Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Tuesday: questions, qualifications, hypocrisy



When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you
(Jn 13:21-33).

As Jesus continued to teach in the Temple about the Kingdom of God, he talked about fig trees and throwing mountains into the sea. All you have to do is believe, he said, and what you ask will be done.

He was questioned by the chief priests and scribes about his authority to teach. He didn’t show his theology degree; instead, he responded to their questions with his own. Where did John's baptism come from? They could not answer, so neither did he. There were parables about disgruntled labourers in the vineyard and harlots in heaven. The reaction to these must have been one of irritation and embarrassment: doubtless some of Israel's spiritual leaders stormed off, as hypocrites tend to do when confronted with their own inadequacies and absurdities. The Pharisees then tried entrapment, asking whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor. Aware of their motives, Jesus’s response was unequivocal - taxes must be paid.

The Lord’s authority came from God, but he never used it to subvert the princely authorities of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven; we are merely passing through this temporal state. And while we journey, we must obey the political authorities and the precepts of our employers. Of course, we may agitate for change, but we must never do so without humility or love, which penetrates the souls of those who are being lost, for it is divine.

Religious shows of ostentation and hypocritical piety are antithetical to what the kingdom of heaven is about: by focusing on the letter of the law, we easily forget that the true substance is justice, mercy and love. By obsessing about outward adornments, we risk ignoring the spirit, the heart, the purpose of our faith. Indeed, the outward manifestation is hollow when it is more pharisaically obsessed with propriety than with loving one’s neighbour.

On this Holy Tuesday, let us reflect upon our blindness and deafness; our shortcomings, hypocrisies and inadequacies. Everything we do is dirty rags before the Lord. We construct our own whited sepulchres full of dead men’s bones, and are plagued by all manner of uncleanness, so let us take the Lord’s warnings about authority and hypocrisy very seriously indeed: we must not be outwardly what we are not inwardly, and our outward must be faithful to the inward. Many are called, but few are chosen.

28 Comments:

Blogger The Explorer said...

"One of you shall betray me." I was talking about this very comment with an unbeliever.

If Christ knew that Judas would betray him, did he know that when he chose Judas in the first place? And, if so, did Judas have the choice of NOT being a traitor? If not, why blame him?

The unbeliever in question is a determinist,; so you can see the line of reasoning. Still, it's a tricky one to answer. Comments, anyone?

15 April 2014 at 09:21  
Blogger Len said...

It is only when we reach a sense of total despair in our ability to achieve any level of' righteousness 'of our own that God can actually redeem us.
All the time we are protesting' that we are not as bad as that other fellow' we are claiming 'a righteousness' of our own..
We should be reminded that Peter betrayed Jesus as well.But with Peter it was because he had too much self reliance which disappeared when under extreme threat.
It was only after the disciples received the Holy Spirit that they became strengthened up to the point of choosing death for their faith in God rather than living a lie.
As for Judas I an only assume that he was only following Christ for what 'he could get out of it' and changed allegiance when Christ was of no value to him anymore.
We see this reflected in the church today as it sell its soul to the highest bidder.


15 April 2014 at 09:59  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The Explorer @ 09.21

I and friends in the faith have encountered and discussed the same tricky question that you mull over and throw open to us all for ideas. To what extent was Judas "predestined", or a free agent to choose the most profitable course of action?

Predestination is a slice of Calvinism that I find very difficult to accept, but can we be certain? We know he stole from the common purse, so he was clearly not of the highest moral persuasion. But there is a vast gulf between petty pilfering and "selling" a companion towards a horrible death. It is I believe deliberately left unclear by the gospel authors, probably because they were unsure.
I concluded that I have to be satisfied with that, because there is no other way of moving forward on it without conjecture. So it is more profitable to move on than indulge in mere conjecture.

15 April 2014 at 10:40  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David H:

I agree re the conjecture.

The Judas issue is also about the nature of the incarnate Christ's foreknowledge (and knowledge).

As depicted in the Gospels, He knows how the world will end, but not when. He knows the marital history of the Samaritan woman at the well, but the, "Who touched me?" question (about the haemorrhaging woman) suggests an instance when he really didn't know.

That, in a sense, makes the case of Judas more explicable.

15 April 2014 at 11:08  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

but the, "Who touched me?" question (about the haemorrhaging woman) suggests an instance when he really didn't know."

NONSENSE!

