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October 23, 2015

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Derek Flood

For those interested, I posted some further musing on this passage seen in the light of the cross: http://www.therebelgod.com/2015/10/wrestling-with-gods-violence-in_31.html

Trevor Brisbin

Great post Brad, and what a panel of experts! I preached thru the Matthew’s “gnashing of teeth” parables last year at the church I led just outside of Toronto. I’m now in exile, living in Los Angeles . They are difficult! And profoundly important. In my work with these texts I tried hard not to jump to the conclusion that ‘the king’ is the God figure. Just like in the text about the worker in the vineyard or the parable of the talents, let’s not assume God is the wealthy, land-owning, CEO-like dictator. That is how we have been formed to understand God in the white/western north America, but I think our friends working in Liberation and Feminist theology have something important to say here.

If the king in the parable is not representative of God but instead a first century king (like Herod), then no hermeneutical gymnastics are needed. (This is where your book "A More Christ-like God" is brilliant! If the king doesn't look like Christ, than we can't align him with God. But he does look violently identical to first century kings... so maybe he's just what Jesus says he is - why do some love literalism, except when it makes the most sense?) The first century listener/reader, understood this kind of a king. At the end, the king tortures/kills the one who doesn’t fit his agenda. This is exactly what political power did to Jesus (and often still does). He was put out of the city (the place of political, cultural, economic power), into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, Golgatha.

It’s similar with the parable of the talents. God isn’t the wealthy banker who destroys those who don’t ‘invest’ well. WOW! Talk about a capitalist reading of that one. Rather, the wealthy banker is a wealthy banker. A king is a king. A vineyard owner is a vineyard owner. And in the first century being a wealthy banker inevitably meant exploiting others and unsavory kind of money lending (William R. Herzog’s Parables as Subversive Speech is SO good here). So lived the opposite of Ex. 22:25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.”

The business leader rewards those who prop up his capitalist greed, where he punishes the one who refuses to play the game (buries the cash). And it is this person who is expelled, for he doesn’t play along with power. This is exactly what happened to Jesus (think cleansing of the temple).

I love these parables because if anything they do exactly what you’re doing… they create dialogue and expose some of our deepest assumptions about God and neighbor. Thanks for your insights and those of your amigos!

Mark Pixley

Sorry for the typos big fingers, little text ipad woes...have mercy.

Mark Pixley

I enjoyed the comments and depth of conversation, very nice, I would like to suggest one more perspective that is obviously hoisted upon the language , but aren't they all? This parable follows on the heels of the chief Preists and Pharisees seeking to lay hands on Jesus and it bleeds into "And Jesus answered and spoke to THEM"...so for context I think the parable starts out with a specific audeience in mind (which others have implied as well) and I think as a true teacher Jesus is trying to get a point across to this group of adversaries to peace and that might be framed like this: "You want God to be some kind of King? I just shiwed up on the foal of a coat, gentle and meek demonstrating what kind of king God really is, but you want a different kind of king??? Well let me show what that really looks like, and you're not going to like it, so this is kind of a warniing shot to let you know, you always get what what you seek"...and then Jesus goes on to describe what the kind of King they are looking for would look like in Gods clothes...now I know that Jesus starts the parable with "the kingdom of heaven is like:" but he has always made it clear that the kingdom is kind of here now and we get to shape it with our actions and our words, obviously the kingdom he describes here is NOT heavenly for some of the people in the parable, but that is the harsh reality of the kingdom NOW it takes the shaoe we ourselves give it and that might mean we get a king of violence if thats what we choose to build...I find it odd at all that Jesus has resorted to describing his Father as this kind of king and sustpect that he is simply describing a king that the Pharisess wanted and what the end result of that would look like...he was trying to communicate to them that they had already been invited into Gods wedding feast and that was connected to the son they were rejecting by wanting a king of their own making...

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