I’m having a bad post day today, so let’s scrap what I’ve written and start over. This is Mark’s take on the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ private teaching to his disciples when one of them remarks on how dope the temple architecture is. In this passage, Jesus looks ahead prophetically to the AD 70 destruction of the Jerusalem temple, tells his disciples what to expect in their own future, and–depending on to what degree you embrace preterism–perhaps gives us a look into the end times as well.
Hey, everyone. Just to pull back the curtain for a moment, it’s Saturday as I write this, and I’m at my grandmother’s in Virginia for Mother’s Day. And now, to replace the curtain: in today’s chapter, Paul’s Jewish opponents pursue their spurious case against him. But even under a new governor, Paul proves himself a match for their machinations with an appeal to Caesar himself.
The events of today’s chapter are as follows: the Jewish authorities go before Governor Felix with their grievances against Paul. Paul gives his defense, asserting his innocence of any crime except believing in the resurrection of the dead, which of course is no crime at all. Felix dismisses the charges under the pretense of postponing his judgment, and Paul remains in protective custody for two years, during which time he has several opportunities to discuss religion and morality with the governor. But when the governorship passes from Felix to Porcius Festus, Felix decides to give the Jews a freebie and leaves Paul in prison. Now, having stated the events of today’s chapter, let us dissect them.
Of all the gospel authors, Matthew spends the least time on Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He’s tied with Mark for the number of verses in the final chapter of his gospel (twenty), but while Mark’s last chapter is around 500 words, Matthew’s is closer to 450. After the women discover the empty tomb, they encounter Jesus, and later on he meets the disciples at a mountain in Galilee. But Matthew also has an exclusive scene with the tomb guards and the chief priests which continues a point of interest from the previous chapter.
Y’know, I’ve had something on my mind lately: sometimes I’m wrong about stuff. My background’s in English, and I know just enough theology, philosophy, and history to be dangerous. In all these fields, time and time again I’ve thought one thing was true, only to read or hear the actual fact of the matter and find my perspective overturned. I’ve never liked Socrates’ adage “I only know that I know nothing,” in part because it violates the Law of Non-Contradiction, and if there’s anything I know, it’s that. But even then, some days I find myself doubting that A is not non-A, whether that’s because of the weakness of my own mind or the viability of the notion that something could really, truly be what it isn’t, which would of course undermine all possibility of rationality and logic. But all of that is a roundabout way of saying that as we open up Matthew 8 today, I’m going to talk about first-century Judaism and the Roman Empire, so watch out.