bible blog 1196

Apologies to those who follow this blog daily: I had a bad reaction to my flu injection and am only just returning to normality.


This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

PSYCHOTIC NIGERIAN PRISONER  WITH  “END OF LIFE” PLAN BY UK  2006 protest at Harmondsworth immigration detention centre, where the Nigerian man is being held.

Matthew 16:21-28

New English Translation (NET)

First Prediction of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

21 From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what can a person give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Given the course of his ministry, Jesus would have to have been very short-sighted not to have suspected it might end in failure by worldly standards. Doubtless he had asked himself what what meaning such a failure could have. get-behind-me

It’s clear from this passage that the primary meaning in his own mind was faithfulness to his own mission and character. He must be himself, he must find his own life.He reckons that the opposition of the religious establishment will be his downfall; he glimpses a cross, the form of execution Romans kept for slaves and foreigners. He speaks to his disciples about a complete catastrophe yet he urges them to follow the same route. This is very harsh and not at all to the taste of Jesus’ modern disciples who probably think Peter’s rebuke is very sensible. Given the history of Messianic movements of the time it’s entirely possible that some disciples at any rate were waiting for a command to take up arms.

It’s interesting that although Jesus obviously assumes  that he is doing God’s will, he speaks more specifically about losing and finding life. There’s a “life” for those who suffer for God’s truth. What is this life?

The gospel writer John calls it “abundant life.” Those who are committed to God’s goodness and prepared to suffer for it. will find they have more of life rather than less, and this splendid life with be specific to each one of them, it will be their own life, Peter’s, James’ John’s.

All this is also linked to the mysterious “Son of Man” ( see Daniel 7) who is the representative of God’s Holy Ones who are destined to rule the earth. Jesus identified himself and his disciples with this figure who would dispense God’s justice. The expectation in the Bible of heavenly figures, sometimes the Risen Jesus himself, who will come to establish God’s kingdom on earth, is not something I share. I see no reason to suppose it will happen. I guess the people who wrote the bible were no dafter than me but I simply  don’t share their vision. And when Jesus says, if he did say it, that some people standing by him will not die before the Son of Man arrives, I have to assume he was talking about his resurrection or that he was mistaken. I’ve read extensively on this matter but feel no more enlightened than when I started. Perhaps my readers can help?

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