The Lord knew exactly who touched Him and both he and the woman KNEW what touching the hem of His robe in Judaism meant.

The hem was a sign of authority and power.

He knew why she touched it, that may have gone unnoticed by the crowd and disciples, but not Him.

He ALWAYS knew at that would happen on this earth as He walked it.

Blowers

15 April 2014 at 11:15  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Blowers @ 11:15

What happened, then, when Christ was asleep?

'Matthew' 8:10 Jesus heard the Centurion with astonishment. Surely not, if he knew already how the Centurion would react and what he would say?

This is the sort of issue about the dual nature of Christ that gave rise to the Creeds.

15 April 2014 at 11:37  
Blogger Len said...

'I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, 'My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please'.(Isaiah 46:10)

God is not' making up things as He goes along' nothing comes as a surprise to God.Jesus knew exactly what would happen to Him at Calvary and how He would be betrayed .

If everything is pre- ordained we are merely puppets walking history out.We all have choices whether we are going to take those choices or not God already knows.
God who stands outside of time can look forward into time and back into time.
If God wanted a race of puppets he would not have created man with the ability to choose between 'the two trees' between following or rejecting Christ.

15 April 2014 at 11:48  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The Explorer @ 11.37

Yes, hammering out the Creeds, a costly process for the young Church, was driven by those sort of questions. Their incredible success is proven by survival. Little else has lasted so long.

15 April 2014 at 11:56  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

Explorer - isn't an answer "God knows"?

The first word flags the difference between an eternal, infinite God who is outside time and space, and me, to whom he says time-bound words like 'shall'. 'If I was God' is an interesting question, but must always have the safety handrail 'but I'm not'.

In God's knowledge, we don't necessarily have to exclude man's choice, do we? If God fairly judges man (which He will), the opportunity to repent and turn to him must be real and possible. To make the jump between knowledge and cause displays only that we find it difficult to hold two valid concepts in our heads at the same time. For us to bring God down into our own minds we end up siding with one or the other.

I'm told that Calvin himself didn't go to the extremes that have been ascribed to him, but these lines of finest poetry from the Westboro' Baptist Chipmunks nattily summarise the leap we can't make.

Long long ago lived a Calvin named John
Who went crazy when things didn't fit
So when the Bible said some but not others,
Well John didn't like it one bit
"How can a God who is sovereign not save someone
If for that person He died?"
That's what John wondered until he surmised that
God must not have actually tried.

God only loves you and gave you his Son
If you sing in the heavenly song
So if you end up in Hell that must mean
That he hated your guts all along


Predestination is clearly a Biblical concept, presented as a prompt for gratitude and praise, but so is our responsibility to choose. The former took place before 'time', the latter is an event in time.

Isn't the temptation to baulk at responding to God on the ground that his character and supposed actions appear unfair to a finite mind? To me, the fact that this is a problem at all testifies that God is God - his thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are his ways my ways.

This is beyond the scope of theologians and philosphers to describe. When Paul deals with it he ends by praising God - "how unsearchable his ways", not by presenting us with a neat box containing a God we can fully understand.

15 April 2014 at 11:56  
Blogger Len said...

I suppose the actions of some men can even astonish God.
If a drowning man was thrown a lifebelt and that drowning man said "No thanks I am fine I can save myself" and then drowned what could you say?....
You might know the man was so stubborn as to refuse help but would still seem bewildered by his actions.

'Judas' is becoming a distraction as to the real issue which is Christ.How quickly we become sidelined?.

15 April 2014 at 12:00  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Len @ 11.48

Yes, the idea of God standing outside of time, to which we are captive, on a one way conveyor belt towards earthly death, explains the prior knowledge point, whilst still affording us true choice.

Puppet humans make no true choices.

15 April 2014 at 12:01  
Blogger Ars Hendrik said...

Explorer.

Regarding your Judas question and Christ's awareness of his duplicity (or otherwise).

Usually Alexander Pope's 'Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; the proper study of mankind is man' can be wheeled out at this point and it is an argument with some merit as we are seeking to know the unknowable.

However…

Reading the gospels it is the humanity of Christ that speaks out across the centuries. He is sometimes afraid, annoyed, disappointed, exasperated, emotional, angry and doubtful. He becomes irritated with his disciples, calls one of them Satan, asks how long he is to be burdened with them, disappears for long periods of time to be away from them.

