Saturday, December 31, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 28: The cat came back

A couple of days later, a couple of Marys come to gawk at the sepulchre. I've actually been to the church where all this supposedly happened, and not much has changed. Anyway, as they're taking photos, an earthquake strikes and an angel rolls the stone back. Zombie Jesus is inside, His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow (v. 3). He kills the guards and eats their brains The guards fall down dead.

The angels assure the women that they're cool, and invites them into the tomb for more photo ops. He tells them to go and alert the disciples and that Jesus will meet all of them in Galilee. Jesus meets them, and they have a joyful, foot-hugging reunion.

Meanwhile, some of the guards have found the dead guards and run to tell the city fathers. They bribe the guards to say that the disciples stole Jesus' body while they slept and promise to cover for them if Pilate asks questions.

Back to Jesus and the disciples, who have gone off into the mountains for some quiet time. Jesus says he's fully god now and tells them to keep spreading his message. The end.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 27: Spoiler alert! The guy on the cross dies

The political and religious leaders decide to put Jesus to death, which this book has only been foreshadowing for the last, oh, 26 chapters or so. So they tie him up and take him to Pointus Pilate.

Judas sees all this and feels bad. He tries to return the 30 pieces of silver, but the leaders aren't interested. So he hangs himself. The priest picks up the money and says it can't be put back in the treasury, so they use it to buy a field to bury foreigners in. Supposedly this fulfills a prophesy from Jeremiah. Or possibly Zechariah.

Back to Jesus, who is now at Pilate's house. Pilate asks him if he's the king of Jews. Jesus only answers Thou sayest. (v. 11) Then he refuses to speak again for the rest of the trial.

It's the feast day, and in the holiday spirit, Pilate agrees to release one prisoner. There happens to be a famous guy there called Barrabas. His wife thinks it should be Jesus, because he's giving her creepy dreams, which, she won't be the last. But the elders persuade the people to vote for Barabbas. When he asks what they want him to do with Jesus, they say crucify him. When he points out that Jesus is innocent, they say it again, louder this time. Which should tell you something about how beloved he really was.

Pilate washes his hands symbolically and tells the crowd His blood be on us, and on our children. (v. 25) He releases Barabbas and Jesus is flogged, dressed in a red robe, and led into the public hall. They put thorns on his head and a reed in his hand and say Hail, King of the Jews! (v. 29) Then they beat him again, take his clothes off, dress him in his old robe, and lead him out to Golgotha. Someone called Simon carries his cross. They give him a glass of vinegar and gall, which apparently means anything bitter, which he refuses.

They hang him up there and quite possibly remove his clothes. At any rate, the soldiers gamble for them. They hang a sign over his head that reads THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (v. 37) Two thieves are also crucified, but we don't know their names. People make fun of him as they pass. Even the thieves get in on the act, which, come to think of it, you're just hanging there dying for a few days, you might as well pass them making fun of each other.

At some point, it all goes dark for 3 hours, and Jesus wails My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (v. 46) Some people standing around at the bottom try to give him some vinegar to drink, but he dies. Then there are some weird things that aren't recorded anywhere else: the veil in the temple splits, there's an earthquake, some zombies wander around the streets.

There are a few women around, most of them named Mary, and a rich man named Joseph who bribes Pilate for the body and buries it in a cloth in his own tomb. He rolls a rock over the door. The Marys come and sit outside. The city fathers remember the prophesy that Jesus will arise after three days and ask Pilate to set a watch over the tomb, but he tells them to pay for it themselves.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 26

Jesus predicts his own death. As he has been doing since the beginning of the book. This time he has a specific date in mind: 2 days after Passover.

Meanwhile, some powerful church and political leaders gather together and argue about when exactly they should kill him. They decide that the feast day is too controversial.

Rapid scene change: Jesus is now healing a leper. A woman comes up and dumps some oil all over his head while he's eating. The disciples think this is a waste, because she should have sold it and given the profits to the poor. Nope. Never seen this verse come up in a Republican campaign speech. Jesus says it's fine For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. (v. 11) He also says it's for his burial.

Judas sneaks off and makes a deal with the priests: Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Then he bides his time until he can betray him.

Now it's Passover and the disciples ask Jesus where he wants to eat. Jesus tells them to seek out some guy and tell him it's time. So they do, and while they're eating, Jesus tells them one of them will betray him. See, it was suggestion. They ask which one it will be. He says the one who shared his bowl. Judas asks if it's him, for some bizarre reason.

