Friday, 17 July 2015

Week 15 Friday (Year 1) - 17 July 2015

Readings: Exodus 11:10-12:14; Psalm 116; Matthew 12:1-8

The sentence in the gospel on which comment is usually made is the last one, 'the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath'. It could be that the more radical statement in this passage comes a little earlier, although at this point in the ministry of Jesus its full implications are not clear, either to the Pharisees or to the disciples. Jesus says 'there is something greater than the Temple here'.

We know - because we know how this story develops - that this was the claim that would be brought against Jesus at his trial: he said he would destroy the Temple and replace it.

We can easily imagine the debates and arguments of scribes, pharisees and lawyers about the application of sabbath laws. Jesus himself appeals here to two exceptions from the history of Israel which show that those laws were not absolute. We can imagine other teachers doing the same. Jesus takes a position on the interpretation of those laws which might encourage people to think of him as liberal rather than rigid in his interpretation of them. But there is nothing there to provoke wrath and fury.

His comment about the Temple is more radical, and is seen as such when its implications begin to sink in. The Temple was the place of prayer, sacrifice, and the presence of God. 'There is something greater than the Temple here', Jesus says, meaning himself. So he is claiming to be the new place of prayer, of sacrifice and of the presence of God. When we think about prayer or sacrifice now we cannot do it without reference to Jesus, without reference to his prayer and to his sacrifice. Any prayers or sacrifices we might imagine can only be made now 'through him, and with him, and in him'.

Similarly for the presence of God. If we wonder now where God is to be found the answer is 'in Jesus'. This is the place of God's presence in the world. What about creation, history, my neighbour, other people, the presence of God in my heart and soul? Yes, God is present in all these places, but once again we cannot understand that presence, we cannot appreciate it, except with reference to God's presence in Jesus, to what God did in the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. And the way in which God has called all men and women to find Him there.

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