Monday, November 4, 2013

Hated (part 3)

If what it was that Jesus had to say was too unique, He could never have found an audience.  Based on the strange-for-the-messiah actions that accompanied His words, offering something unfamiliar to the people of Israel could have resulted in His being dismissed as a heathen, outside of the realm of the covenant people, and probably overly influenced by the pagan religions by which Israel was surrounded and to which they are said to have so often succumbed in their past. 

So while remembering the grounding of Jesus’ teaching within historical Judaism and Israel, an observer also does very well to remember that those that heard and those that would later provide historical records of His life and teaching so as to pass it on in both oral and written form, heard what He had to say within the same historically-rooted context as those that would hear and not provide narratives that would be passed down through history.  They did so while also speaking and writing of Jesus in the light of the Resurrection and what they came to believe that the Resurrection implied for Him, for Israel, for the world, and for the ultimate eschatological purposes of Israel’s God. 

Before moving on to the uncovering of the answer that will makes it possible to get a more firm and far less anachronistic grip on what such words from Jesus implied, it must be said that this pronouncement concerning hatred that is the focus of this study was not isolated.  The Gospels insist that Jesus spoke of being hated on more than one occasion.  While Mark has Jesus speaking of being hated in association with His pronouncements concerning the end of the age, with this occurring in the wake of His kingly entry into Jerusalem and His “cleansing” of the Temple, Matthew has Jesus first speaking of being hated much earlier in His ministry. 

Matthew records a sermon on the mount, whereas Luke records a sermon on the plain.  Some look at this as a conflict, but a more realistic assessment is that is quite likely that Jesus’ message was repetitive in nature, and that these repetitive messages were offered to an oral-history-oriented community in much the same way as a modern politician will give the same speech to different audiences, or a pastor has a particular, popular, go-to sermon. 

So in regards to the hating and being hated, Matthew has Jesus speaking of such things in association with His sending of the twelve “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6).  It is in this context that Jesus says “you will be hated by everyone because of My name” (10:22a), while also adding, as He appears to have done at the speech recorded by Mark, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (10:22b).  Progressing on to the Gospel of Luke, on the lookout for hate, lands a reader in the sixth chapter, where Jesus is to be found speaking of such things during the aforementioned sermon on the plain.  Here, He is speaking to a wider audience than just His disciples, but the general theme remains unchanged.  Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man!” (6:22) 

Interestingly, Jesus here speaks of being excluded, which should certainly have reminded His hearers (and those that would subsequently be presented with these words) of the exclusive practices referenced earlier in this study, though in a way that informs His hearers (and readers through the centuries) that separating exclusions within the “kingdom of God” (6:20) should themselves be excluded.  Later, Jesus will add the difficult demand to “Love your enemies,” and to “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (6:27b-28). 

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