Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 17

Read Matthew 12:22-45.

What does Jesus mean in his response to the Pharisees when he talks about "binding the strong man?" (Matthew 12:29)

The work of Biblical hermeneutics (i.e. interpretation) is notoriously difficult. It's difficult in part because what something may have meant in one context is hard enough, but that's only step one since it may not directly correlate into a very different cultural context. This work is made even more difficult by the fact that highly symbolic language rarely means just one thing (in either setting!) So interpretation can take us in many different directions. As Walter Brueggemann likes to say, "texts are polyvalent."

One of the best Biblical commentaries I own is Ched Myer's Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Yes, I know we are reading Matthew. But as one of the three synoptic gospels, Matthew takes Mark as one of his sources - and this encounter is also found in Mark. Here is a link to a review of Myer's Commentary which may whet your appetite. And here is a link to chapter two of the commentary itself. (Go buy it if you don't own it because next up in the lectionary, come November, is Mark!)

Myers makes the claim that this "binding of the strong man" is symbolic/coded language to describe what Jesus himself is trying to do over and against the colluding power Roman imperialism and the temple establishment. That Jesus' revolutionary non-violent strategy is about overturning and "ransacking" the "house" in order to bring about a new socio-political order that he calls the Reign of God.

I'll leave it to you whether or not you accept the interpretation. But I cannot read this text without referencing Myer's interpretation, which I find compelling. And if Myer's reading is right, then it raises the question of where we see the Church: are we more like the temple establishment or more like those who are called to help Jesus "ransack the house?"

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