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.

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