Next, Jesus does that wine and bread thing where we're supposedly eating his body and drinking his blood. Then he says he's not going to drink any more wine until he's in heaven.

They sing a hymn and go for a walk up the Mount of Olives, which, let me tell you, is not a leisurely stroll, and Jesus tells them more stories about his death: they'll all abandon him. Peter promises not to, but Jesus assures him that he'll deny him three times. They all promise not to betray him.

Their stroll takes them past the Garden of Gethsemane, which still exists and contains 2000 year old olive trees that neither confirm nor deny any of this. Jesus wanders away to pray. When he comes back, the disciples are all asleep. He rebukes them, then goes back to pray some more. Same deal. And again. The third time, Judas shows up with the city guard. Judas kisses him on the cheek and it's on. One of the disciples draws his sword and cuts off a guard's ear, but Jesus tells him to put it away for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (v. 52) As he's being led away, Jesus tells the people off, but admit that this is all fulfilling a prophecy.

Jesus is taken to the high priests. Peter manages to sneak in to watch. They try to find someone who will denounce him so they can kill him, but no one volunteers. Jesus himself continues to talk in riddles. The priest has a tantrum and tears his clothes and finally gets his death sentence for blasphemy. They start beating and spitting on him.

As Peter is watching, a woman recognises him. He denies it, but another person recognises him when he goes outside. Then a cock crows and he remembers how Jesus had told him he would deny him three time before the cock crowed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 25: Don't forget to oil your virgin

Jesus tells another weird parable about what heaven is like:

A man gets married to 10 virgins. Sold!

Just kidding. Five of the virgins are smart and remember to bring oil for their lamps with them to the bridal suite. Five of them are foolish and forget. What a dumb intelligence test.

Even with 10 hot virgins waiting upstairs, the bridegroom doesn't want to leave the party, which is how you know he's gay. While he's still dancing along to YMCA, the virgins get bored and fall asleep. At midnight, though, he finally decides to face the inevitable and deflower his brides.

The five allegedly stupid virgins ask the smart ones for lamp oil, but the smart ones are also catty bitches, so they tell the dumb ones to go buy their own oil. While they're out, the smart wives convince him that five women is really enough for any man, so when they come back he says I know you not. (v. 12) Apparently, this demonstrates how we always have to be prepared should we find ourselves sharing a husband with a bunch of selfish sister wives.

Then he has another weird parable:

A man goes on holiday and trusts his fortune to his three servants while he's away. He gives one slave 5 talents, 2 to another, and 1 to the third. The first servant manages to trade his talents for a house Whoops! Actually, he doubles his money, as does the slave with 2 talents. The third one is as dopey as the oil-lacking virgins and buries his talent.

After a long time, the master comes back and asks about his money. The first two servants tell the story, and he praises them. The third, though, not only gives his master dirty money that he dug out of the ground, but insults him as well, saying he reaps what he doesn't sow and gathers wheat he didn't grow. The master admits it, then criticises him for not making money through usury. He orders the slave to give his talent to the guy with the 10 talents and says For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (v. 25) No wonder Republicans love Jesus so much! The master orders the slave banished, so he founds Occupy Wall Street. Just kidding!

The takeaway? Jesus will come back someday to sit on his golden throne. Some people, the sheep, will sit on his right and go to heaven. The ones on the left, the goats, are going to hell.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 23 & 24: The happiest verse in the whole bible

Chapter 23

Jesus' list of complaints about the Pharisees and prophets: hypocrites, lazy, ostentatious, lovers of fine clothing. Also, they like to be called Father or Rabbi in the public square, and only god should be called either of those. Now I wonder if there are super Christians out there who call their dads something else. But they'll get theirs in the end. Then there's a lot of ranting about swearing and temples and damning to hell.

Chapter 24

Jesus starts describing the end of the world in visceral detail. First, lots of people will claim to be Christ. Then there will be all the usual things: wars, pestilence, plague, famine. But those will only be the beginning! Believers will be tortured by non-believers, until they start to turn on each other. False prophets will promote sin and kill love. But! People who manage to endure all this will get to heaven.

When the apocalypse starts, run for the hills. But only the able-bodied young men, because woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! (v. 19) The Christian apologists are all like, 'Well, duh, it's a siege! Of course the women won't be able to run as fast as the able-bodied men! What do you expect?' These constant reminders of how much the bible just loves fetuses and little babies just warm my heart to its very cockles. Also, hope it doesn't happen in winter or on a Sabbath, because as we all remember, long journeys are prohibited then.