He is an extraordinary, beautiful and magnificent contradiction, mercurial and absolutely impossible for us, his creation, to describe or encapsulate. We rightly stand absolutely astonished by him, always have done and always will do.

This is God in the act of being human, with all of our uncertainty, fear and confusion but also a surfeit of supernatural love for everyone. He is neither here nor there; he is one of us but not one of us.

Of course Blowers, in UPPER CASE as usual, pretends to know absolutely what Our Lord knew or did not know. But the idea of Christ as an all-knowing superhero, effectively playing with his creation from a position of absolute and certain knowledge is entirely beside the point. As has been pointed out, in the Passion of Christ there is nothing certain, nothing decided, Our Lord himself wrestles with our most human fears and uncertainties, our doubts.

How else could it have been?

15 April 2014 at 12:10  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Rasher @ 11:56/Len @ 12:00

God knows, but did incarnate God?

The risen Christ has powers the pre-crucifixion Christ does not have: more like the Christ of 'Revelation', who is manifestly the Second Person of the Trinity.

Len: I raised the Judas issue, as I said, because a sceptical friend of mine questioned me about him on Palm Sunday, and Judas appears in HG's latest post. Judas is not an irrelevance insofar as he has a bearing on the human side of Christ.

15 April 2014 at 12:12  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Ars @ 12:10

Thank you: exactly the sort of thing I was getting at. You put it much better than I did.

15 April 2014 at 12:13  
Blogger Ars Hendrik said...

Thanks Explorer.

I think that as the end of Lent is approaching I am getting light headed from the lack of chocolate, which certainly helps my writing!

15 April 2014 at 12:31  
Blogger Len said...

I concur with 'Ars Hendrik ' (15 April 2014 12:10.)
Very well put.

I take your point Explorer (15 April 2014 12:12)


15 April 2014 at 12:39  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Explorer and David H
"To what extent was Judas "predestined", or a free agent to choose the most profitable course of action?"


Happy Jack says he was both predestined and free.

Thomas Aquinas looked at predestination this way: "The disposition of God, by which he prepares, what he will himself perform, according to his infallible foreknowledge." This foreknowledge of God does not removes man's free will.

Jesus was both God and man.

The alternate view of predestination being the simple pleasure of God (where He choses the saved and damned before creation) is seeing it as the Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man’s free will.

This is the best answer Jack has come across.

15 April 2014 at 13:24  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Ars Hendrick @ 12.10

At the risk of joining an unchristian-like, emerging consensus ( Heavens forbid !, I'm not used to consensus - mores the pity) I too say, "Well put", for capturing the dynamism and beautiful duality of Christ's nature, expressed in his actions and sayings.

And it appears that Happy Jack is happy too.
Splendid !

This piece of Cranmer's, although attracting few comments, has travelled well to a good destination. How fitting for where we are in the Christian calendar.

15 April 2014 at 13:41  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Thanks Jack,

If I remember right, Aquinas likened time to a mountain path with God looking down on it. People are at different stages on the path, but from God's perspective they are all visible in a continuous present. If it wasn't Aquinas, I'm grateful to whoever it was for the image.

I can cope with the idea of foreknowledge, more or less. I was pondering here the dual nature of Christ and how the human interacted with the divine. I am content for much to remain a mystery.

One further thought on the predestination issue. Suppose there's a special offer available to the first hundred applicants. It is known that there will be a hundred, but not who the hundred will be. That's very different from pre-selecting the recipients before the offer opens.

15 April 2014 at 13:55  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Explorer @13.55,

"Your" mountain path, observed by God, carries not just different people at different stages, but also the same person(s) at different stages, as we, individually, progress, I suggest ?

I marvel, with awe, at the intellects within the early Church who wrestled with these ideas as the Creeds were established. Just grasping them now, after the heavy lifting has been done for us, is demanding enough. Like you I accept that, given the limitations of our minds, mystery will remain.

15 April 2014 at 14:27  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

Explorer - (12:12)

To that question, I'd give the same answer. How can I say what Christ did or didn't know? What he chose to know, what he understood, what was revealed to him by the Father - why would the answer be any different? I can only look at the surface of that pool without knowing the depth of it. Again, it's a source of wonder but we aren't ultimately capable of splitting the human and divine.

If I was to comment on Ars' helpful summary, it would be to distinguish Christ from complete identification with all that it is to be human, in that our history of sin means we overlook or are unable to understand the extent of our own blindness and deafness. When we then post our fear or uncertainty on Him, we can be mistaken.

