Blindness is one of John’s favorite metaphors for the spiritual life.  Today, we get this same metaphor in Matthew and the message is a painful one.  Jesus predicts His own torture and death, concluding with the promise of His resurrection 3 days later.  Without comment from anyone, Matthew moves on to tell us that James and John’s mom (presumably “the Wife of Thunder” if we read Mark 3:17) approaches Jesus asking that her boys be His right and left hand men.  This deeply thoughtless breach of etiquette is exaggerated by the passage immediately before it.  We can feel the waves of anger coming from the other disciples 2000 years later.

Matthew makes the main statement about this by the final of the three passages, the healing of two men born blind.  While James and John want to drink the same cup Jesus drinks (thinking this will lead to power and authority), the two men born blind simply want to see.  Jesus grants both requests, but has compassion only on the later two.

So what is your request of Jesus today?  Do you seek power and authority, fame and “a seat at the table”, or do you simply want to see Jesus?  I think it’s clear which of the two requests is the more pleasing to Jesus.

Blindness is one of John’s favorite metaphors for the spiritual life.  Today, we get this same metaphor in Matthew and the message is a painful one.  Jesus predicts His own torture and death, concluding with the promise of His resurrection 3 days later.  Without comment from anyone, Matthew moves on to tell us that James and John’s mom (presumably “the Wife of Thunder” if we read Mark 3:17) approaches Jesus asking that her boys be His right and left hand men.  This deeply thoughtless breach of etiquette is exaggerated by the passage immediately before it.  We can feel the waves of anger coming from the other disciples 2000 years later.

Matthew makes the main statement about this by the final of the three passages, the healing of two men born blind.  While James and John want to drink the same cup Jesus drinks (thinking this will lead to power and authority), the two men born blind simply want to see.  Jesus grants both requests, but has compassion only on the later two.

So what is your request of Jesus today?  Do you seek power and authority, fame and “a seat at the table”, or do you simply want to see Jesus?  I think it’s clear which of the two requests is the more pleasing to Jesus.

Can we accept that God is in control?  Can we submit ourselves to God even when His ways are vastly different from our ways?  It seems like our world will only follow God if He follows our rules of fairness and timing.  If we don’t understand a rule God sets for us, we demand an explanation or we just ignore it.  When God commands restitution for an unjust act, we understand it, agree with it, and follow.  When God commands us not to plant two kids of seeds in the same field, we kind of see what He’s getting at, but we don’t agree, and so we ignore it.

God doesn’t always act in keeping with our own moral code or our timing.  Jesus tells this parable where all the workers get the same pay no matter how long they work and we scratch our heads.  “It’s a metaphor,” we proclaim, and so take away only the theological subcurrent of the passage.  We assume the message here is that heaven is the end reward of those who come to trust in Christ on their deathbed as much as for those raised to follow from birth.  But what about the message that God is above and beyond our human ideals of fairness?  What of the reminder that God is so much more than we are that He can often seem alien, different, holy?

And as we study Moses on the Mountain, what do we make of God’s timing?  Moses was on the mountain for a week before God revealed Himself.  And then it was 40 days to give Him the tablets of the commandments He had already spoken.  As we’ll see tomorrow, it can’t be surprising to us that the people turned away from God and back to the familiar godlessness when god didn’t act to fit their timing.  Can we accept that God is in control, and not us?

Can we accept that God is in control?  Can we submit ourselves to God even when His ways are vastly different from our ways?  It seems like our world will only follow God if He follows our rules of fairness and timing.  If we don’t understand a rule God sets for us, we demand an explanation or we just ignore it.  When God commands restitution for an unjust act, we understand it, agree with it, and follow.  When God commands us not to plant two kids of seeds in the same field, we kind of see what He’s getting at, but we don’t agree, and so we ignore it.

God doesn’t always act in keeping with our own moral code or our timing.  Jesus tells this parable where all the workers get the same pay no matter how long they work and we scratch our heads.  “It’s a metaphor,” we proclaim, and so take away only the theological subcurrent of the passage.  We assume the message here is that heaven is the end reward of those who come to trust in Christ on their deathbed as much as for those raised to follow from birth.  But what about the message that God is above and beyond our human ideals of fairness?  What of the reminder that God is so much more than we are that He can often seem alien, different, holy?

And as we study Moses on the Mountain, what do we make of God’s timing?  Moses was on the mountain for a week before God revealed Himself.  And then it was 40 days to give Him the tablets of the commandments He had already spoken.  As we’ll see tomorrow, it can’t be surprising to us that the people turned away from God and back to the familiar godlessness when god didn’t act to fit their timing.  Can we accept that God is in control, and not us?

In seminary, we studied this passage about the rich man and Jesus, and I proposed a new interpretation.  I suggested that the rich man “went away sad” not because (1) he was wealthy and (2) unwilling to give that wealth away, but rather that (1) he was wealthy and (2) he was going to HAVE to give it away.  I suggested that the ultimate outcome of the young man was sorrowful salvation rather than the assumed sorrowful damnation.  My teacher said that this didn’t fit the disbelief of the disciples or thousands of years of history.  I still wonder.

Regardless of “the rest of the story”, it fascinates me how quickly we who are rich rationalize away this passage.  “We just have to be WILLING to give away all we have, not actually do it,” we say.  “Jesus was using hyperbole, exaggeration,” we say.  “This was just a teachable moment for Jesus to tell us that money should be less important that He is,” we say.  The poor have no problem with this passage, only the rich.  And that may teach us more about our general rules for interpreting scripture than the parable itself does.

