Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 12:33-50) transports me to a tense site that makes me a might nervous when I see Christ on a collision course with the keepers of the community’s conduct codes. Surrounded by these legal eagles with their talons sharpened and ready for prey, Jesus launches a set of inflammatory invectives worthy of a hip hop back beat, one epithet after another. You sanctimonious brood of venom-spewing snakes! You’re spoiled fruit! You sweep your house squeaky clean only to have seven devils show up searching for sleeping space. You’re seeking signs of the times? I’ll give you a deep sea sign that will make your head spin.
Jesus doesn’t let up and continues by lecturing them on the significance of his Jonah sign. He first identifies his own impending three-day excursion into the belly of the earth with Jonah’s three-day experience in the belly of the great fish. Then Jesus reminds them of the uncomfortable moral of the Jonah story: it was all about pushing the envelopes of “purity” and breaking down the bigoted barriers of who’s in and who’s out of the household of faith. It’s about finding ways to bring foreigners into the family – including despised Ninevites. There are no more pure bloods or elite lineages. There’s only faith.
Someone had the nerve to tap Jesus on the shoulder and interrupt his tirade: Your family is outside asking for you. Maybe Mary was frightened by the knowledge of where Jesus’ fit of rage would take him. Jesus was not through, though, and used the request to drive another nail into the coffin of the family values moralists: Don’t focus on that family! Look around, any of you who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. I can see Jesus going into classic children’s book mode then, going from person to person, Are you my mother? Are you my mother? It’s a question we can ask whenever we we get spit out of the dark belly of bigotry and land on the beachfront property of an enemy God has called us to love. Are you my mother? Blessed be those ever-growing family ties.
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Household of Faith.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.