Tale of five cities,part 2


Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 390
Mt 11:20-24
In looking at the five cities that Jesus ministered in, is it an odd question to ask why was he rejected in three and accepted in two? Why was he rejected in the cities that shared his background; both he and they were of Jewish origin, also many of his Apostles were from these very same Jewish fishing villages? The next set of collections is why was Jesus accepted in the Phoenician cities of Sidon and Tyre? In these cities Jesus and they were of different culture both religious and economic. Even in livelihood the three fishing villages were agricultural in a large part while the Phoenicians were more industrial. Jesus had everything in common with those Jewish villages and nearly nothing in common with the Phoenician capitals. Why was he rejected by one group and embraced by another?

To look at the Jewish fishing villages some of the reasons might be that it was their religion he was challenging, it was their culture too that he confronted. In religious challenges, might these fishermen simply have exercised caution? Perhaps they were simply conservative in their attitudes and measured in their opinions. In challenging the religion and the culture though, he also challenged the religious and cultural leaders of the day. Might part of the reason be that while the common folk were measured and cautious in their response, the leaders were protective? For Jesus to make progress here would have challenged their leadership. For Jesus to gain here meant that they would have to give up something; for Jesus to increase they would decrease. Authority is not something given up easily. Leaders of any kind, either 2000 years ago, or today, or tomorrow rarely like to give up authority. They might concede defeat, but that usually only happens after a lengthy battle.

If Man is so protective of authority, and so unwilling to relinquish authority; what might Gods position on authority be? Is not so much of the Bible based on Mans trying to take authority from God? Isn’t it also true that the bible is a constant reminder to man that God is not a servant to man, that man is Gods servant? Isn’t the bible proof that God is the ultimate authority, God does not give up reign and no man can take it? Is it not also true that man’s protection of authority frequently leads to man’s downfall? That coveting power and authority can color ones vision, can impair ones judgment, and can close doors that lead to opportunity?

In looking at the Phoenicians cities, they did not have this problem. They were of a different culture, they were mighty, and they were wealthy. How could a poor carpenter’s son from a fishing village challenge their authority? How could this travelling preacher challenge their leaders? He could not. For the Phoenicians Jesus was not a threat to the leadership and he was not a threat to their culture. They had nothing to fear from him and that gave them the opportunity to listen to him with open ears, with interest, and with honesty. They were not protective, and they did not try to exert their authority over him. Isn’t that the way to approach God? Isn’t that the bibles great lesson? The Phoenicians for all their might, listened to Jesus as a little child might listen to a parent tell a story: with eyes, ears, and hearts wide open, with fear when fear is intended, and joy in the same way. With laughter at its appropriate time and tears when they are required. It is hard to imagine powerful people like the Phoenicians sitting in a circle wide eyed like children listening to a story teller, but that is what they did with Jesus: and they liked what they heard, and they benefited from it.

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