Other signs of the end of the world: no more sun or moon, the stars will fall out of the sky. Eventually, though, his sign will appear in the sky and some angels will swoop down and take the chosen people to heaven. All this will happen within the disciples' lifetimes. Jerry Falwell's bible experiences a system overload at this verse and comes up with: the previously lifted signs wil continue to multiply throughout the church age and reach their ultimate climax at the end of the age in the generation of those who will live to see the entire mater fulfilled in their lifetime. In other words: don't think to hard, kids.

We won't know when any of this is coming, one day you'll be tilling the fields with your friend, and he'll just... disappear into thin air. So be watchful.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 22: God is a Bridezilla

Here's how Jesus describes heaven:

A prince gets married and the king sends his messengers around to all the nobles to invite them to the wedding feast. But the nobles aren't that interested, because let's face it, weddings suck for all involved, and they'd rather spend the weekend chilling at their farms or managing their businesses. One even kills the messengers, he's so unenthused at the idea of toasting the happy couple and watching yet another lame entrance dance set to Chris Brown.

The king, feeling a need to keep up appearances that continues to serve the wedding-industrial complex to this day, instructs his servants to go out into the streets and round up anybody they can find for a free meal and booze. But! One of them is not in a wedding garment! Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but I keep getting these wedding invitations from brides who have clearly thought waaaay to long and hard about their 'special days' and have somehow come to the conclusion that their guests are equally committed to making their fantasies come true, so we're all told to 'dress in black & white' or 'ladies, please wear a long dress' because we're just accessoriess in a demented, living tableau. I'm actually surprised that none of them has done what the king does next, which is have the guy bound up and thrown outside, possibly for torture. At least, no bride has done it that I know of. The moral of the story? For many are called, but few are chosen. (v. 14) I don't get it, either.

Anyway, the Pharisees just pass over this particular bit of crazy talk and ask Jesus whether it's lawful to pay tribute to Caesar. Jesus smells the rat and tells them to bring him some tribute money, which happens to be a penny with Caesar's face stamped on it. This prompts one of his other famous sayings Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. (v. 21) Yay, separation of church and state! Why don't Republican politicians ever quote that one? Anyway, that one stumps the Pharisees, so they go away for a bit.

Of course that isn't the end of annoying skeptics coming along to challenge Jesus' teachings, but at least the next ones, the Sadducees, have an interesting question: Moses said that if a married man dies before he has kids, his brother has to marry his wife and raise the kids as if they belonged to the original husband. But now they have the case of a woman who got married to seven brothers and never managed to get pregnant. Then she died. Which one will she be married to in heaven? Jesus then informs us that there is no sex or marriage in heaven, we all become eunuch angels. Then he tells us God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, (v. 32) which makes all this stuff he's been spouting about getting your reward in the afterlife seem... less rewarding.

The Sadducees are likewise stumped and go to confer with the Pharisees. Then they send forth their next parry: What are the principal commandments? As always, Jesus is ready with an answer: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (v. 37) and Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (v. 39). Now Jesus has a question for the Pharisees: whose son do they think he is? Well, David's. Well, then why does David call him Lord? That shuts them and all the other critics up for good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 20 & 21: Jesus H. Crankypants

Chapter 20

Jesus tells yet another one of his confusing parables, this time about a man who goes to the marketplace to hire some pickers for his vineyards and agrees to pay them a penny for a day's work. He keeps going back at 3-hour intervals and hiring more pickers for the same wage. At the end of the day, he pays those hired at the eleventh hour (v. 9) first. The others grumble, but he points out that they negotiated that wage, so shove it up your butt. Some politicians apparently interpret this passage to mean that Jesus is against minimum wages, but he actually goes on to explain that this somehow demonstrates how few people will actually get into heaven.

With those final, inspiring words, Jesus heads off to Jerusalem to die. He's in the middle of telling his disciples exactly what's going to happen when a pushy stage mother interrupts to say she wants her two sons to sit on either side of him when he gets to heaven. Jesus says he can baptise them and even take them out for dinner, but where they'll sit in heaven is up to god. The other disciples resent these late interlopers, but Jesus tells them to chill.

As they walk, people keep coming up to them and asking for healing. He restores sight to a couple of blind dudes on his way.

