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7/15/1999
WORD OF FAITH
Knowing the Risen Lord
REV. ROGER KARBAN


When "Gospel-disciples" ask Jesus to "explain the parable to us," we're fairly certain the explanation the "Gospel-Jesus" gives is the explanation the evangelist's community needs to hear, not the explanation the historical Jesus' community would have heard. Evangelists often give new meanings to Jesus' original parables.

Those who don't understand early Christianity might find it difficult to accept this exegetical rule of thumb. How could an inspired writer claim Jesus said something He didn't say?

Many of us don't understand the importance of the Resurrection for Jesus' original followers. It wasn't just a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on everything He said and did during His earthly ministry. The early Christian community saw a far deeper meaning in Jesus' receiving His life back.

Sharing with us

Besides believing that Jesus' rising guaranteed that anyone courageous enough to imitate His death eventually would attain His life, they also believed it enabled Him to remain among them, to be an essential part of their communities. As Paul teaches in his letter to the Galatians, Jesus' new, resurrected existence frees Him from the limits imposed on all of us -- limits of a specific social position, race or gender. Liberated from those historical restrictions, the risen Jesus is a person with whom all can relate, someone who shares every Christian life.

One implication of this belief is triggered when a Christian biblical community faces problems which Jesus' historical community never faced. Its members feel they can fall back on their relationship with the risen Jesus to find an answer to their difficulty.

This process is at work in the Sunday gospel (Mt 13:24-43). Matthew's Jesus first gives a parable on patience, advising His followers not to be quick to eradicate everyone from the community whom they judge to be sinners. They'll probably be rooting up lots of good along with the bad. Then after two well-known parables on the eventual growth of the faith. Matthew seems to leave the historical Jesus behind and turns to the insights of the risen Jesus, applying the first parable to the present needs of His community. That community is still expecting the Parousia to be just around the corner.

Allegorizing every element in the original parable, Matthew assures his anxious community that Jesus will be the final judge -- as soon as He arrives.

Justice

BY creating ties with the risen Jesus, Christians simply are taking the biblical concept "justice" to another level. From the earliest Hebrew writings, justice is the goal of all God's followers. Justice doesn't just refer to giving someone an honest day's wages for a day's work. Scriptural justice stands for the ties which one individual forms with another.

Jesus' original disciples would have noticed that the first reading (Wis 12:13, 16-19) springs from God's relationship to God's people: "Your might is the source of justice. Your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all."

Since Yahweh relates to everyone, Yahweh acts differently than human judges. Law and consensus demands the latter remove themselves from any case in which they have a relationship with one of the litigants. This doesn't apply to Yahweh. God permits us to repent in the midst of judgment because God relates to all who are being judged.

Following this theology, Paul argues (Rom 8:26-27) that it's because we're weak and helpless that we need to have a relationship with powers beyond, yet within us; in this case, it's the Holy Spirit. It's only through and because of this unique force which the risen Jesus gives His communities that we even know what to pray for.

(07-15-99)

 












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