Courses

The Historical Jesus: Lecture Six


He also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.

Egalitarianism is the hallmark of those people who have joined themselves to the Kingdom of God. There is no hierarchy in the Kingdom- only equality. This idea held by the historical Jesus was soon abandoned by the church for a structure more akin to Roman administration. Nevertheless, the ideal of Jesus was a community where no one was more important than another; where there were no "blind and sighted". Rather, all were to be equally qualified to lead one another and teach one another.

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.

Likewise, kingdom participants must not waste their time trying to correct others until they have corrected themselves. Only then can they help those around them.

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

Those who are truly participants in the Kingdom produce lives that show they belong to the "tree" of the kingdom. The kingdom person acts like Jesus while the mere dilettante does not.

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them.

That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house."

Here, as elsewhere, the simple truth which Jesus proclaims is illustrated by a parable so simple that even the simplest mind is capable of grasping it. These parables of Jesus simply contain a general truth. In this particular parable the simple truth is that a fool does not do what Jesus says to do while a wise person does do what Jesus says to do. Those who hear and do not act are fools while those who hear and do act are wise! The kingdom, then, is occupied by wise people and not foolish people.

i40 After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us." And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. f1 authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

The healings of Jesus were, according to Dom Crossan, not so much physical restorations of health as the restoration of a place in society. Then, these re-alignments of a social place, brought about health. In other words, healing was restoration which then brought about physical health.

To understand this one must understand that in the world of Jesus illness made one unapproachable and socially an outcast. Therefore Jesus_92 healings were the readmittance of the ill into the social structure. In short, Jesus simply told folk that they were part of the Kingdom and therefore not castaways any longer. For many the beneficial result of this inclusion in a family was the fact that wellness came about because of their new sense of well being.

I think that is exactly what we have here. Jesus declares one to be well in the sense that he need not worry that he is alone- for he is no longer alone. As a result happiness replaces sorrow and wellness replaces sickness.

This approach to the healings performed by Jesus allows one to continue asserting that Jesus healed people while at the same time it avoids the notion that Jesus was a magician or some kindred to modern day "faith healers".

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for anoer When the men had come to him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?' " Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." When John's messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

"To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.' For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinki ng no wine, and you saain the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children."

The relationship of Jesus to the Baptist is quite easy to reconstruct historically. John began to preach in the wilderness in order to reinvigorate Judaism and prepare it for the soon coming Messiah. In order to accomplish his mission he re-enacted the entry of the chosen people into the promised land by having those who heard him and agreed with his vision to pass through the waters of the Jordan. Jesus was attracted to this reform movement and also passed through the waters as part of the reinvigorated nation.

At some point immediately following this even Jesus also began to preach. That Jesus and John were not close acquaintances and certainly not relatives is demonstrated by this passage where John professes not to know what Jesus is doing or who he is! The purpose of Matthew and Luke linking John to Jesus familially is not quite clear. evidently the early Church saw a need to relate the two; but such a need is now no longer clear. Perhaps it was because there was tension between the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of John. And perhaps in an effort to ameliorate this tension the Gospel writers connected the two by blood in an effort to say "we should not be fighting because we are really related".