Friday, June 18, 2010

286: Cold Feet

Matthew 26
"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' " - Matthew 26:39

The chapter starts two days before passover. On passover, Jesus says, he will be betrayed. Indeed, Matthew says that the high priests assembled to plot Jesus's capture. How Matthew knows about this meeting, I'm not sure.

As the time of his death approaches, Jesus gets even more cranky. While Jesus is visiting a man in Bethany, a woman pours some very expensive perfume on his head. The disciples are furious because, they say, she could have sold that oil and given the money to the poor. Jesus, however, is not angry. He says that he thinks what she's done to him is beautiful, then says "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." Huh? I think feeding the poor is a little more important than you smelling nice, Jesus. Even if you aren't going to be around forever.

In fact, Jesus is so pleased with this woman that he says "wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Now I ask you, average person who's probably heard the gospel of Jesus at least once, have you ever heard of this woman? I'm not sure why he likes what she did that much in the first place.

It's soon after this that Judas goes to the chief priest and agrees to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Next is the last supper. While everyone is eating, Jesus says that someone in the room will betray him. This makes the disciples very sad, and one by one they say "surely not I, Lord?". Jesus says that it will happen just like it is written, but woe to the one that betrays him. He says that it would be better for his betrayer not to have been born. This doesn't make any sense. If the prophecy has to be fulfilled, then one of his disciples has to be the poor unlucky bastard that does it. Finally, Judas comes to Jesus and, like the rest of the disciples, says "surely not I, Rabbi?". Jesus replies "yes, it is you". I guess he whispered, because nobody else seems to react.

The final paragraph of this section is the basis for all of our modern symbolic cannibalism. Jesus breaks bread and says "take and eat; this is my body". Then he pours wine and says "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins".

They then move to the Mount of Olives. Jesus tells the disciples that they will all fall away from him by the end of the night. Peter speaks up and says that even if all the other disciples deny him, he never will. Even if Peter has to die, he says, he won't disown him. Jesus tells him that by the end of the night he will deny him three times.

Jesus then takes all of his disciples to Gethsemane, and tells them to sit down while he goes and prays. He takes Peter and two other disciples with him to pray. He tells the disciples to "keep watch" while he prays. I'm not sure what they're keeping watch for. Is Jesus impatient for the fulfillment of the prophecy?

Jesus then prays, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." I can only take this to mean that he's getting cold feet on the whole crucifixion thing. I'm not sure what else he could be talking about. Jesus returns to the disciples he put on watch and finds them sleeping. He rebukes them and tells them to watch and pray so they won't fall into temptation. What temptation? Betraying Jesus? I thought Jesus already knew that Judas was betraying him. If he's so concerned about not being betrayed maybe he should have kept better tabs on Judas.

Twice more he goes to pray, and twice more he finds his disciples sleeping. The second time he returns and rouses them because, he says, his betrayer is on his way. He says "rise, let us go!" Is Jesus considering running? We will never know, because before he is done speaking, Judas comes around the corner with a small army.

As Jesus is arrested, one of his "companions" (I guess the bible means disciples, because it doesn't say anyone else is with him) grabs his sword and chops off the ear of one of the priest's servants. Jesus tells them to put down their swords or they will be killed. He tells them that, on a whim, he could call a whole army of angels to kill his capturers, but that would ruin the prophecy. Could he really? He just spent half the night praying that God would free him of his responsibility, why does he think that God would save him now?

Later (it's still pre-dawn), Peter follows Jesus to his trial. I haven't mentioned this much before, but it's blatantly obvious here. This is at best a second hand account. It doesn't say Matthew followed Jesus, only Peter. Anyway, at the trial, the priests (for some reason) have a hard time finding evidence of Jesus's blasphemy. They finally ask Jesus if he is the son of God. Jesus says that he is, and in the future he will be sitting at the right hand of God.

This is all the blasphemy the high priest needs to hear, and he sentences him to death. The people in the courtyard then proceed to spit on Jesus, punch him, and slap him.