While that may seem pedantic, I think it's important because there are elements of Christ's character and sufferings that we clearly do not share - one being the jarring effect of a world of sin on complete innocence and perfect sensitivity. When he said 'if it be possible, let this cup pass from me' that wasn't doubt - but entirely consistent with a character that was revolted by sin and his approaching association with it for our sake. You know the stomach churning we get when something newly horrible enters our experience? He went through that for us on a scale I can't imagine.

Have we taken our understanding more from the Rolling Stones' lyrics than from what was written and prefigured in the sacrifices?

When The Last Temptation of Christ was screened in a Cathedral, some bishops, think tanks and bloggers were totally bemused about what the problem was - they seemed to have picked up a Christadelphian concept of Christ's human perfection - that he had an inclination to sin. I suppose that's the point I'm making in a long-winded way.

15 April 2014 at 14:57  
Blogger Mark Williams said...

Since we are made in God's image we have the capacity for a little of His foreknowledge, how many times have you told someone "I knew you were going to say that", does that impinge on the others freewill choice? None of us can stand before God and say we had no choice in our decisions, sometimes choice is the only thing we do have.

15 April 2014 at 15:01  
Blogger Integrity said...

Ars. Hendrik said @ 12;10

Blowers, in UPPER CASE as usual, pretends to know absolutely what Our Lord knew or did not know
I would contend that in principle, Blowers is right. Jesus was both Man and God. His humanity allowed him to react as we normal humans do, with interest and with surprise. Yes he does know all that is to be known and how things will turn out but he also held conversations with his disciples. A pointless activity if he was in a constant state of divine revelation.

In the video clip, Jesus said how he was thankful to his Father for hiding these things from the learned and wise and revealing them to the innocent and simple.

I have often thought about how theological issues are debated, even here by intelligent and learned intellectuals. Sadly, sometimes the debate seems more important than the content.

15 April 2014 at 18:50  
Blogger Sister Julian said...

An alternative theory was put forward for thought during this evening's mass. Was Judas perhaps trying to force Christ's hand? If he believed Christ was the Messiah, but believed/wanted this Messiah to be the leader on a white horse, leading his people into battle against the occupying Romans, was this his way to make Christ act like the Messiah the Jews were looking for. By the way, this was not put forward as fact, just something our priest had come accross. The other idea is that the prince of this world,Satan, who was alive and kicking then as he is now, as Scripture says "entered into" Judas
Just something else to add to the melting pot!

15 April 2014 at 19:49  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Sister Julian, Happy Jack says hello. Are you a retired religious? Jack noticed you placed letters after your name in your other post?

Jack says that none of the Apostles really understood the nature of Jesus as the Messiah until His resurrection and finally at Pentecost.

They, like all Jews, expected a human king who would make Israel ascendant among all the nations. Nevertheless, they showed Him loyalty and love and, if anything, wanted to shield Him from the authorities.

Only God knows what motivated Judas' early focus on materialism but we do know Jesus accepted him as an Apostle, he acted on his own will and, as a result, finally succumbed fully to Satan.

As for Jesus knowing the future, Jack says He, as a man, was in full union with God's will and had a divine understanding of the Jewish scripture - even as a child. He knew scripture foretold He was to die in fulfilment of it, understood God's plan for man's redemption and knew the path His Father wanted Him to follow - and He knew He would. Jack believes Gethsemane is where Jesus as God and man is most fully revealed.

Ars, Happy Jack says for a lot of reasons he does not agree it is "the humanity of Christ that speaks out across the centuries." This has become a modern focus.

Jack understands 80% of communication is body language. When we read the Gospels we do not hear Jesus' tone of voice or see His body posture. We only have the written word and so there is a danger we will project our own views of Jesus onto this. Jack notices this when different people read the Gospel aloud and put their own interpretation on the words. The best readers just read and don't get all dramatic with the text.

16 April 2014 at 00:38  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

The gospel for simple folk like yours truly.

Judas

“God looked into his heart and saw a bad ‘un. Just what he needed, as it happened…”

16 April 2014 at 18:58  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Wise and succinctly expressed Inspector.

17 April 2014 at 00:48  
Blogger Sister Julian said...

Julian is a widow, retired teacher, sometime Anglican lay reader and member of the Order of St Cuthbert.
Greetings to Happy Jack, OSC is the shortened form

17 April 2014 at 21:36  

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