Each one of us draws a line through scripture, both Old and New Testaments, a line that delineates which passages are teachings we must follow and which we may ignore.  On one side are timeless truths and commands of Jesus, and on the other are teachings bound to that time period, or culture, or interpretation.  The great interpretive question we must ask ourselves is this: how do we determine which side each passage lies on?  Passages like this one, which speak against our comfort are too easily dismissed as cultural or hyperbole.  Passages saying that God blesses us with wealth are too easily accepted as timeless truths.

As we read the Old Testament texts this week, let me suggest that you look for this tendency in yourself.  Which of the commands God gave Moses do you follow and which do you not follow?  And more importantly, why?

In seminary, we studied this passage about the rich man and Jesus, and I proposed a new interpretation.  I suggested that the rich man “went away sad” not because (1) he was wealthy and (2) unwilling to give that wealth away, but rather that (1) he was wealthy and (2) he was going to HAVE to give it away.  I suggested that the ultimate outcome of the young man was sorrowful salvation rather than the assumed sorrowful damnation.  My teacher said that this didn’t fit the disbelief of the disciples or thousands of years of history.  I still wonder.

Regardless of “the rest of the story”, it fascinates me how quickly we who are rich rationalize away this passage.  “We just have to be WILLING to give away all we have, not actually do it,” we say.  “Jesus was using hyperbole, exaggeration,” we say.  “This was just a teachable moment for Jesus to tell us that money should be less important that He is,” we say.  The poor have no problem with this passage, only the rich.  And that may teach us more about our general rules for interpreting scripture than the parable itself does.

Each one of us draws a line through scripture, both Old and New Testaments, a line that delineates which passages are teachings we must follow and which we may ignore.  On one side are timeless truths and commands of Jesus, and on the other are teachings bound to that time period, or culture, or interpretation.  The great interpretive question we must ask ourselves is this: how do we determine which side each passage lies on?  Passages like this one, which speak against our comfort are too easily dismissed as cultural or hyperbole.  Passages saying that God blesses us with wealth are too easily accepted as timeless truths.

As we read the Old Testament texts this week, let me suggest that you look for this tendency in yourself.  Which of the commands God gave Moses do you follow and which do you not follow?  And more importantly, why?

Oh, to be an obedient Christian.  We get very worked up about others who don’t obey God’s law, all the while ignoring the fact that most of us not only disobey the basic commandments of Ex. 20 but do so without batting an eyelash.  Do we truly have no other God’s before Yahweh and put Him first in everything we do?  Do we ever misuse God’s name meaning do we do anything wrong and either excuse it or blame it on being God’s people?  How many of us remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy?  Do we really have a day each week where we do no work?  at all?  Where we dedicate the day to resting up and remembering God?  Honoring your father and mother meant caring for them financially, emotionally, and legally in their old age when they couldn’t care for themselves.  Do we all do that, or do we rely on their nursing homes, their 401Ks or their savings to do it for us?  Do we ever lie about our neighbors or friends?  Do we ever want what others have rather than being satisfied with what God has given us?

An interesting exercise for us today.  In Matt. 5-7, the famous Sermon on the Mount that we read together a few weeks ago, Jesus took some of the commandments (don’t kill, don’t commit adultery) and increased the restrictions and focused them on attitude rather than behavior (don’t even be angry, don’t even lust).  What might Jesus have said about the other 8 Commandments in this section?  How might He have changed them to increase the restrictions and focus them on attitude?  Let’s try one together.  “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not steal’, but I tell you don’t even desire another person’s possessions.  Instead, give thanks to your Father in heaven for the bountiful blessings He has given you.”

Try the other 7 and see what you get.  Then remember that we cannot be perfect (the last command of that particular section of the Sermon on the Mount) and that God forgives us when we’re not.

Oh, to be an obedient Christian.  We get very worked up about others who don’t obey God’s law, all the while ignoring the fact that most of us not only disobey the basic commandments of Ex. 20 but do so without batting an eyelash.  Do we truly have no other God’s before Yahweh and put Him first in everything we do?  Do we ever misuse God’s name meaning do we do anything wrong and either excuse it or blame it on being God’s people?  How many of us remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy?  Do we really have a day each week where we do no work?  at all?  Where we dedicate the day to resting up and remembering God?  Honoring your father and mother meant caring for them financially, emotionally, and legally in their old age when they couldn’t care for themselves.  Do we all do that, or do we rely on their nursing homes, their 401Ks or their savings to do it for us?  Do we ever lie about our neighbors or friends?  Do we ever want what others have rather than being satisfied with what God has given us?

An interesting exercise for us today.  In Matt. 5-7, the famous Sermon on the Mount that we read together a few weeks ago, Jesus took some of the commandments (don’t kill, don’t commit adultery) and increased the restrictions and focused them on attitude rather than behavior (don’t even be angry, don’t even lust).  What might Jesus have said about the other 8 Commandments in this section?  How might He have changed them to increase the restrictions and focus them on attitude?  Let’s try one together.  “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not steal’, but I tell you don’t even desire another person’s possessions.  Instead, give thanks to your Father in heaven for the bountiful blessings He has given you.”

Try the other 7 and see what you get.  Then remember that we cannot be perfect (the last command of that particular section of the Sermon on the Mount) and that God forgives us when we’re not.