Thursday, October 17, 2013

Den Of Lions (part 5)

With such knowledge concerning Jesus’ practices and habits in hand, “Judas obtained a squad of soldiers and some officers of the chief priests and Pharisees.  They came to the orchard with lanterns and torches and weapons” (John 18:3).  In the case of Daniel, this scene can be read as “Then those officials who had gone to the king came by collusion and found Daniel praying and asking for help before his God” (6:11).  This stands as a stark reminder of what it was that had been Jesus’ plaintive prayer (here mixing Gospel records), as He prayed and asked for help in the time of testing that was coming to Him, saying “My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from Me!  Yet not what I will, but what you will…  My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, Your will must be done” (Matthew 26:39b, 42b). 

To this plea, some manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke (again, mixing Gospel records as part of this analogical contrasting of Daniel and Jesus) add that “an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him” (Luke 22:43).  This should immediately draw one’s attention to the words of Daniel, in the wake of his night spent in the den of lions, as he insisted that “My God sent His angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not harmed me, because I was found to be innocent before Him” (6:22a).  To these words, a return visit shall be paid.  Owing to the heavy influence of the Daniel story in the time of Jesus, along with the reliance on knowledge of that story and Danielic imagery in the records of the words of Jesus (especially Son of Man language and the thoughts associated therewith), it is unsurprising to hear further echoes of Daniel on the lips of Jesus.     

After observing Daniel in his practice of continuing to pray---continuing, without fail, in the ministry to which he had been appointed by Israel’s faithful God, the men who would have Daniel done away with “approached the king and said to him, ‘Did you not an issue an edict to the effect that for the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human other than to you, O king, would be thrown into a den of lions?’” (Daniel 6:12a)  This serves to remind an observer that, in Jesus’ day, the Roman emperor was the focal point of a large and increasingly popular religious cult, whose purpose (among others) was to provide a unifying force to a geographically far-flung, as well as ethnically and culturally and religiously diverse empire.  The Roman emperor was recognized as a divine being (the son of god), which is not unlike the movement seen in Daniel, with prayers to be directed solely to the ruler of the world empire that then held sway. 

To the obviously loaded and leading query from his officials “The king replied, ‘That is correct, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed.’” (6:12b)  Knowing that they had successfully been able to lead the king down the path that they so desired---leading him into a corner in which he would be forced to acquiesce to their scheming, the presumably jealous officials seized upon this re-confirmation of the king’s decree and said to him, “Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the edict that you issued.  Three times daily he offers his prayer” (6:13).  Before drawing the necessary analogy, it should be noted that they do not simply tell the king that Daniel is ignoring the edict, but rather, they first say that Daniel pays no attention to the king.  Though the second accusation was entirely true, the first was patently false. 

The goings-on here now enable a return to Jesus being brought before Pilate.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ accusers, after taking Him from His place of prayer (where, it is not to be forgotten, He prayed three on three distinct occasions, probably facing Jerusalem), “rose up and brought Jesus before Pilate.  They began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, forbidding us to pay tribute tax to Caesar and claiming that He Himself is Christ, a king” (23:1b-2).  If one was so inclined to hear it, this sounds remarkably like the accusation that Daniel paid no attention to the king or to his edicts.  Jesus was, in a sense, subverting the nation, at least in terms of the national aspirations towards militaristic overthrow of Rome, so this part of the accusation was true.  The second part, indicating that Jesus was attempting to subvert Rome (paying no attention to the king) by forbidding the people to pay taxes, was not true. 

No comments:

Post a Comment