Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Two passages that caught my eye today

Two passages in Matthew grabbed today during my reading.

Matthew 16:23-25 is one of the places where Christ describes how those who wish to "follow Him" should take up their cross and deny themselves. I had mentally always made two assumptions in this reading:

First, that the "follow me" was a reference to "be a genuine member of my following" or "be someone who has taken my precepts to heart and follows my spiritual philosophy, etc."

Second, that the "deny themselves" is a reference to humble living and sacrifice of comfort.

But when I read it today, a different meaning came out, perhaps one that is more aligned with the context, which discusses Christ's coming death and resurrection (before the passage) and the Judgment (after the passage).

I'm now considering that the "follow me" may reference a more literal notion of "follow," but still taken in an abstract way. In particular, the idea of "Follow me through the boundary of life and death...and then the boundary between death and life."

This interpretation is more in line with what I think are core points of early Christian thought, namely that Christ has proven the temporary nature of death and God's righteousness in vindicating the righteous over death [c.f. 1 Peter 2:23]. This notion has a key connection with an under-valued prophesy that I cannot find at the moment regarding Israel's leader blasting a hole through death for the nation to follow through. This prophecy is purported to have been important to Hebrew Rabbis of the time, but I don't know that I still have the reference where I saw its discussion.

Another passage that drew my attention was Matthew 19:9, one of the passages dealing with divorce. Jesus says that everyone who divorces his wife, except from adultery, commits adultery. I wonder whether this is meant to have some reference to God's coming temporary divorce from the Jewish people, or even God's earlier divorce from Israel (as opposed to Judah). In both cases the people were adulterous before the divorce.

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