Chapter 21

In the effort to leave no prophecy unfulfilled, Jesus instructs his disciples to go and steal an ass and her colt, because Zechariah said he would arrive on two donkeys. Then people start throwing their clothes and branches on the path the donkey takes, in an early version of a red carpet.

Jesus rides the donkeys right into the temple, where he throws the moneychangers out, saying they have made it a den of thieves. (v. 13) I always thought he did that as a kid, but maybe one of the other gospels will contradict this version. Naturally, as soon as the temple is cleared, the sick and lame start showing up, which pisses off the priests, because how on earth are they supposed to extract rent from these people? They ask Jesus if he hears what people are saying, and he's like um, yeah, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? (v. 16)

At some point, Jesus gets bored and goes back to his hotel, which does not serve breakfast. As he's going back into the city to stir shit up, he comes across a fig tree that isn't in season and therefore doesn't have any fruit. Like many of us, he's cranky without breakfast, so he curses the fig tree, which dies. The disciples are amazed and ask how he did that. He answers that with faith, they can do anything they want, even move mountains into the sea. Go ahead and try that one at home, kids.

Having vented his spleen at the tree, Jesus makes his way back to the temple, where the pissed-off priests demand to see his permit. He replies that he'll show them his permit if they'll answer one question for him. They stupidly agree. The question is, was John the Baptist's baptism divine or human? They put their heads together, and come up with, we don't know. Jesus, jaw dropping at how easily outsmarted they were, goes on with the riddle he was planning to follow up with:

A man has two sons. He tells the first one to go and work in the vineyard. The son, having hit the bars a little too hard the night before, at first refuses, but after some McDonald's and an aspirin, goes out and gets to work. The man then goes to his second son with the same instruction. This son says he'll get right on it, then sinks back into the sofa and flicks the TV back on. Jesus asks which son did his father's will. The prophets reply that the first one does. Jesus tells them that hookers and bartenders will get into heaven before them, because they believed in John, and even after they'd seen proof of his divinity, they still didn't repent. I'm pretty sure that's not an answer.

But Jesus isn't done talking circles around the hapless priests. He tells another parable about an absentee landlord who sends his stewards out to the vineyard to collect the rent from his tenants. The tenants beat and kill them. They do the same to another group of stewards. Then they do it again to his son. Finally the landlord himself shows up. Jesus asks the priests what they think will happen next. They predict that the landlord will kill them and rent his land out to less stroppy tenants.

Jesus informs them that he's the landlord and they're the bad tenants. He gives them a chance to convert, but says if they don't he'll grind them into powder. This pisses the priests off, but they daren't arrest him because the people like him so much.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 19: Auto-castration is best

Jesus gets bored in Galilee and heads for Judea, where he keeps on healing people. The Pharisees are also there, nagging him now about divorce. Jesus' famous answer: Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' (v. 4-6) Seems pretty clear to me. And yet, Christians divorce all the time. Just ask Newt Gingrich.

The Pharisees point out that Moses allowed divorce, but Jesus rejoins that it was only allowed because they loved their country so much. Whoops! That was Gingrich again. Actually, their hearts were hard, but god never intended to make divorce legal. He does make one concession: if your wife cheats on you, you may divorce her. But you cannot take another wife, nor can your wife remarry. Again, why are those seven verses in Leviticus so important, but these ones aren't?

The disciples posit that perhaps then it's better to just not get married. Jesus agrees and expresses admiration for eunuchs, whether self-made or born that way, and highly recommends it to people who can handle it.

While this discussion of auto-castration and fornication is going on, a bunch of children show up. What would primitive Fox News say? He lays his hands on them, and the disciples protest. Jesus utters another famous line Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (v. 14). One of the kids has a typical little kid question: what do I have to do to live forever? Jesus evades the question and tells him to follow the commandments. Which ones? Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (v. 18-19) Except if you can count, that's only 6 commandments, and the last one isn't on either of the lists in Exodus.

The boy says he does all those things, so what's next? Jesus replies that he should sell all his worldly goods and join the cause. The boy very sensibly doesn't want to give up all his nice stuff, so he leaves, prompting a spiteful Jesus to say, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (v. 24). The amazed disciples ask who can make it then? Jesus remains evasive, saying only with God all things are possible. (v. 25)

Paul wants more details about how the disciples are going to be rewarded in the afterlife. Jesus promises them 12 thrones from which they can judge the 12 tribes of Israel. People who give up everything, including family, friends and land, will be rewarded a hundredfold.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 18: Torture is okay for subprime lenders

The disciples ask Jesus who is the fairest of them all in heaven. Jesus, ever theatrical, brings in a kid to answer Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (v. 4)

Then he starts talking about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. He repeats the bit about plucking out your eyes, and adds that hands and feet are also fair game. He also advises being nice to everyone, since you never know what disguise god is using today.

