Signpost for Sunday 16 Nov 2014: Judges 4:1-7; Ps 123, 1, Thess 5:1-11; Matt 25:14-30
I can’t say much about the reading from Judges except that it’s very encouraging that Deborah is the judge of all Israel. She is the only female judge in the whole book, but no comment is made to suggest that this is anything extraordinary. Interesting, I think when we know that women weren’t even recognized as reliable witnesses in the garden of Gethsemane. Apart from that, this reading tells you where the president of the USA got his came from.
And Barack Obama is a very talented orator, so that makes a rather clumsy segue to the parable of the talents. I can’t say it’s a favourite of mine. But I did find out something I hadn’t spotted before this week. The same parable in Luke (19:11-27) tells us that Jesus is telling this particular story to his listeners “because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” There’s the clue. In Matthew the story begins with a man going away on a long journey.
Luke borrowed from Matthew, and Matthew is writing in about AD 80 to a community that was trying to come to grips with the problem of the delay of the reappearance of the Lord, and Christ’s apparent ‘absence’ – like the Landlord’s in the story – from the world.
The other hot topic among Jewish followers of Jesus was the inclusion of gentiles to the flock. The ever helpful John Petty thinks that Christ could be said to have harvested where he did not sow in the sense of his followers coming from outside Israel and also outside of the original Jewish faith.
So, if you follow that train of thought, the two servants who made money for their master are like those disciples who are not afraid to take the new faith beyond Israel and beyond the Jewish diaspora. Whereas the slave who buried his money is like a Jewish disciple who didn’t understand that Jesus’ message is for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live.
Even if that’s a reasonable interpretation of the story, I’m still a bit puzzled because the master giving away the talents does nothing to indicate that he is a hard man. In fact, he seems rather trusting and generous.
And I don’t really see Jesus as the hard task master so how does that work? Maybe we go back to love again. Jesus loved us and asks us to do the same for others. If we do then his love spreads across the world to people and places that have never heard of him or even believe in him. Love is not evangelical conversion to the Christianity, it’s a way of behaving towards people (the clue I think is in the verses that end this chapter in Matthew – about not ignoring the thirsty, the hungry or anyone who has been the victim of injustice). What do you think?