Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jesus does something very, very different

I am often struck by how Jesus is, well, different, and what he does is different. And it struck me that way this morning while reading the assigned lessons for the Daily Office. The juxtaposition of the lessons brings into high relief just how much Jesus stands against the accepted wisdom of religion. So go with me a little while on this theme...

First we hear from the prophet Jeremiah 3: 6-18, who spews forth his wrath against all Israel for her "adulteries" in turning away from God. Israel is condemned for "whoredom" and "she polluted the land" and the Lord (YHWH) is very angry. Eventually Jerusalem will be restored, but not for a long while.

Then when get the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans 1:28-2:11, and he angry about those who are "full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness..." And he is just clearing his throat before adding in "gossip, slanderers, God-haters..." and a few more rotten types of behavior. Paul then pronounces that God will "repay according to each one's deeds."

Now, I know that Jeremiah is pronouncing his jeremiad on the greedy rich who have foresaken the shema to "love God" and neighbor (and I truly get that) and Paul is telling us there are consequences to our actions (and I agree). Yet, yet, how much reminding of awfulness do we really need?

Then we meet Jesus again, in the Gospel of John 5: 1-18, and Jesus is doing something very different. We find Jesus at the pool, Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes where the sick come to be healed. To get into the pools requires getting through tight gates (see photo). Jesus meets a man who is so ill he cannot get into the pool. So Jesus heals him, no questions asked, no harsh judgment pronounced. "Stand up, take your mat, and walk." The gate is no longer a barrier, the man is healed and Jesus disappears into the crowd.

Something very different is going on here and the world of religion is up-ended.

It is not just the healing, but the way Jesus heals. His actions are outrageous to the religious people. What about Jeremiah's judgments? Or all that business about the Lord will "repay according to one's deeds"? Not here, not today. What we get instead is unconditional love, and healing. When the man is asked who healed him, he admits he doesn't know -- Jesus has slipped away and didn't even leave a calling card.

Jesus wasn't even looking for credit.

No comments: