11 January 2011

Matthew 19-20

As we enter the last portion of Matthew's Gospel, I have started to notice that the questions from the detractors have gotten more intense, more pointed, and aimed more at trapping Jesus in a situation that he won't be able to talk himself out of:

1) What about divorce? (19.3)
2) Who can get into heaven? (19.16)
3) How can you pay workers the same wage when they haven't worked the same amount? (20.12)
4) Let my sons sit at your right and left hands in glory! (20.21)

In the midst of these tough questions there is a beautiful scene where the people gathered to hear Jesus are bringing the children close to him so that he could lay hands on them and pray for them. The disciples rebuke them, but Jesus affirms their worth and value by explaining that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. We don't see the daring in Jesus' words today because we value children (especially in the US) and do whatever we can to protect them. In Jesus' day, this was not the case. Children were not cared for as valuable members of society, they were seen as means to an end. They were not looked after, they were bought and sold to pay debts. Children were still innocents, but they were not the protected segment of society that they are today.

The "Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard" is one of my favorite passages to throw onto Jr. High students because they invariably argue with each other about what Jesus does in the passage. It provides hours of discussion fodder and I have even seen a number of adult groups struggle with the themes of justice, fairness, and equality latent within this parable. This parable often reminds me to turn things on their heads in order to gain a new perspective - and it works!

What verse(s) stuck out the most to you in Matthew 19-20?

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