Friday, November 18, 2016

Are not Two Sparrows Sold for a Penny?

'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care.'
The temptation to use this well-known metaphor of Jesus in Matthew 10, comparing his disciples to sparrows, as an easy admonition against those who worry about their daily struggle in life, obscures an important structural aspect of the gospel of Matthew in general and chapter 10 in particular. This structural element of the gospel according to Matthew can be found in chapter 28; the great commission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Chapter 10 of the book of Matthew takes on its meaning within this framework. It is no longer the history of just Jesus appointing disciples and sending them out. Through the metaphor of the twelve apostles, it becomes the story of the church that is thrust into the world.

The discussion of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind as a helpful tool to understand what Jesus does not mean when he tells his twelve disciples to not worry here in Matthew 10, and in Matthew 6 where he encourages them, and us, to look at the birds:
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life”
While it is in chapter 4 of Jean that Jesus says to his disciples, and by extension to us:
“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Another metaphor that is easily misconstrued into an admonition to worry less about earthly things or at least cast suspicion on those who focus on earthly things like eating, drinking, working and feasting. Or, to translate it into the broad terms that are (again) hotly debated since Trump won the Presidential elections: community, belonging, identity and focus on the common good of society.

But if we place Jean 4 and Matthew 10 in the framework of the great commission, this alleged rejection of earthly joys and earthly delights tilts completely. To be precise, the joy of Jesus wasn't just some obscure inner secret, it was fully based in the here and now:

'Already the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together....So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.'
It's this great commission that gives meaning to the admonition to not worry while participating in that great commission as Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew chapter 19:

'And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.'
The kingdom of heaven is near, literally! As Jesus says in the high priestly prayer:

'My prayer is not that you take them out of the world'
A phrase that, again, takes on its correct meaning within the framework of the great commission. Jesus prayer is that He takes them into the world!

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