Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Calling His Disciples (part 6)

The “basic” happening connected to a couple of disciples departing from their father would have been readily identifiable to the original hearers of these Gospels, as the majority of the audience would have been well-versed in the history of Israel and the story of the Creator God’s people.  The primary audience (and later audiences that would come to be necessarily versed in the Israel narrative that gives shape to Jesus and His Gospel message) would have been ready (and rightly so) to hear, process, and interpret this story of Jesus according to the worldview that was constructed and given shape by that history. 

Much like those that confess Jesus as Lord and believe in His Resurrection are conditioned to a pre-disposition to accept accounts of the supernatural and miraculous, so too would the audience of the Gospel accounts, following His Resurrection that was understood to have shown Jesus forth as Israel’s Messiah and therefore the Creator God acting in the flesh on behalf of Israel and the world, be conditioned to place the story of Jesus and His ministry within the context of the covenant God’s long-running redemptive plan for His people and His world.  That plan, of course, was intimately connected to Israel and is shown forth in the history that they told and by which their identity and their interaction with the world was shaped.

So when the Gospel authors tell stories about Jesus calling His disciples, and these stories are heard with a post-Resurrection understanding of Jesus as the human voice of Israel’s Creator God (realizing that all of these accounts, though seeking to relate pre-Resurrection history, are presenting a post-Resurrection narrative with an obvious and justifiable theological bias), and the authors offer this seemingly minor detail about the father of two of these disciples and the fact that they were called to leave him, the thoughts of the hearer should take flight to Genesis and to Abraham.  In chapter twelve of Genesis one finds “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you” (12:1). 

In substance then, those hearing these stories of the call of the disciples as they are presented in the synoptics, are hearing a recapitulation of the call of Abraham.  If this is the case, an objection might be raised that Abraham was not actually called to leave his father, or at the least, that he did not have to make that difficult decision, as the eleventh chapter of Genesis appears to close by recounting that Abraham’s father died in the land of Haran before Abraham received his call from God.  That objection falls flat, as the text of Genesis does not necessarily indicate a chronological progression of events. 

Understanding that the Genesis account is not necessarily a progression takes a step in the direction of reconciling the Genesis account with the account of Abraham that is provided by Stephen in Acts (the second part of the Luke’s two-part narrative).  There, Stephen says “The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your country and from your relatives, and come to the land I will show you.’  Then he went out from the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran.  After his father died, God made him move to this country where you now live” (7:2-4).  

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