", meaning ~'Something to tell people [even themselves, perhaps] how they should think, feel, and behave in all conceivable circumstances.'

Jesus did lay down guidelines as to how people needed to become & behave, so as to join with, and continue participating in our Father's way of ordering the world. 'Not judging' each other, not condemning, was among those guidelines. 

And yet people keep right on asking, "How are we supposed to judge each other; whom are we permitted [and obligated] to condemn?"

October 10, 2015

Matthew 7.24-27

Every one who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a man wise enough to build his house on rock. When the rain falls and the floods come, when the winds blow and beat upon that house, it will not fall; because it's been built on solid rock.

Every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a man so foolish he builds his house upon sand; and when the rain falls, and the floods come, when the winds blow and beat against such a house, it will fall; and great will be that fall.


Yes, I've taken liberties with the tenses, and lost whatever topical reference this might have had to Jesus' time (perhaps to people who depended on Roman power to keep them safe -- or alternatively, people who'd taken God's help for granted in pointless insurrections against Rome and the powers that be...) but then this always did imply that future application. To understand Jesus' words and live by them will turn out to be the true practicality; to trust in worldly 'practicality' instead will leave anything you accomplish subject to collapse in this turbulent world.

This applies, of course, to his whole preceding discourse. Is it really so 'impossible' as people have said -- or haven't we understood?

October 06, 2015

Matthew 7.21-23

Not everyone who calls me "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father.

When that day comes, many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out devils in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?"

Then I will tell them to their face, "I never knew you! Out of my sight, you and your wicked ways!"


This was always one of my favorite passages, probably because 'Jesus as worship-object' always seemed alien to me. But 'God'? -- not so at all.

'Doing God's will'? Well, that probably would depend on what that will was. It was much later when I discovered Stephen Gaskin: "It's not complicated or unusual or weird to know what God wants. God wants justice and freedom and health and happiness and equality for everyone. If you know that's what God really wants, you'll help out along those lines." I would certainly have resonated with that, not yet realizing how unattainable that was in the current state of human consciousness and misorganization. Mainly, that is, in the prevalence of fear and faithlessness -- because faith is so hard to maintain without hope, and hope so hard to entertain for people who live with misplaced faith, or none. Faith 'in the name of Jesus,' for example. I also liked the parts where he'd say, ~"If you want to call me 'Lord', then try to understand what I'm saying, what I mean!"

Maybe I'd discovered Mark Twain a bit too early, or listened too much to my atheist earthly father -- but the inconsistencies and evils of standard 'Crosstianity' [GB Shaw's term] were clear enough. But then I was still working on whatever it was Jesus did mean -- although I feel that some of my grade school teachers really did understand, and though I knew they were right about "Two wrongs don't make a right," I didn't like to hear it about whichever retaliation I wanted to do just then!

And why would Jesus care whether people did thing 'in his name,' anyway? It does make more sense to me since then, of course -- analogous to someone acting 'in the name of The Law!' -- although that too, of course, could be said by people who weren't behaving all that legally.

But I was still thinking of 'The Kingdom of Heaven' as 'a nice place for dead people.' And that wasn't at all what Jesus meant!

October 03, 2015

Matthew 7.15-20

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?

So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will know them by their fruits.


Josephus complained bitterly about people who called themselves 'prophets' during the build-up of the first Jewish Revolt against Rome; these would lead a group of people out into the wilderness, or up the Mount of Olives or Mt Gerizim (the Samaritan holy site) or across the Jordan, promising to lead them into a new Exodus in which the pagans would be driven out and Israel freed from slavery to them... 

Josephus took a dim view of any popular movement, being an aristocrat from a prominent priestly family himself -- a man who seemingly failed to understand why the rebel groups he nominally commanded would want to burn the tax & debt records in any city they took. But these people and the tradition they came from did seem to be bad news, continually expecting God to confirm and follow their interpretations of Israel's prophesied destiny, according to schedules they calculated from diligent and wrong-headed attention to their scriptures -- and the result of their efforts was always violent repression by the Romans. 

One such revolt is said to have left 2000 insurrectionists crucified along the road that passed by Nazareth about the time Jesus was born. No doubt he heard about it, many times, as he was growing up.

Does this passage apply to anyone in our current times? Few of us believe in prophets anymore, but we are offered a wide array of futurists, politicians, and people who interpret the Bible in much the same way that Judean  revolutionaries once consulted it in search of 'the day and the hour' when God would finally do their will... instead of praying for a better sense of God's will. 

And there are so very very many people -- who think they've figured out what evil needs to be perpetrated, in hopes some promised good will result...

September 19, 2015

Matthew 7.13-14

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate that leads to destruction is wide and that way is easy, so those who enter it are many. The gate is narrow; and the way is hard, that leads to life; and those who find it are few.

This is typically seen in a narrow Christian-chauvanist or judgemental spirit that seems quite inconsistent with the loving nature of God we know, not least from other things Jesus said.

There are two problems with that simple reading: This is not an isolated saying (as I've presented it here) and it is not part of a 'This is your ticket-to-Heaven' message.

Although many of Jesus' sayings make really great sound bites, they would not have been remembered and preserved that way in an oral tradition. People in oral cultures remember long passages by chunking them into coherent units.

The coherent theme behind this whole 'sermon' is not about a kingdom for dead folks; it's a message about how to join and participate in God's true Israel, the people who fulfill God's intention and enjoy the promised blessings for Israel.

The 'destruction' referred to is not God's alleged post-mortem revenge -- but a very concrete historical destruction certain to overtake Jesus' contemporary Israelites so far as they continued to seek personal wealth at their neighbors' expense while pursuing national independence by violent means. This in fact arrived about 40 years later, with the utter ruin of anyone's personal or family possessions or social status when the Romans crushed the first major Jewish revolt.

First we get a saying about how God will provide anything His children ask for. (The only problem is -- something I recently found in a commentary on Jewish ethics, searching for the phrase 'the gates of righteousness' to see how that would relate -- R. Abba bar Cahana (like Jesus in this) says that "You are His children when you are God's, that is, when you belong to God and obey Him, and devote yourselves to Him." R. Jehudah also has it that "You are children of God when you conduct yourselves as such" -- but R. Meir, speaking for the majority, instead says: "In the one as in the other case, whether they do or do not conduct themselves as such, they are and remain the children of God." While we certainly remain God's children regardless, the fact is that some ways of living fit more readily with God being able to make us happy.

Anyway, this was followed by another short piece about treating other people as you want to be treated, Jesus saying that following this principle "is" fulfilling 'the Law and the prophets.' Which leads naturally to wondering if what he says about 'not one dot will be removed from the Law' should be interpreted in that sense...

and at last we arrive at this warning. Incoherent and inconsistent? No, it makes sense together. We can enjoy the blessings promised to Israel, receive whatever we ask as God's children, so far as we do treat people the way we would like to be treated -- but there is no slack in that principle; every time we fudge on that we miss the entrance.