Tuesday, June 15, 2010

283: Jesus Steals a Donkey, Trashes the Temple

Matthew 20-21
"Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." - Matthew 21:2-3

The first parable of the day is about a man with a vineyard. At the beginning of the day he hires some men and promises to pay them one denarius (however much that is) for their day's work. About every hour, he finds more people standing around and hires them as well. At the end of the day, he pays everyone one denarius. This includes the people that have only worked one hour. The original people he hired, who worked twelve hours, obviously have a problem with this and confront the land owner. The land owner says this:
Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?
Jesus says this is how it will be (he doesn't say where or when), the last will be first, and the first will be last. Why is this supposed to make us want to follow Jesus? I can't think of any good implications from this parable. Jesus is pro unfairness in the workplace?

Next, a mother approaches Jesus and asks if her sons can sit at Jesus's right and left. Jesus says no, because a place at his right and left is not for him to grant. He says that those places have been reserved by God. I really don't know what the implication is here.

In the next chapter, Jesus is finally ready for his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. As usual, he remembers the prophecies, and realizes that he needs to ride in on a donkey. Not having a donkey, he uses his psychic powers to figure out that there is a donkey and a colt tied up in the village ahead. He sends two disciples ahead and tells them to take the donkey and the colt. If anyone approaches them, they are supposed to tell them that the Lord needs the colt and the donkey. The Lord needs them? That's definitely my new excuse if I ever steal anything.

Jesus says that he will return them right away. But does he? The bible never says. Not that stealing isn't stealing if you promise to return it. I think taking without asking would fall under anyone's reasonable definition of "stealing". Which brings up the big question, didn't Jesus just sin? Remember that little "do not steal" commandment?

Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus "drives out" all the people buying and selling in the temple area. He then runs around overturning tables and benches of those doing business there. Isn't Jesus having a bit of a temper tantrum? What happened to turn the other cheek? Maybe that passage was smudged. Maybe it really read "Turn the other cheek, then break their shit." Jesus's reasoning for his tantrum is that people aren't supposed to be buying and selling in the temple area.

Then Jesus really goes off the deep end. Hungry after his little hissy fit, Jesus goes to a fig tree to pick (read "steal") some figs. When the fig tree has no figs, Jesus says "may you never bear fruit again" and kills the fig tree. What? I guess the takeaway from this is that if you're ever hungry, and a fruit tree doesn't have fruit, you should chop that bastard down. It's lack of fruit is obviously a personal affront to anyone that is hungry in it's general vicinity.

Jesus's disciples come up to him and ask him how that fruit tree whithered so quickly. Jesus says that if they had faith they could not only kill fig trees, but they could toss mountains into the ocean. That's great Jesus. Don't use your powers for good things. No, that's not impressive enough. Use your powers to kill plants and toss mountains into the ocean (which would cause terrible tsunamis by the way). Jesus ends by again saying (with no qualification) that whatever you ask for will be given to you if you believe.

Jesus enters the temple courts, and the priests approach him. They ask him by what authority he does these things. I assume they're talking about trashing the temple market. Jesus, instead of answering, asks where John the baptist's authority came from. He gives them two options, from heaven, or from men. The priest discuss it, and decide that they don't know. Jesus says that since they can't answer his question, he's not answering theirs. Why the hell not? Why can't Jesus tell them by who's authority he's trashing temples, stealing donkeys, and killing fig trees?

Jesus ends the chapter with two more parables. The first parable is about a man with two sons. He asks his first son to go work in the vineyard. The first son tells his father no, but changes his mind later and goes to work. The man then asks his second son to go work. His second son says he will go work, but later changes his mind and stays home. Jesus asks the people which son did what the father asked. They answer "the first". Jesus somehow concludes that this means tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven before the Israelites.

By the way, what does Jesus have against tax collectors? Shouldn't he have a problem with the king/emperor who's demanding that taxes be collected in the first place? He's obviously never heard of "don't kill the messenger".

The second parable is about a landowner and his tenants. The landowner rents his land to the tenants and tells them to harvest his fruit for them. The landowner then goes away on a journey. When the landowner sends his servants to go collect his share of the fruit, the tenants kill the servants. After sending a few more rounds of servants, the landowner finally sends his son, who is also killed. Jesus asks the crowd what the landowner should do to the tenants.

