Matthew, Chapter 10
The Lost Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
When Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the good news they were saying that a change is coming and the social order will be turned upside down, right side up, made righteous.
The new standard of righteousness will require a change in perspective and in thoughts and feelings, a transformation as radical as the change in the social order, a cultural revolution and a change of consciousness.
The new righteousness does not look "religious". Those who genuinely seek "religious experience," are looking for ultimate reality within and without. Jesus taught his disciples to not give theatrical public prayers like the hypocrites, but to pray to the Father in Heaven in private, set apart from the world, speaking the truth to yourself, open to existential truth breaking through the veils of self deception and resistance and confronting both the facts of your situation and the transcendent reality that grounds you.
Jesus taught that the Father in Heaven is concerned and in contact with us because we are his children. Yes, I would like to hear about a divine mother as well, but I am not going to correct the patriarchal metaphor. The family metaphors in the New Testament can get strange when extended. Jesus experienced, apparently, encounters with the universe, the creative ground of being, the godhead, in which he found his direction and his goal. Prayer as an altered state and vision quest. But he said to bring our contingent needs to the Father in secret, even though the Father already knows what our needs really are, because we will find our real needs taken care of, our need for courage, wisdom, friendship, and so on, or that is what I take "treasures in heaven" to mean.
What worries you now? How are you going to provide for your needs and not be in debt and at risk of trouble with the authorities and how are you going to be safe from bad fortune in general?
I will face all the contingencies that are out of my control, secure that I am doing what I can, in hope that the new order of the transcendent community, in which everyone's real needs will be provided, will become reality.
Is the future safe? What's it all about?
It bothers me when I read that some will be rewarded for their faith and others will suffer for their unfaith, locked outside, gnashing their teeth, like the towns that drove out Jesus and his disciples and rejected their message. He said these towns will have it worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.
Can you blame those communities? What would you have done?
The leader of a cult comes to town with his entourage and crowds come and pack the civic auditorium and he preaches his message.
Picture a contemporary Jesus as the hero of yet another science fiction update of the gospel. Imagine him as guest speaker at megachurches and on televangelic networks and on CNNMSNBCFOXNPR and Colbert and Stewart --
"The End is coming! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! You will either be rewarded or punished!"
And all the sick people came forward with all kinds of disabilities, physical and mental disorders, hopeless cases whose suffering is increased by their alienation from society, and he heals them, and everyone sees it, it is verified empirically.
Here is a medicine man with good meds and he gives it away!
He is giving free healthcare even to people with sexually transmitted diseases and who are not married and are estranged from their families, and even the child born out of wedlock is recognized as a child of the cosmic parent and the responsibility of the community, and for a while at least, the suffering know what it is like to be whole (like Captain Pike on Star Trek?) and to be part of a community.
This cult leader becomes more powerful as his fame increases, drawing followers from a wide base represented by groups that didn't before seem to have much in common, like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, and public employees who wanted to reform the bureaucracy and corporate whistleblowers, and the unemployed and homeless, and veterans and students and workers. And the movement's message is that another world is possible, is becoming real, in which the poor become rich and the wealthy lose everything, and prisoners are set free, and debts are forgiven.
People get ready, there's a train a-comin.'
Naturally, the authorities are concerned.
When did Christianity lose Christ?
Jesus shows me a way to read scripture. Don't change anything in the text, but freely take parts of it to make a point about the present situation, and look beyond the literal and the legal to the higher standards of social equality and compassion. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, etc. More than obedience to the letter of scripture is required. My relationships with others and my attitudes towards them indicate whether I am righteous or not.
When did "church fathers" insist that a literal interpretation of an infallible rule book from a despotic Deity containing everything from reliable scientific information about the origins of the physical cosmos to a strict timetable for events leading to the end of the world and a FAITH that it was all literally true and factually correct were necessary conditions for one to escape eternal torture?
When did they give in to that paranoid terrorist doctrine? What kind of father treats his children that way -- threatening to physically abuse the child that doesn't obey every arbitrary rule and/or psychologically torture the child with guilt? The religious fundamentalist is not faith-driven, but delusional.
When Jesus sent his disciples out to follow his example he didn't tell them to flog unbelievers or bring them to trial.
Jesus was not leading a crusade, or an inquisition. He was not creating an empire with guns, bombs, and enhanced interrogation. But the movement wouldn't bring peace either, but civil disturbance and families torn apart. The footnote in the Jerusalem Bible says that verses 17 through 39 "are those of a later time than this first mission of the Twelve." How much later? The civil disturbance suggested by the prophecies of destroyed towns and the persecution of disciples may describe events during the Jewish revolt that were recent events for Matthew's community.
The Jesus movement was going to social outcasts, the outsiders, and giving them care, and they were going to government employees and revolutionaries, homeless, unemployed, anybody that connected with the message of the Kingdom of Heaven and wanted to be part of it.
The miracle stories that circulated indicate that expectations regarding Jesus' power went through the roof, but that his outstanding characteristic was his compassion, and a charisma that came from a profound courage and focus on his calling.
He kept his eye on the prize. Even though he understood from the beginning that he had to be willing to lose his life, he took up the cross, so to speak, and led a march to the center of politcal power, representing all the powerless and poor and sick, and if the people in power responded as he always knew they were likely to, he was not afraid because he was delivering the message he was born to deliver.