The final event of the chapter is Peter disowning Jesus. Three people, one after the other, come up to Peter and say that they saw him with Jesus. Each time Peter denies that he even knows who Jesus is. Peter sure had a quick change of heart. Just a matter of hours ago he was willing to die for Jesus. When Peter remembers his promise, he weeps bitterly. I guess Peter isn't necessarily disloyal, he's just terribly forgetful.

This article, attempting to link biblical prophecy to the gulf oil spill, starts bad and gets worse:
If followers of the Christian blogosphere are not yet familiar with Revelation 8:8, they soon will be:

'And the second angel sounded and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.'
In fairness, the writer of the article uses the "isn't this interesting" approach, rather than fully endorsing this "prophecy". I'm not even sure why she thinks this is interesting, considering the wording of this passage seems to have nothing to do with anything gulf-oil related. I guess sea life is dying, so that makes the entire prophecy match perfectly. Unfortunately, any good thoughts I was having about this writer are wiped away by this sentence:
It is intriguing to reflect on the historical fact that the very foundations of BP were laid on a prophetic message from the Psalms: 'That he may bring out of the earth oil to make him a cheerful countenance.'
The fact? Lets examine this prophecy. It turns out this Psalm is Psalm 104:14-15 (she doesn't bother to mention that, lest we reveal the bullshit). Let me quote it in it's entirety (NIV of course):
He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
Somehow I don't think the ancient Israelites were smearing sweet crude on their faces to make themselves "shine". Not to mention that "coming out of the earth" probably refers to whatever was growing in the earth to produce this food oil (olives?). Yet somehow this is a historical "fact".

I wonder what preachers think of this misrepresentation. Oh wait, we have some priestly reactions in this very article:
What a lot of nonsense. I do not believe in biblical interpretation in that kind of way. It brings classical scholarship into disrepute. It is a disgrace. - Lord Carey (former Archbishop of Canterbury)
Bravo, sir. I'm not sure why she included this. Considering she just called this prophecy a historical fact. She must have a strange definition of "fact".

(via The Times)


  1. "I'm not sure why he likes what she did that much in the first place."

    He wanted to bone her. :)

  2. Matt 26:4-5. The chief priests and elders 'plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. "But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."' And they have Jesus arrested and killed during the Feast anyway, for no apparent reason.

    Matt 26:14-16. Maybe Judas betrayed Jesus because he got tired of his arrogance and narcissism. In any case, this scene has just been constructed by Matthew based upon Zech 11:12.

    Matt 26:23. I guess not only did the other disciples not hear Jesus say, "Yes, it is you," but they missed the part about someone dipping his hand into the bowl at the same time, too.

    Matt 26:39-45. Who heard what Jesus was saying at Gethsemane if they were all sleeping?

    Matt 26:48. Why would they need Judas to identify Jesus? As Jesus himself points out (Matt 26:55), he was in plain sight every day, so they must've known what he looks like. He did after all disrupt the temple, and he constantly is engaged in debates with various Pharisees, teachers of the law, etc. He was even so popular that they were afraid to arrest him (Matt 26:5).

    Matt 26:52. Why are Jesus' followers armed with swords?

    Matt 26:61. Saying that one is capable of destroying the temple and rebuilding it in 3 days was certainly not a crime.

    Matt 26:63. Why does the high priest ask Jesus if he is the Messiah? How is that related to the testimony of the false witnesses against him?

    Matt 26:64. The original wording of Matthew, based on older manuscripts, appears to be, "You say so," not "Yes, it is as you say." In other words, Jesus is not actually confirming the accusation.

    Matt 26:64. Presumably all those present in the room have long since passed away. When did any of them see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven?

    Matt 26:65. There was nothing blasphemous about claiming to be the Messiah. Other people did (e.g., Simon bar Kochba) and were not so condemned. And the Jews would not have understood the term "the Son of God" in the Christian sense that Matthew means it - to them it was applied to the Davidic king or a righteous man. Moreover, claiming that someone would see the Son of Man in the future is certainly not blasphemy, even if one ignores the fact that Jesus doesn't identify himself with the Son of Man here.



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