Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jesus Gets Weird Sometimes

by Keith Brenton

Okay, I loved the first stories Jesus told today: the ones about the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost boy who used to feed pigs but couldn't bring himself to eat pig slop, so he went home to his dad ... oh. You've heard that one, too? That's a great story. And he really put the slam on the Pharisees and law-teachers. Because they love money and they love being right all the time, and they act like the Sabbath isn't a day to do good things if it takes any effort because that would be against the law. Sometimes Jesus is a hoot.

But then his stories took a bizarre turn. You know? About a guy who cheated his boss and was stupid enough to think that the guys that owed his boss less - because he helped them cheat - would trust him and hire him later, after he finally got caught and fired. What's that supposed to mean? Was Jesus, like, being sarcastic when he recommended helping people cheat so they'll have plenty of friends in the "eternal dwellings" he talks about? It was pretty clear to me he was talking about trust. And loving money too much. More than loving God.

Then he - just out of the blue - put a slam on those Pharisees when they sneered at his story. He keeps talking about the kingdom of God coming, and he makes it sound like they don't know the law. If they did, they'd know that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman is guilty of adultery, and so is anyone who marries his ex-wife. Man, that's a hard saying. That goes on all the time. Moses' law permits divorce - under the right circumstances - so what's with this "automatic adultery" thing when you get divorced?

To top it all off, he jumps to this story about two dead guys. Two dead guys who are still alive. One of them is rich, and - get this - he's in the place where dead people go and he's miserable, tormented by flame. Have you ever heard of such a thing? And the really poor guy, the beggar who was sick all the time outside the rich guy's house - he's in Abraham's embrace, being comforted. A bum, who obviously never did anything worthwhile his whole life; just begged for other people's money. And Jesus says his name was Lazarus - the same as one of his friends up in Bethany; the guy with two sisters.

The rich guy, he's hurting; and he begs Abraham to send old Lazarus over with some water and Abraham says he ain't-a gonna do 'er. Because Lazarus hurt his whole life while the rich guy had everything. So the rich guy, he's trying to look out for his brothers who are still alive, and he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them to straighten up so they won't end up in torment ... and Jesus has Father Abraham saying "ain't-a gonna do 'er" again! Says if they wouldn't listen to Moses and the prophets, they wouldn't listen to somebody coming back from the dead!

Now what do you make of that?

You know what's really spooky about it? Jesus talked like it was real. Like he really knows Abraham. Like he really knows what it's like where the dead people live. But he couldn't possibly know.

Could he?


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