- Jonah suddenly makes sense. He always seemed like such a curmudgeonly old racist, what with hoping the Assyrians would not be saved but would rather be crushed. But now I can understand it somewhat better from a Jewish perspective. (You've been promising us for generations that you'll save us from the oppressive Assyrians, God, and now you want to save them?!)
- God really cares about justice. And mercy. And the poor, the widow, the alien. I know that's super hip to say in the current spiritual climate, but hey, it's in there. (A bunch.)
New Testament Ramblings
Reading Matthew is having such a different effect on us now in the context of hundreds of years of Jewish history and ancient culture.
- Suddenly what Jesus says seems so radical. He says of the Centurion, a Roman that he hasn't seen any in Israel with such faith as his. Many will come from east and west--other nations--to be in the Kingdom of heaven like Jonah's Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba, whereas many Israelites will be thrown out. That seems so much more extreme considering all the promises to the Israelites we just read. But God shows again and again that what he cares about is the heart, not who your daddy is.
- Jesus' teachings are so in depth, compared to the fairly basic commands of the Old Testament. He raises the bar to a much more difficult level.
- Jesus' teachings are so beautiful and radical. One small example Mike and I were talking about tonight is how Jesus said the only valid reason to give a divorce certificate to a wife was unfaithfulness. The Jews had developed rules, such as a man could divorce his wife for burning the food. Today some cultures have similar rules. For example, in some parts of India during a trial period at the beginning of the marriage, the husband evaluates his wife. If he's not pleased with her, for whatever reason, he can chuck her. This leaves the woman with virtually no options; she's no longer a virgin and is dishonored. In making these strict laws of divorce, Jesus protects a woman from unfair desertion and ostracizing.