Monday, February 21, 2011

Jesus' Parables For Religious Politicians

A translation of Matthew 21:23-22:14

Jesus walked into the cathedral area and taught the people outside. In the middle of his teaching, the ruling priests and some members of congress approached and challenged him, "What gives you the right to act this way? You come into our city as if you were the king, and then begin kicking people out of the temple as if you were the high priest—who appointed you to be in charge of our city?" Jesus replied, "I’ll tell you what—answer my question and then I’ll answer yours. When John came offering people membership into God’s nation—was that his own idea, or was he appointed by God?" The rulers turned toward each other, and discussed their answer. "If we say John was appointed by God, he will say, ‘Why didn’t you believe him, then?’ And if we say that he was acting on his own authority, then the throngs around him will lynch us, for they consider John to be a prophet." So they replied, "We’re not sure about John." Jesus then said, "Then why should I tell you who my authority is? If you won’t commit yourselves, why should I commit myself?"

"So, you wise men, let me ask your judgement of this situation: A man had a garden which needed some tending one day, so he figured he would ask his kids to do it. He goes up to his first kid and says, "Could you please tend the garden?" The kid replies, "No way!" But after thinking about it, the kid changes his mind and works. Disappointed, the father goes to his second kid and asks the same question. This was a polite kid and he said, "Sure, no problem, dad." But, in the end, he neglected to actually do the work. So tell me: which one of these kids did the will of his Father?" The rulers of Jerusalem replied, "The first did." Jesus concluded, "Even so, prostitutes, homosexuals and drug users will be a part of God’s nation before you will. John told everyone freely the way of God—repentance from sins— and you didn’t believe him, but the sinners did. And even after you noted this, you still didn’t repent and believe in John.

"Here’s another event I want you to judge: An entrepreneur—the CEO of a large international corporation— established a successful business. He owned the building, bought the machines to manufacture the product, established security, and set up policies. Then he handed over the running of the business to managers, while working on other businesses. After a few months, he looked at the books and saw his business had made a profit. So he sent a group of messengers to the managers, asking for his share of the profit. The managers laughed, beat up the messengers, and even killed some. The CEO sent an even larger group of messengers, but the results were the same. So the CEO decided to send his son to them, thinking that they would respect the authority of the CEO’s son, and be ashamed of what they had done. But the managers saw the CEO’s son driving up and said to each other: "If we kill the son, we can have a legal right to the business!" So as the son walked in, they threw him out as if he was an intruder and killed him. So answer me, when the Lord of the business comes, what do you think he will do to the managers?" The rulers of Jerusalem said, "He will kill those managers before his eyes and select other managers that will give him his profit."

Jesus glared at the rulers. "Haven’t you read in the Bible, ‘We are amazed to see that the quarry-stone which the builders rejected as inadequate, that is the very stone selected by the Lord to be the mantelpiece.’ Those which you reject will be the very ones the Lord chooses to rule his people. God’s nation—which you have ruled so shabbily—will be given over to a people who accomplish the Lord’s will." After hearing his stories, the ruling priests and Republicans finally understood that he was talking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they were nervous about the crowds, because they considered him God’s spokesman.

Jesus, however, continued speaking to the rulers with another story: "God’s nation is like a president who invited all the most important rulers of the nation to his son’s wedding. He sent messengers, but the rulers didn’t want to come. So he gathered another group of messengers and instructed them, ‘Tell the rulers: "Everything is ready! Prime rib for everyone and champagne is flowing! Come to the wedding."’ The rulers, however, occupied by their own business, had the messengers arrested, insulted and killed. The president was furious and he sent his army to ravage their cities, arrest and execute those rulers. Then he said to the messengers that were left: ‘Those who received invitations to my son’s wedding weren’t worthy to come. Well, then, go out to the cities and towns and invite everyone to enter the wedding feast.’ So the messengers called to everyone they could, whether evil or good. Soon, the reception was filled with guests. As the president mingled, he noted that there was one who did not have the proper clothing. ‘Sir, how did you get in without proper clothing? Weren’t you provided with respectful clothes?’ The man was embarrassed, and he remained silent before the president. The president said to the guards, ‘Put this intruder in handcuffs and throw him out to the joyless existence, where many weep because they could not come in.’ For many are invited, but few are actually welcome."

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