Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 33

Read Matthew 21:23-46.

Lots of polemics here; see the post from Day 29 for some reflections about this.

I want to backtrack a bit to Matthew 10:16 - where Jesus says to his disciples, "look, I'm sending you out as sheep into the midst of wolves. So be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves."  And I want to focus on that word - φρόνιμοι- translated in the NRSV as "wise." The NIV chooses "shrewd." The words "crafty" and "cunning" come up in other translations and, although I didn't find it in any of the translations I looked at, the word "savvy" is as good a choice as any. In other words, this is wisdom not in the Greek philosophical sense of knowing Plato and Aristotle, but in knowing how the world works. Jesus says, in Matthew 10, that to be his disciple you need some street smarts.

So in today's reading, the "authorities" (whose authority Jesus has questioned - or maybe more accurately who feel their authority is threatened by Jesus) want to push Jesus into a corner. They want him to say something he'll regret. They are trying to set him up. But Jesus refuses to play their game.

In a very real sense, I think he models the very advice he gave back in chapter ten. He is shrewd and agile, brilliantly asking a question that is politically loaded. It's a question the chief priests and elders have no intention of answering. 

"Well if you won't play my game," Jesus says, "then I won't play yours."

Don't you just love that? This is not meek and mild Jesus. This is savvy, cunning, crafty, shrewd, street-smart Jesus - modeling for his disciples - modeling for us - how to navigate treacherous waters. Very carefully. 

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