Summary: June 30, 2002 -- SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 8 Matthew 10:40-42 Color: Green Title: “How we make God become visible.”
June 30, 2002 -- SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 8
Title: “How we make God become visible.”
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple--truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."
Jesus concludes his discourse on missionary discipleship.
In verses thirty-seven to thirty-nine, Jesus explains the conditions and cost of discipleship and in verses forty to forty-two, of its results and rewards. In verses thirty-four to thirty-six, Jesus has made clear his awareness that being reconciled with God and following his ways can cause alienation from humans, even hostility from one’s own family. It is all part of the price one must pay to be a disciple. As a learner, a disciple, the follower must learn God’s language and definition of terms. One must learn that peace in God’s dictionary means much more than absence of conflict. Living the Gospel can actually disturb the, human, peace, even among relatives. It means war with evil in all its forms, even the warm, cuddly forms. Having said that, Jesus gets specific about love of parents, attachment to the family and the familiar, love of one’s comforts and even one’s life. All of these, even if they be good and healthy, must take a back seat to the new family of God which the disciple joins.
In verse thirty-seven, whoever loves father and mother more than me: The family was the center of existence and life for a Jew. This was, and is, so true that a successful marriage was defined in terms of a man leaving family of origin and “clinging,” to his spouse according to Genesis 2: 24. If a man did not have his priorities and loyalties straight, and the same for a woman, -wife first, parents second- it could ruin a marriage, and often did and still does. Jesus applies the very same principle to a commitment to him and his cause. To be worthy of him the disciple must place nothing and no one above him. Matthew speaks in smoother Greek by using “love more,” while Luke retains the Semitic form of “hate.” They both mean the same thing. “Love,” is not Greek agapan but philein, natural affection. As a groom leaves home, as Jesus left home, so must his disciples. Of course, Jesus does not mean to stop loving or actively “hate,” psychologically or dislike, one’s parents when he claims for himself a higher or more central place in the affections and loyalties of his disciples any more than a groom, or bride, stops loving his, or her, parents.
Is not worthy of me: In the parallel sayings in Luke 14: 26-27 Luke has “cannot be my disciple.” That is the meaning here of not worthy of me.”
In verse thirty-eight, whoever does not take up his cross and follow me: At this point in Matthew Jesus had not yet taught his disciples about his coming death, but already he, and they, had experienced enough opposition that persecution even up to the point of martyrdom was on the horizon. Roman citizens, unless they were rebellious against the state or emperor, were not condemned to death by crucifixion; it was so cruel and barbaric a form of death. Slaves and rebels were and there were many Jewish rebels. So, “carrying one’s cross” the Romans made the condemned carry the cross beam to the place of execution as an “example,” to others of like mind, was a rather common sight. Even before Jesus’ crucifixion it was a symbol for losing one’s life for a good cause such as the overthrown of Occupation Rome. Anyone not willing to give up his or her familiar life in pursuit of Jesus’ goals- even to the point of martyrdom- is just not fit to be his follower. Jesus demands nothing less than death to self.
In verse thirty-nine, whoever finds his life will lose it: The paradox- finding, losing, losing, finding- of this verse recurs frequently in the Gospels in slightly varying forms. Clearly, it was the keynote of Jesus’ call to discipleship. In effect, he says, “If you follow me what you think you are losing you will really be finding; but it will not appear so at first.” In this context, the verse sums up what Jesus has been saying about commitment. Putting family loyalty and the impulse to self-preservation and personal comforts second or third or fourth and putting Jesus before natural inclinations and interests results in real fulfillment-- the very thing putting these other values first were thought to advance. To “find life,” in the sense of the things one delights in here and now and without regard to other considerations is really to lose life in the truer sense, both now and in eternity. What a would-be disciple might think he or she is losing or giving up in order to follow Christ, “for my sake,” turns out to be well lost. “Love,” be it of things or people, is merely attachment, being nailed to something, if it does not free both the thing or person loved and the lover. Such attachment may bring temporary comfort but never fulfillment. However, one does not give up, let go of, in order to get more. That is just another form of the attachment and selfishness Jesus condemns. The giving up is for the sake of Jesus, a greater cause that self-service.