On Keeping the Gates Closed

I was going to write more about relationships today. But, something else has been knocking on the inside of head trying to get out. So, I’m going to get back to the messiness of living with other, ugh, people some other time.

Every morning I take time to read something from the story of Jesus. I find this story intriguing. Not so much for what the writers state that Jesus said, but for their depictions of what he did. This is not to take away from reading the red, as some say. Whether Jesus actually spoke the words attributed to him or not is not as important as the fact that the early church ascribed those words to him. They are completely consonant with their view of Jesus’ actions.

This morning I read from Matthew’s take on Jesus. The part of the story that I read was the account of Jesus as he stood before a roomful of men who were desperately trying to find a reason to execute him. The particular text states, “Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled” (Mat. 26:57). I stopped to imagine that scene. Jesus’ hands were bound as he stood in the midst of a group of very angry men. These men were the leaders of the Jewish culture. They were the educated ones, the intelligentsia, and the gatekeepers. These were the men who decided what was orthodox and what was heresy. What I found striking in this scene was who was not present. There were none of the people that Jesus spent his time with. Where were his friends? Where were the people who were healed or fed? Could someone please bring in the character witnesses?!

Jesus self-stated mission, or purpose, was stated in Luke’s version of the story. He wrote that Jesus’ raison d’être was to give good news to the poor, proclaim release for those who were bound, let the blind see, free those who were oppressed and to proclaim that the time of God’s favor had arrived. If one reads the stories, paying close attention to the things Jesus did, it becomes clear that he fulfilled that mission. Jesus hung out with the outcasts and marginalized. He enjoyed having dinner and partying with lepers and women. He played with children and put up with 12 slow learners. And, ultimately, the gatekeepers couldn’t tolerate this kind of subversive behavior.

Jesus didn’t play by the rules that the leaders made. Please note that. “The rules that the leaders made.” That made him a threat to their world. A threat so serious that they had to conspire to kill him. Now, what’s key to this is that these leaders thought that their rules were God’s rules. They read their holy book as a users’ manual or rule book that had to be adhered to or God would get really ticked and maybe kick them out of their homes and take away their religious liberty. What they did was considered the only appropriate response to Jesus’ brand of unorthodoxy.

I have observed a similar mindset in many of the so-called ‘gatekeepers’ today. Men like Al Mohler, John Piper and Owen Strachan have set themselves up as experts in the law. They, like those who stood around Jesus that night, perceive Jesus as a threat. Of course, they would never say that. But, they really do. They read their holy book as a users’ manual or rule book that must be followed to the letter or God may get really ticked and punish everyone.

I’m sorry, (well, not really), but they are mistaken. If we are to take Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension seriously we must take Jesus’ mission seriously, also. That mission was directed to the people that the gatekeepers’ rules excluded. Jesus reinterpreted their sacred story to include everyone, especially it seems, the outcasts and marginalized. We should be willing to do the same.

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