Thursday, August 22, 2013

Visiting Bethany (part 5 of 6)

After a brief exchange between Jesus and Martha that serves to outline the basic Jewish hope concerning the resurrection of the dead, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in Me will never die’.” (11:25-26a)  How does Martha respond?  Again, making use of imperial titles, “She replied, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God Who comes into the world’.” (11:27) 

Now, even though both “Christ” (Messiah) and “Son of God” are both titles for the Jewish king, and are not necessarily meant to automatically connote divinity (ironically enough, as opposed to the appellation of the term “son of god” to the Roman emperor as part of the Caesar cult), one can here discover yet another appropriation of emperor related language, further reinforcing the idea of the supremacy of the eternal kingdom of the Creator God that is being established in and through Jesus (Son of God), as opposed to the temporal kingdom of Rome that has been established and perpetuated by the Caesar (son of god). 

Shortly thereafter, Mary, repeating Martha’s actions, “got up quickly and went to Him (Jesus)” (11:29b).  What follows is where it is learned that Jesus has not, in fact, entered into Bethany, as the text states: “Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still in the place where Martha had come out to meet Him” (11:30).  This information is inserted parenthetically here in the middle of the story, rather than at the beginning, which is a subtle placement which would seem to serve to partially mask the politically subversive nature of the language that is being used surrounding this event that leads up to Jesus’ grand parousia, which is His “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem.  That particular parousia will bear all of the explicit earmarks of what would be well-understood as a royal visit (depending on one’s viewpoint) by a Caesar or by Israel’s King. 

As would be expected from a person going out of his or her city to greet the “Lord Caesar,” upon reaching Jesus “Mary fell at His feet and said to Him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’.” (11:32b)  Here, Mary echoes Martha, and once again use is made of an imperial title, as Mary calls Jesus “Lord.”  The author clearly does not want his audience to lose sight of Jesus’ position.  

It was at this point then, with Jesus having been greeted outside the city, with people falling at His feet, referring to Him as Lord and Son of God and Messiah, and making note of His great power, that Jesus finally enters into the village.  It seems that the tomb is in the village, or at least adjacent to the village, which would account for the author’s comment that Jesus “had not yet” made His way to the village. 

The reader makes note of the fact that Mary did not go to Jesus by herself (11:31,33,36), so when Jesus does make His way to the tomb, presumably, it is with a group of people.  Since Martha’s voice can again be heard breaking into the story when Jesus asks for the stone over the mouth of the cave to be rolled away, one can also presume that Martha, as one that has bowed at the feet of Jesus and called Him Lord, was one of the people in the procession that made its way to the tomb with Jesus.   

No comments:

Post a Comment