Category: Jesus

Jesus confronts religious arrogance

Edith Hamilton (1867-1963) had an ability to get underneath a story, to capture it as a real and human moment. Such was her rendering of the story of the Sadducees confronting Jesus about the after-life. She captured the authority with which Jesus spoke.

Here is her telling of the story, but I have inserted a more contemporary version of Scripture to make it read easier today, and I’ve inserted some paragraph breaks for the same purpose. Ms. Hamilton:

Jesus’ “mastery was felt by all who confronted him. Some Sadducees, of the powerful priestly party, came to him–by that time he had a certain notoriety as an itinerant preacher–and they planned to put a question to him in such a way that it would make him ridiculous in the eyes in the eyes of the crowd. They did not believe in immortality and they told him a story about a woman who had seven husbands.”

“In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her” (Mark 12:23, NRSV).

“From the experience of all their life they [the Sadducees] thought they were invulnerable in their armour of power and pride, and they were ready for their laugh at the travel-worn wayfarer who faced them.

“But, strangely, as they looked at him it was somehow conveyed to them that their scorn and ridicule did not touch him, did not reach him. He [Jesus] answered them very gravely. Laughter suddenly became impossible. He told them their question was one only ignorance could ask. They were ignorant of the very matters which as priests they professed to know.

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong” (Mark 12:24-27, NRSV)

“They answered answered him nothing, not a word to oppose the stern rebuke. They were convicted of error before all the crowd and they did not even try to regain their ascendency. They had felt penetrating their panoply of arrogance an authority so commanding that they were helpless to question it, and they went silently away (Hamilton, Witness to the Truth, 140-142).

It is wise to be wary of the arrogance, including the religious arrogance, that leads us to think we understand everything perfectly. Jesus guides us, and we have His Spirit available to us, but we are not Him.

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We have forgotten how Jesus fished

Listening to the hymn, “Fishers of Men,” this morning I thought of Jesus’ words about how he would draw all people to himself.

Real fishing like I did with my dad decades ago involved casting a plastic lure attached to a monofilament line in among the underwater lairs of hungry bass. One fish bites. I set the hook into their mouths by yanking out the line’s slack. The bass fights. One of us wins; one loses.

When Jesus called Simon and Andrew to be fishers of men he did not call them to cast spiritual lures with hard-to-see line and trick unsuspecting people to grab hold and fight.

Simon and Andrew used nets to catch fish. They cast their weave out of their boat and hoped to capture fish below. I do not think Jesus was calling Simon and Andrew to go and cast spiritual nets to capture unsuspecting people. It surely is not what Jesus did.

Jesus merely meant: Come go with me and become a person who spends his day drawing  people, not fish, into your life. All metaphors have limits; they do not work completely. They help us get over a mental hurdle. Simon and Andrew’s lives were centered around fishing; Jesus’ call invited them to center their lives around humanity.

Starting somewhere in the not-too-distant past, my brand of Christian began to think of “fishing for men” as casting lures, snagging spiritually hungry people, and wrestling them into the church boat.

That is not what Jesus wants us to do. He wants us to do it the way he did it — by loving God and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. The lure of love has no hooks; it merely attracts. People who hunger for real living are drawn by that love.

Many people do not “go” to church because they do not see it as a place of love. Most people want to “be” in a community of love. They will reside where they are loved (wanted, respected, cared for) whether it be a bar, a gang, a club, or a church.

“And I, Jesus, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, NRSV)

He draws. If we do not draw people, it is because we are not like Him, we do not love.