The crowd says that the landowner should kill the tenants and put in new, more obedient, tenants. Jesus says this is what God is going to do to the people. God is going to take away the earth from us undeserving people and give it to people who will "produce fruit". So much for Jesus preventing God's wrath.

The FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) is at it again with more bus adds.

Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that I'm not the biggest fan of the FFRF. Namely their opposition of the Mother Teresa U.S. postal stamp. Definitely not, in my opinion, a battle they should have picked.

Their newest bus add says "Sleep in on Sunday". With the obvious implication that you should stop going to church. The co-president, Dan Barker, had this to say about the bus add:
Obviously, there are many reasons to reject religion, most of them intellectual. But face it — one of the immediate benefits of quitting church, besides getting a 10 percent raise because you can stop tithing, is getting to sleep in on Sundays! What the world really needs is a good night’s sleep.
Then go to bed earlier Saturday night. I fully agree that this is the most non-intellectual bus add they've ever produced. I'm not sure why they chose to go with the non-intellectual argument, rather than the many intellectual one.

While I think these bus adds are a little silly, I'm obviously not upset about them, and I'm certainly not offended. Fortunately (or unfortunately if you don't like reading fundie rage), plenty of fundies are taking huge offence:
Still, the implication of the ads is that those who do subscribe to a faith tradition are somehow not "free thinkers." I object to this characterization.
Wait, what? Did we read the same add? What does sleeping in on Sunday have to do with not being a free thinker? I honestly can't imagine anyone taking personal offense to such an obviously irrelevant add.

But wait, there's another person that's offended:
I certainly understand the right of free speech and am a fervent believer of it. Thus I find it also necessary to voice my right of free speech and acknowledge not only my offense of the advertisements by the Freedom From Religion Foundation attacking religion and suggesting people would do better to simply sleep in on Sundays. But I also think it is poor taste to be on city buses.
This is attacking religion? I would imagine this guy's head would explode if he'd seen the "there is no God" bus adds. How is this "poor taste"? It must be the liberal, socialist "sleep in" agenda. He goes on:
In a day when values and respect of life seem to be at an all time low it seems sad that in the search for funds CTA would approve such ads for our citizens and in particular our children who ride these buses to and from school to be reading each day.
On what grounds would the bus company deny this add? Didn't this guy just say that he is pro freedom of speech? He needs to walk the talk a bit more. I have bad news for this guy, the children reading these adds would already rather sleep in on Sunday. They're not going to have any revelations after reading this add.

Maybe FFRF has accomplished something. Maybe someone will see these bus adds and immediately renounce their religion. I find this unlikely, but I didn't think people were going to be offended either.


  1. The FFRF ads are less about evangelism and more about letting atheists and borderline atheists know that there are other atheists out there and it's okay to be an atheist. As well as letting non-atheists know that there are atheists out there.

    A lot of atheists live in a closet. They don't let their friends, family or co-workers know that they're atheists. The FFRF is trying to "normalize" the idea of atheism - to communicate that yes, there are a lot of atheists out here, and it's okay to come out of your close and let people know you're an atheist.

    It's a tactic that has been used by the gay community to great effect over the last few decades. If you look at the status of gays in the 70s and 80s and compare it to now you can see exactly what coming out of the closet and being public about sexual orientation has done to normalize the idea of being gay to the world. The FFRF's agenda with their ads is to do the same thing for atheists. It's not about conversion - it's about getting atheists to come out of their closet and be public.

  2. Matt 20:1-15. Bryan, you seem to be missing the point. Jesus is saying that a sinner who repents at the last minute will be saved just as surely as one who has lived a lifetime of religious piety. (The story of the 2 thieves crucified with Jesus makes this point as well.) Of course, this leads to the implication that if Hitler had repented on his deathbed then he would go to heaven.

    The Talmud has a similar parable, except that here the point is that the workers who came later ended up doing the same amount of work; i.e., it's not how long you work but what you produce that matters. Completely opposite conclusion.

