Sweet Jesus 4

Picking up from last week: Opening His mouth and removing all doubt.

Finally, if it still escapes you that what Jesus was about was shifting the emphasis from the rules without to the life within, the Master usually drove that point home while layin’ a verbal beatin’ on the powers that were. In this instance from Mark, the clerics and the bureaucrats confronted J. C. and the Boyz for not washing their hands before eating:

So the Pharisees and the scribes questioned him: ‘Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of our ancestors, but instead take food without purifying their hands?’

He said to them: ‘How accurately Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites when he wrote,

This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me.

”Empty is the reverence they do me because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts.”

‘You disregard God’s commandment and cling to what is human tradition.”’

“He went on to say: ‘You have made a fine art of setting aside God’s commandments in the interests of keeping your traditions! For example, Moses said: “Honor your father and your mother,” and in another place, “Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.” Yet you declare, “If a person says to his father or mother, ‘Any support you might have had from me is korban (that is, dedicated to God),’ you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. That is the way you nullify God’s word in favor of the traditions you have handed on. And you have many other practices besides.’

“He summoned the crowd again and said to them: ‘Hear me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure; that which comes out of him, and only that, constitutes impurity. Let everyone heed what he hears!’”

“When he got home, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the proverb. ‘Are you, too, incapable of understanding?’ he asked them. ‘Do you not see that nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure? It does not penetrate his being, but enters his stomach only and passes into the latrine.’ Thus did he render all foods clean. He went on: ‘What emerges from within a man, that and nothing else is what makes him impure. Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart: acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. All these evils come from within and render a man impure.’” Mk. 7, 5-23.

Any questions about whether homophobia is a commandment from God or an impurity from man? My position is, if you have to parse the Scriptures to the point that the only defense you have is that Jesus didn’t actually say that homosexuality is okay, you’re blind to everything else He said about love and forgiveness. Paul coined a phrase for that attitude; here’s the whole passage, which I believe wraps up this discourse nicely:

“Now I will show you the way which surpasses all the others. If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I have to feed the poor and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

“Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.

“Love never fails. Prophecies will cease, tongues will be silent, knowledge will pass away. Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect. When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways aside. Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then I shall know even as I am known.

“There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13, 1-13.

If you take issue with any of that, it’s all right—you’re forgiven. Paul was a troublemaker, anyway, and had a serious problem with authority. Just like Jesus.

Allow me to leave you with a meditation I’ve had some fun with: If you believe and try to follow the teachings of Jesus, what effect would it have on your faith if it was proven He never walked the Earth?


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