Next he has some instructions for what to do when your brother is being a dick: first, talk to him privately, but if he won't listen, gather some witnesses. If not even that works, put it before your church's congregation. If he ignores even that, you can write him off.

Jesus is really into consensus in this chapter, and promises that if two people on earth want something, god will make it so. G'head. Try that one at home with your family. Ask for a million bucks, or if you're the kids and your dad says you can't have a dog because they're smelly and he'll be the one who ends up taking care of it, pray to god to send you one.

Peter isn't satisfied with this loosey-goosey forgive thy brother crap. He wants statistics: how many times do you have to do it before you can write him off completely? Seven? Oh, no. You have to be one tolerant sumbitch I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (v. 22) Now, I'm sure I've forgiven my brother more times than that, but his sins mostly consist of hogging the remote control.

To illustrate, he starts on the story of a king who discovers that he's loaned his slave One Million Dollars, which just strikes me as incredibly poor judgement. How is your slave, with no income or property, ever supposed to pay you back? The king also sees this problem and commands that the servant and his family be sold as repayment. The slave begs for forgiveness and promises he's good for every penny of it. The king stupidly lets him go. The slave immediately goes to another slave who owes him a hundred pence, takes him by the throat, and demands repayment. This second slave tries the Dumb and Dumber trick, but the first slave is clearly smarter than the king, if not a genius, and throws him into prison. The other slaves tell the king, who has the first slave tortured.

So what is Jesus' grand unifying message here? Slavery is soul-destroying? Don't torture people because it's evil? Subprime loans will destroy the entire planet's economy for at least 4 years? No, forgive your brother.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 16 & 17: Jesus is on Team Edward

Chapter 16

Did you know that the signs of the times (v. 3) is biblical? I did not. Anyway, Jesus says it in response to his critics, who are merely asking him to prove that he is what he says he is.

His disciples show up hungry, and he warns them not to buy dinner from the Pharisees, but rather to have faith, like the loaves and fishes incidents. But he's not talking about bread! He's really talking about doctrine.

Jesus gets itchy feet again, so they go to Caesarea. On the way, Jesus asks what people are saying about him. Because he's a 12 year old girl. They say that people think he's the resurrected John the Baptist or a prophet. Still insecure, he asks the disciples what they think he is. Simon Peter quickly responds that he's the son of the living god and is made pope as a reward. Then he starts bumming them out with stories of how he's going to die.

Peter tells him not to be such a downer, and Jesus responds with Get thee behind me, Satan (v. 23) not five verses after making him the pope. Then he says they can come along if they want and they'll be rewarded.

Chapter 17

Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and gets transfigured. Do all religions talk about this? Because I had no idea what it means. In fact, his face gets all glowy and his clothes turn white. So, he took a bath and did some laundry, then.

Moses and Elias then appear. Peter starts to say something about building temples, but god rudely interrupts and tells him to listen to Jesus. He tells them to keep all this a secret until he's risen from the dead. They start pestering him with questions about Elias, and he promises he'll come back and restore things. Then he starts talking about John the Baptist and curing epileptics with prayer, fasting and exorcism. Don't try that at home.

Next he starts talking about how he'll be betrayed and killed, but he'll come back three days later. Finally, the arrive in Capernum, where a toll collector asks for their money. Jesus balks at collecting entry fees for strangers but letting citizens in for free, which I completely agree with him about. But rather than offend the people, he tells Peter to go fishing and to take the coin from he mouth of the first fish he catches.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 15: But mom! Jesus says I don't have to wash my hands

The Pharisees are about again, with their strongest argument yet for not following Jesus: he and his followers transgress the tradition of the elders, for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. (v. 2) That shit is gross, yo, especially in a culture that doesn't have things like clean running water or antibiotics.

Jesus has a counter-argument of course: the Pharisees defy god's traditions when they don't kill children who fail to honour their parents. Pharisees: 1, Jesus: 0. And wash your damned hands before you prepare or eat food.

