Matthew 11 & 12
A craze in the eighties which has reappeared again recently is the infamous Rubik’s cube. I sit amazed as I watch videos of people, even blindfolded, still able to complete one of these cubes in a fraction of a moment – just by following a prescribed set of movements. Me? I remember feeling a proud sense of achievement getting a whole side of one colour, imagining that I had completed the cube before turning it around and seeing I hadn’t actually got it all solved.
Matthew 13 & 14
We all love a good story. Whatever the genre. And here we have Jesus, telling stories and not giving lectures – not even a sermon! One thing that consistently strikes me about these accounts of Jesus is highlighted in verse 2. ‘Such large crowds gathered around him.’ There was something very attractive and attractional about Jesus. People would flock from miles to see and hear him. He offered something people were desperate for. Yes the tide of opinion turned against him later, but what troubles me is what have we, the church, done over the years to make this One to whom crowds flocked into one from whom people in general feel the need to flee from?
Matthew 15 & 16
Jesus is really nice, isn’t he? That’s a common picture isn’t it? Serene and placid, telling lovely stories and encouraging everyone to love one another and to be nice. Well, I’m sorry to upset you but this idyllic picture postcard image of Jesus is wrong. It’s acceptable – but inaccurate. A Jesus like this wouldn’t have upset people the way he did. A Jesus like this wouldn’t have ended up crucified!
Matthew 17 & 18
In the last chapter, Peter confesses to believing Jesus is the Christ - but with an incorrect understanding of what that means. Jesus then says some will see him in glory before death. Six days later according to Matthew, Peter, James and John are led by Jesus up a mountain and he is glorified as they look on. A little note here – John was there and many years later he sees Jesus again with a face shining like the sun – have a look at Revelation Ch 1 to see. These 3 were privileged to see Jesus’ encounter with Moses and Elijah. Is this the only time Jesus had this kind of encounter? Who knows? But he did often go off on his own / up a mountain to pray. Perhaps Peter, James and John are getting an inside look at Jesus’ private prayer times. Times when Jesus was refreshed, restored and re-centred.
Matthew 19 & 20
Jesus is a realist. It is so much easier to have definitive rules which say. ‘right / wrong’, ‘in / out’, ‘acceptable / not’. Jesus knows that the situations of the world and the people within it are much muckier and tangled than this. In the section on divorce, we see Jesus explaining the original design and desire for humanity in marriage but that ‘the Law’ is in place because we all mess up and abuse or are abused. The original divorce laws in the Old Testament were actually protective not prohibitive – in other words it was to make sure the women weren’t just dumped to fend for themselves in a world and a time and cultures that didn’t allow women to fend for themselves!