    Matt 20:16. "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
    Here Matthew has taken a line from Mark 10, which was about how the oppressed and poor will be rewarded more than the rich and powerful in the Kingdom of Heaven (KoH), and twisted it into a summary for this parable, making it seem to be about the time sequence in which people will be saved.

    Matt 20:20-28. C'mon, Bryan, surely you get this one. Jesus is just saying that one must be humble to get into the KoH. Although it is funny that he says both sons of Zebedee will "drink the cup that Jesus is going to drink," considering that there is no tradition that one of them, namely, John, was ever martyred.

    Matt 21:1-7. How could you miss this hilarious bit? Matthew here, following Mark, is constructing this scene based on Zech 9:9, in which it says, "See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (As usual, this originally had nothing to do with Jesus.) Matthew has failed to understand the structure of the original poetry, and thinks that 2 animals are being mentioned here, a donkey and a colt, instead of just the single donkey that was intended, so he has Jesus ride them both simultaneously, rodeo style!

    Matt 21:21-22. '21 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." '

    I guess no one in the world has ever been without doubts, because no one has ever cast a mountain into the sea by voice command. I guess most people don't really believe either, since their prayers go unanswered.

    Matt 21:25-26. How does Matthew know the private conversations of the chief priests and elders?

    Bryan, tax collectors in those days were often corrupt. They were empowered to collect taxes on behalf of the ruler, but were able to keep some of them for themselves. Besides, no one likes the IRS.

    Matt 21:33-44. God is not going to take away the earth from you, Bryan, since you're not Jewish (right? isn't that what you said?). This is about how the KoH will be given to the Xtian gentiles instead of the Jews because they killed the prophets and then Jesus (ignoring the Romans' responsibility, as Xtians were wont to do).

  3. @NonyNony:
    I really like your term "non-atheists". The power of language, eh?

    No longer will "atheists" be defined by the religious out there. Now "atheists" can be a root word in a sense, defining the other group...

  4. Ridiculous. Spiritual things are discerned from the world. This post is a great example. What I don't understand is atheism. Logically impossible. Agnostic would be a better term but to say there is no God means you have all knowledge. Not possible except for God. Somewhere in that bit of knowledge you don't have there could exist truth and evidence of "Theos"- Greek word for God....So logically only God could be an atheist. Non atheist....really? That is like double negative. Respectfully, Those that believe in a creator, God, are called theist. That would be the general term used though. There are many that don't like the term for those that believe in the trinity but they are still THEIST. All lay in theist, atheist (logically impossible if you really think about it), and agnostics.
    What interests and proves the existence of God....and though I'm Christian, I will speak as just a Theist and not a specific Christian God....the idea v of creation. You see a painting a n d have no problems agreeing there is a painter. Yet....creation and argue against creator. People can't afford to believe they are living wrong and must account for what they have done here. I use to be athrist/agnostic. It helped my conscience. But when I saw I could no longer deny. I pray you see. Keep an open mind. Don't hate. See I don't believe our hate unicorns. So I don't spend my time trying to talk against them. Atheist feel cimpelled to oppose the existence of God because the ego must defend itself. We don't live to our own standards and the idea of God scares people so they fight that voice that says there is a God.
    Jesus is real my friend. I have experienced His love and I pray you all experience His love as well. I pray God will open your eyes and remove the hate from your heart. Life is so much better on this side. Light and life in Christ is my choice. Keep an open mind. Perhaps one day soon you will experience Hisvlove. Know that I love you all and was once among you. But I couldn't deny what happened. You don't have to go through something worse than you have to have the hope and live He gives. Believe and be changed. Pay that he softens your heart. It is bad yo have a hardened heart. May God bless you all. Amen

    1. Absolutley true David; as it is written, "the fool says in his heart, there is no God."
      The foolishness of God is greater than man's wisdom"; I, like you, really dont understand why the nonbelievers call themselves "atheists" because there is no such thing as believing in no god. If they think of themselves as being God then they contradict themselves by believing in no god therefore it makes them liars. What!? And also this whole notion of 'i make my own purpose' then just means you are as delusional and ludicrous as your 'religious' counterpart. And yes, the hate that 'atheists' have for something that doesnt exist is pretty insipid as well. Who is the lunatic, the one who believes there is a God or the one that hates something that does not exist?

      All praise the Ancient of Days



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