WALKING with JESUS - MEDITATION for APRIL 7, 2020
Tuesday: Matthew 22:15-25:46; Mark 11:20-13:37; Luke 20:1-21:38
For Mark, As they were entering the city on Tuesday morning, the disciples then saw the same fig tree Jesus cursed had now died. The only disciple who had enough courage to speak up was Peter. He is known throughout history as the one disciple who was bold enough to say what he had in mind, even to Jesus.
Reflection: How often do you find yourself holding back on sharing with God what is REALLY is on your mind and heart? We must realize God ALREADY KNOWS what we are thinking and feeling, but the question is- are you willing to trust God with your truth? Is your relationship strong enough to handle it?
Jesus, as portrayed in Mark and Matthew, takes this moment to share the meaning and strength of faith in action. In Mark (11:20-26), Matthew (21:23-27), and Luke (20:1-8), as they continued their journey into Jerusalem, Jesus was accosted by those who questioned his authority, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you the authority to do them?” (NRSV) Jesus’ reply is not one in which you find in John’s Gospel. In the Synoptic tradition, Jesus is withholding full disclosure of his relationship with God the Father in what scholars refer to as the Messianic Secret. The mysterious nature in which Mark’s Gospel was written makes the point that if you are indeed “on the inside,” you will know Jesus without having to ask who he was. The other two Synoptic writers picked up on this method of writing. However, Matthew focuses more on Jesus’ fulfillment of the Old Testament prophetic word as evidence of his identity. In contrast, Luke calls our attention to what Jesus does for the least, the last, and the lost to be the clue that allows one to see who he truly is. You will not find the “I am” statements in the Synoptic Gospels for those various reasons.
Jesus continues to teach in parables in the Synoptics: in Mark, we see the parable of the wicked tenants (where Jesus likens the wicked tenants to the Jewish elite- they didn’t like that), answers a question regarding paying taxes (as some may have been thinking, “if we pay them, then we are complicit with Roman rule, but if we don’t, who will save us from their wrath?”), answers a fundamental question regarding the first commandment (or greatest commandment) and gives yet another mysterious answer, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”)- what did he mean? It is primarily understood that his words indicate that when he refers to the Kingdom, he is speaking of himself as the Kingdom. Thus, whoever does these two things are not far from the purpose of Jesus, i.e., Kingdom values. Jesus denounced the Scribes and spoke to the people about money using the illustration of a poor widow. Unfortunately, this passage has been subject to misuse and abuse by guilting members of churches into giving everything they have to the local church. The emphasis here is on- what do we do out of what we have, and the value of what we give to God, instead of HOW MUCH we offer. Here, Mark’s Jesus is challenging us, the readers, to examine if we are ALL IN WITH GOD.
Reflection: Do we give our best with what we have, or do we hold back? Why or why not?
Jesus speaks on the destruction of the Temple, and evidence of the eschaton (end of time, or end of a period). He speaks of the persecution of those who follow him in the time to come and gives instruction on looking for the coming of the Son of Man. This is the Markan apocalyptic eschatological expectation.
Similarly, Matthew has Jesus addressing questions about his authority (and he gives the same cryptic response). Still, he also inserts the parable of two sons between the questions of Jesus’ authority and the parable of the wicked tenants. In the parable of the two sons, Jesus describes two sons who were instructed by their father to go to work in the vineyard, where the first one initially said “no,” and then changed his mind, and the second said he would, yet did not. Then, Jesus asked a poignant question, “Which of the two sons did the will of the father?” In this parable, he likens the prostitutes and tax collectors to those who inherit the Kingdom (the people others did not want to be around) to the first son who initially refuses then changes his mind, and the Jewish elite to the second son who said he would but did not go.
Reflection: Which son are you? What did God have to do to get your undivided attention?
Matthew continues to have Jesus using the parable of the wicked tenants, the wedding banquet, then addresses a question about paying taxes (similar to Mark), entertains a question about the resurrection where Jesus tells the Sadducees that they are “flat-out” wrong with their interpretation of Scripture. How can he be so forceful and confident? Because Jesus IS the Word of God! Then, for Matthew, Jesus gives the answer to the Pharisee, who asked the question, Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” IN Matthew, Jesus answers the question instead of relying upon the Pharisee to speak it, and Jesus does not mention about being near the Kingdom. Jesus then became the inquisitor as he asked, “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” Here, Jesus was trying to open the eyes of the Pharisees to see that their idea of the messiah was too limiting; he was, in fact, more significant than David.
Reflection: How do you know if your idea of Jesus is too small?
From there, Matthew speaks of Jesus’ apocalyptic eschatological expectations- the end of the age with persecutions and desolating sacrilege, and the coming of the Son of Man, lessons from the fig tree, and the necessity for watchfulness as they watch for the end, the parable of the unfaithful servant, then the parable of the ten bridesmaids to emphasize the necessity of awareness, and the parable of the talents to emphasis the necessity of usefulness, lastly followed by the instructions on the judgment of the Gentiles.
Reflection: Have you used your talents for God’s glory, or have you hidden them? If you have used them, what has been the result? If you have hidden them, do you understand why, and who are you hiding them from?
Luke follows in like fashion with the questions of Jesus’ authority, the parable of the wicked tenants, the issues regarding paying taxes, questions about the resurrection, questions about David’s son, Jesus denouncing the influence of the scribes, the significance of the widow’s offering over that which is given out of abundance (sacrifice), and the destruction of both the Temple and Jerusalem is foretold.