Vicar’s Reflection: 3rd June 2018, 9th Ordinary Sunday
Optical illusions are fascinating, such as this illustration. Is it a vase or two people facing each other? We often bring our own presumptions and biases to our observations. This is what happens in the two confrontations with Jesus in today’s Gospel. For Jesus the law of God had a broad and generous purpose, to enable the qualities of fairness, kindness and love into people’s lives before God. For the opponents of Jesus, the purpose of the law was to control people by restricting freedom. Jesus and his opponents were looking at the same thing, but ‘seeing’ something quite different. Jewish religious law had different concerns from modern law which is about regulating relationships and preventing and punishing crime. Jewish law was a mix of cultic and ritualistic codes along with ethical and moral codes. The laws of ritual and cultic practice were designed to pacify a stern and vengeful God. Out of these laws come prohibitions and difficult to understand rituals that we struggle with today because they seem illogical. Check out Leviticus 11 and feel guilty about that shrimp cocktail. I’ll pass on the locusts for dinner though. Moral and ethical laws were the extraordinary breakthrough made by the prophets who connected fair and just moral behaviour (of individuals) and ethical behaviour (of society) with pleasing God. Jesus revealed a God of love and gave us some principles for prioritising laws. For Jesus the highest priorities are life-affirming: freedom, kindness and of course, love.