The Curmudgeon


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Matthew 16 i-xii

At the Sea of Galilee, the Pharisees and Sadducees ask Jesus for a sign from heaven; He replies that since they can forecast the weather from the sky they should be able to interpret the signs of the times. He denies them any demonstration of His divine authority and sets sail with His disciples for the opposite shore. Once there, the disciples notice that they have no bread, and Jesus warns them against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When this parable proves too subtle for them, Jesus impatiently reminds them of His earlier miracles with loaves and makes clear that He was warning them against the teaching of His rivals.

Although Jesus was never shy of proclaiming His miracles as signs of His authority, it appears that the sales pitch "Ask and it shall be given you" is subject to one or two conditions. Jesus is prepared to cure the occasional paralytic in order to prove His authority to forgive sins; but He is not prepared to prove His divine credentials for the sake of making peace with His enemies while He is in the way with them. Rather, He believes that the truth of His teaching should be as self-evident to the Pharisees and Sadducees as the signs of tomorrow's weather in the heavens. Possibly He intends to draw their attention to those parts of Scripture which supposedly anticipate His teaching and prophesy His actions; it does not seem to have occurred to Him that the Pharisees and Sadducees might be trying to weed out false prophets who use Scripture for their own nefarious purposes. The insult of being asked to prove Himself evidently gnaws at Jesus all the way across the Sea of Galilee, a distance of at least seven miles.

Jesus' use of leaven as a parable for sophisticated corruption makes a symbolic contrast with the unleavened bread of the approaching Last Supper. This of course was to be a Passover meal, celebrating that holy occasion on which His Father massacred the first-born of every non-Hebrew in the land of Egypt, even unto the child of the maidservant behind the mill and all the first-born of beasts, while saving the Egyptian army for some rather vulgar special effects at the Red Sea. Fittingly for a true Son of His Father, wrath and pride were always the Saviour's two besetting sins; and the combination of scolding and boasting in His words to His dunderheaded followers cannot help but evoke His eager anticipation of that still holier massacre of the unworthy which, in accordance with the new covenant, even most Jews will have no hope of escaping.


  • At 1:36 am , Anonymous Brian M said...

    Awesome takedown. It's Bad Theology all the way down.

  • At 4:50 am , Blogger Philip said...

    I only pray that God will help me think up something suitably humble for April Fool's Day.


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