Jesus stews over this argument for a bit, then decides to go for victory in numbers. He calls his multitudes over and tells them Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (v. 10-11) Nevertheless, wash your damned hands before you prepare or eat food. Then he comes out with one of his less charitable parables: Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch (v. 14)

Peter asks him to explain himself, and even Jesus is exasperated at this point, but he explains: those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. (v. 18-20) Um, yes it does, Jesus. Eating without washing your hands is disgusting and can make you sick.

Jesus gets tired of arguing and goes over to Tyre and Sidon, where he is immediately accosted by a Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed. He ignores her and she follows him, wailing loudly. The disciples are annoyed and ask him to send her away, and he answers I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (v. 24) She starts grovelling at his feet, and he says he's stretched thin as it is, and helping her would be taking his much-needed resources away from his flock. She still won't shut up, so finally he heals the daughter just to make her go away.

Next he goes up a mountain. And people gather round with the sick and injured. He heals them and they start to worship him.

Three days later, everyone is still worshipping, but food supplies have run drastically low. So he repeats the loaves and fishes trick, then leaves for Magdala.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 14: Too many Herods

Another Herod, not the one who ordered the killing of all the babies and subsequently died before any of them could be a threat to his rule back in chapter 2, thinks Jesus is the reincarnated John the Baptist, who was in prison back in chapter 11 but has apparently died off-screen.

We get the story in flashback. John was in prison not for baptising people, as you might think, but for telling the king's brother that his marriage was illegitimate. Herod wasn't planning to kill him, fearing riots, but then his niece danced so nicely at his birthday party that he let her make one wish. Her mother had coached her to say Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. (v. 8) Which must have really sucked, because what she probably wanted was a pony and instead she gets a bloody head in a basket. Herod is reluctant, but he's even more reluctant to deal with the whining and sulking that comes with reneging on a promise to a teenage girl, so he does it. And she gets the head and takes it to her mother.

His followers take the body and bury it. Jesus hears about the death and goes out into the desert, because heaven forbid he let an opportunity to be dramatic go by. A bunch of people follow him and he starts healing. He gets so into it that soon it's evening and nobody's eaten anything all day. The disciples tell him to call it a day so everyone can have supper, but he says they have plenty of food. The disciples point out that five loaves and two fishes aren't going to cut it, as the crowd is up to 5000 people. Jesus tells them to bring the food to them, then looks up to heaven, then tells them to pass it out. In the end there are 12 baskets left over.

After dinner, Jesus finally does send the multitudes away, and tells his disciples to get on a ship and he'll meet them on the other side. Then he goes up a mountain and prays a bit. While he's there, a storm blows up on the sea, but he walks across it to the ship. The disciples are scared and think it's a spirit. He assures them that he isn't, but Peter says if he's really Jesus, he should ask him to come out onto the water as well. So Jesus does and of course Peter starts to doubt and sinks a bit, but Jesus lifts him up with an O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (v. 31) and he's fine. Don't try that one at home unless you can swim.

Anyway, a lot more people are converted.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 13: Parable fatigue

Jesus tries to take a day off and go to the beach, but his followers quickly find him and surround him. So he goes out to a ship and starts telling them parables. The first is about people sowing seeds, some of which end up in inhospitable conditions and other of which flourish. The disciples come along and ask him why he can't just say things outright rather than speaking in riddles. Jesus gives a confusing answer about rich people and the mysteries of heaven and prophecies.

Jesus then explains the parable: the seeds that ended up in poor soil are people who hear the word and believe it, but turn away when times are tough. They're going to hell. The seeds in good soil are the stalwarts and will go to heaven.

He then tells another confusing parable about a man who sows his fields, but then his slaves go along at night and sow weeds. He blames his enemies. He tells some more about how heaven is a mustard seed: crappy as a seed, but awesome as a tree, and about a woman mixing leaven in with her flour. Apparently a prophet predicted he would speak in parables and damnit, he is determined that that one will come true.

Jesus gets tired of reciting weird stories, so he sends the multitudes away and goes inside with his disciples, who demand an explanation of the parables. Seeds: good Christians. Weeds: non-believers, who will be burnt in hell like the weeds. I can't believe anyone was confused by that. Then he tells more parables about believers being rewarded and heaven while sinners burn in hell at the end of the world.

After his speech, Jesus decides to head home for a bit. Turns out his family isn't really speaking to him, so he petulantly refuses to do many good works while he's there.