Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who was Jesus talking to?

And, seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up on a mountain, and when he was seated his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them….

An interesting question here is, who was Jesus talking to? I feel like Matthew is maybe deliberately ..ambiguous?... says exactly what he means. Jesus apparently goes up the mountain alone, because his disciples don’t come to him until he is seated. He was addressing the multitude… did he climb a little bit up on the mountain, maybe to stand on a big rock or something, so as to address them better? (Well, for one thing, he was sitting down, so at least it wasn’t to stand). Or did he go into the brush and trees, where the people that were still hungry for more came to follow him? That is more my sense. And who was it that followed him? The way I’ve always interpreted it is that it was a bit of a moment of definition, and that a person that did decide to follow him was, by doing so, his follower. It’s very interesting that he would do this. He’s been healing people and that’s why multitudes are following him. If the point of the healing was to demonstrate the kingdom of heaven, maybe now is the time to tell people some more about it? But the healings are available to everybody; if it’s possible for him to talk to multitudes, why does he withdraw by himself and wait for some people to follow him? The only things I can think of are; 1) he has very complex things to say, and not necessarily easy. He needs a smaller and quieter arena to speak them in, which means they only can be spoken to a few. If microphones had been invented, he would have spoken to everyone. Or 2) the things he wants to say now, he only wants to speak to people who are in some sense dedicated to him, and serious about following him and seeking the kingdom he’s been showing them, not just in the healings any more. The things he says are really hard, also. There may be some in the multitude who, hearing them, would decide he was crazy and have no more to do with him, but who, not hearing them, might continue to like him and regard him as a good healer and teacher and perhaps, when they hear rumors of the resurrection years later, decide to believe. In short, the people who take some work to follow him are the people who are more ready to hear what he has to say. I like this idea. Also, I feel like God works through “chosen people.” That’s just how he does things… not because of favoritism but because he’s introducing very unusual ideas into a world that will be quite hostile to them, and so they need the protective environment of set-apart and extensively taught community, and they will work outwards factorially. I feel that that’s what he did with Israel, and in a sense here is maybe starting to do, to set apart a community for himself that he will intensively teach.

I wonder to what extent, now that the Holy Spirit has come, he does this today? Are there things which we can only really hear when we take a little work to follow him?

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