Today on Matthew 15: more fuss from the Pharisees. This time around, they’re getting on Jesus’ case about his disciples, who don’t wash their hands before meals. The Pharisees are less concerned about hygiene and more about decorum; hand-washing is a tradition, and to omit it is to disrespect the generations that have gone before, or so it would seem.
I’m writing this post on Monday night, and I’m tired. I can hear all the parents in my head asking me what right I, as a single person, have to be tired, as I imagine all these imaginary parents incensed that I have the audacity to be tired and not have kids. But adulthood tires you out no matter how you do it. As you grow up, you grow more aware of yourself, and that includes an awareness of how much time you spend being tired.
Welcome to our last day on this passage and portion of the Triad study. The study workbook recommends that on this day I go ahead and read Matthew 12:46-50 from my own perspective, as a disciple of Jesus. It occurs to me that I’ve done that every day this week, necessarily, even as I imagine what someone else’s perspective on the verses might be. By design, I am always in my own head. But some days I write with a point in mind, and other days I just read the passage, start writing, and find out what there is to say. Today? I suppose it’s a little of both.
So: I tried to shoehorn a point about modern-day Pharisaism into yesterday’s post, realized halfway through that it had little if anything to do with the text, an wisely scrapped it in favor of other topics. But Jesus’ teaching in today’s chapter actually pertains to the ideas I wanted to talk about. Looks like Pharisaism’s back on the menu, boys.
I just checked, and the three parables in this chapter haven’t changed since we last read them. The woman still lights a lamp and sweeps the house in search of her missing coin; it’s still the younger brother rather than the older who demands his early inheritance; there are still the same number of sheep. If anything was true that we previously said about these parables, it continues to be true even now. But we haven’t yet examined the context in which Jesus tells these parables. Where does he tell them? Who does he tell them to? Let’s step outside the parables and find some answers.
What’s good enough for you? What’s worth committing to? Paul wrote more than one letter explicitly dealing with legalism, especially first-century Judaism’s Torah-based legalism. And while he doesn’t hit the problem as aggressively in his letter to the Philippian church, it’s still a concern: he warns his readers about “evil workers,” the “false circumcision,” even calling them “dogs” (2). These individuals are committed to adherence to the Law, thinking they can make the grade based on their own works. What’s good enough for them? Being good enough.
Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians with a return to that much-loved topic of circumcision. It may just be the cumulative effect of the whole letter, but this chapter strikes me as giving the clearest picture of his opponents and their motivations yet.