In Some Sly Way (Day Nine)

Welcome! This is our ninth day of reading through the New Testament in ninety days. Today’s reading is from Matthew 25 through Matthew 27.

In Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples were eager to know the end of age, and how they would know when Jesus would return. Jesus answers their questions, yet all branches of beliefs have found various ways to interpret this chapter. For our purposes, though, it is enough that these disciples have a great concern about this event, and Jesus ends this bit of teaching by emphasizing the idea of watchfulness. The final chapter of the kingdom isn’t yet known, but Jesus encourages them to be ready.

So Jesus emphasizes this theme with three parables. In chapter 25 we have the final three parables in Matthew concerning the kingdom. Each of these three are concerned with anticipation of the “end of the age.”

The last parable, of the sheep and the goats, is laden with kingdom language. For the first time, and the only time in the Gospels, Jesus is alluded to as king of this emerging kingdom.

This is potent language.

And while he encourages their watching and waiting and holy living, he also encourages a little bit of patience, by telling them his kingdom was built from the creation of the world. In other words, the world has already been steeped in anticipation for this kingdom, so don’t fret about waiting a little bit longer.

But the drumbeat of Jesus’ arrest comes at the end of these parables, when the chief priests begin to consider a way to arrest Jesus. The NIV84 translation of this passage may be my favorite. In 26:4, the Word says that “they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.” Here’s why I like it.

The Passover is two days from their conversation. Jerusalem, a city of between 30,000 and 40,000 people could, during Passover, swell to ten times that amount. A riot was the last thing these men wanted. Their fair city was a nice tourist attraction during this holy festival, and to attract attention to their competition was demure the financial windfall they would soon receive.

So they needed to do this with some stealth. They needed to hide not only their conversation (by holding it in a private residence and not a public place), but also their actions.

But King Jesus does nothing in secret. Look how Matthew follows this arresting, and very hushed, conversation, from Matthew 26:6-8 …

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.

This is the anointing of King Jesus. And it comes after Jesus’ parable where he admits that he is, in fact, the King of this emerging Kingdom. It is done in the town of Bethany, which is about a mile away from Jerusalem. And it is no surprise that King Jesus is anointed in Bethany, because to be anointed there would further drive a wedge in the thought that Jerusalem would be the center of an assumed fictitious kingdom on earth.

We know Bethany, too, because it is the town of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

And it is also the new hometown to a former leper.

Read the above passage again. King Jesus is in Bethany, in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper. And King Jesus isn’t by himself. He is there with a woman, and his disciples, which tells us that Simon the Leper is no longer a leper.

He has been healed.

Because if he were a leper, King Jesus would be the only one there. Simon has been healed, and has met the purification requirements of Judaism, and now lives inside the city, after enduring some unknown amount of time away from his family and his home because of this dreaded disease.

Jesus hides nothing here. He allows a woman to anoint him as King, and, at the same time, anoint him for a burial. He does so in the home of a man well-known for his prior condition. And King Jesus brings his disciples to watch the anointing, and to correct their prejudice against the cost of the perfume used.

King Jesus does nothing in a sly way.

And as he shares the Passover meal with his disciples, where, probably, they sacrificed their own lamb to complete the meal, and as he is further betrayed by one of those very disciples, and as he prayed in the garden, arrested, put on trial, crucified, and buried, he does nothing in secret.

And his disciple leave him, desert him, making him endure all of these atrocities in public.

The King dies alone. But the story isn’t over.

__________

Thank you for reading. You can find all the posts during these ninety days here.

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