Saturday, November 3, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 23 and John 18

Ezekiel 23 – Now comes an allegorical history of Jerusalem and Samaria. They are described as two women, “Daughters of the same mother” (23:2) who became prostitutes in Egypt. Their names were “Oholah” (Samaria) and Oholibah (Judah).

Oholah played the whore and God has handed her over to “her lovers, to those Assyrians for whom she lusted” (23:9-10). Though the sister – Judah – saw her reduced to shame, she too lusted for her neighbors – for the Assyrians with their wealth and style, for the Chadaeans with their vermilion artwork, etc. But after wooing them, she turned her back on them and lusted after Egypt as she had done in her youth.

So now the other “lovers” are incensed. They will attack her from all sides and the Lord will help them. The Lord will make sure you never think of uniting with Egypt again: “You will drink your sister’s cup, a cup that is wide and deep, leading to laughter and mockery, so ample the draught it holds. You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow” (23:32-33).

All these chapters seem to say the same thing, and one is led to ask, what kind of God is this who dwells so unrelentingly on the need for destruction of the “chosen ones” who were to be his presence in the world? How are we to relate to these writings now? This is difficult because I think the danger is that we try to see our shortcomings as just those that are punished here and the temptation is to use these lines in a setting that is very different from what existed back in the 6th century BC. The ultimate message of the narrative is that God loves us all here on this earth and will permit us to be free even when it results repeatedly in our falling very short, sometimes devastatingly short of his expectations for us. The anger and desire to punish that God continually feels ALWAYS returns to an abiding faithfulness and constancy. 

John 18 – Jesus is finished his talk with them. He leaves and goes with them to a garden (Gethsamene). It is there Judas comes with the detachment of soldiers and police that will arrest Jesus. John has Jesus knowing “all that was to happen to him” and accepting it. But Peter is shown responding with his sword, cutting the ear off the high priest’s slave, Malchus. Jesus tells Peter to put his sword back into its sheath. He is ready the “drink the cup” his Father has given him (18:11).

They take Jesus to Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. Caiaphas is the one known to have said “it is better for one man to die for the people” (18:14). Peter and the “other [beloved] disciple” go with Jesus. This mystery disciple is known to the high priest, so he goes inside the courtyard, but Peter stands outside “at the gate” until the other arranges with the “woman who guarded the gate” to let him in too. The woman accuses Peter of being “one of [Jesus’] disciples” but Peter denies it. Inside the courtyard, he joins police and others huddled around a coal fire.

Inside the high priest questions Jesus about his teaching. Jesus says everything he has said and done has been done in the open. A policeman strikes him for his disrespect. Annas sends him to Caiaphas.

Outside, Peter is again approached or recognized as a disciple, and again he denies it. Jesus is taken from Caiaphas to Pilate. They don’t enter the praetorium since it is Passover and they don’t want to incur ritual defilement. So Pilate goes out to them. He tells them to take Jesus and judge him themselves, but they refuse because they are not permitted to put anyone to death.

Pilate goes inside and calls Jesus to him. He asks him if he is King of the Jews. Jesus wants to know if he is asking something he wants to know or something others have asked him to ask. Pilate claims disinterest in the details. He asks Jesus what he has done. Jesus says, “Mine is not a kingdom of this world” (18:36). If it were, his followers would fight for him. Pilate says, so you say you are a king. And Jesus says, “I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth, and all are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (18:37). “’Truth? said Pilate ‘What is that?’” (18:38)

Pilate reports that he finds “no case” against Jesus. He asks them who they want him to release as Passover custom permits. They ask for Barabbas, a bandit or brigand (18:40).

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