Friday, October 19, 2007

We Need Some Focus...

"Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." (Matthew 11:2-6)

Just what was the focus of Jesus' mission while on this earth? Well Jesus does give an explanation in Matthew 11 and it is answering a question John the Baptist had (who must of been doubting Jesus on some level). I am shocked by what Jesus says to him - 'tell John what you HEAR and SEE'. Two levels there - what's being said and what he is doing...what is he doing?

(1) Blind recieve sight - action

(2) Lame Walk - action

(3) Lepers Cleansed - action

(4) Deaf Hear - action

(5) Dead are Raised - action

(6) Poor have the gospel preached to them: words

1/6th of the things listed there require mere words - and those words are directed to the 'poor' of all things (ex: like modern day ghetto's) - a segment of society that still remains forgotten. 5/6th's are about 'doing something' - getting involved - and seeing a process through.

Now we likely won't be healing any of those ailments but the pattern is set there by our rabbi - 'doing' something is 5 times as important as 'talking' about something. And nowhere in that do we see anyone being judged for their 'ailments' or 'position in society' (if you think about it - they all are 'poor' in some way). It seems to me Jesus saw the importance of helping where and when it was needed.

So how does this all relate? What can we do? Basically the church needs to evolve into this vision again - one of programs and help for those in need of it. I am not totally sure but here are some suggestions:

(1) Help those without a vision find one
(2) Help those that struggle all alone find acceptance and someone to work alongside them
(3) Help the outcast in society find a place to belong
(4) Help those who don't understand something in life to find knowledge about it
(5) Help those with no hope in life to find that hope in life - allow them a reason to live
(6) Work in the poorer areas of society for social change (preach to the poor)

Basically get involved and it's really that easy. If it wasn't to good for the 'teacher' then it shouldn't be too good for the student.

14 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

7) Help those who are hurting to not take offense at Jesus.

Often when prayer is unanswered (i.e. Jesus did not get John the Baptist out of jail) people may take offense at God for not rescuing them.

Yeal said...

This is going to be a long comment, SocietyVS, but...I was thinking about your post last night as I was up studying and have some thoughts about it.

The original passage is Isaiah 29:18-19 "On that day the deaf will hear the words of a book and from darkness and blackness the eyes of the blind people will see. The meek will increase their joy in Adonai, and the poor among the people will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel."

First off, I noticed it's not that the deaf will just be able to hear, but that the deaf will be able to hear the words of a book; not words from heavens, words from a book, divrei sefer. What book is that?

Is it Torah, that awful book I revere, but so many see as just containing an angry God and foolish rules?

What are the words of this book? I would say those which are repeated over and over: Show kindness to the stranger, the orphan, the widow. Then added from Micah: to love justice and walk humbly with God.

Now some might say Isaiah is prophecy and that the book is really your book. OK. What are the words of your book that they will hear?

Is this book perhaps Talmud, the book that tells Jews how to live Jewish lives? The message of Talmud would have to be living a life of mitzvot which would include that caring for others and pursuing justice.

Is this book the Koran, The Book of Mormon, Scientology? There are many books out there considered sacred to various groups, all of which they say contain what the deaf need to hear. I haven't read them so I couldn't say what their messages would be.

I wonder if all these books have the same basic bottom line; if some of them do? Or is this seen as one of those changes made to the original text so that there is no longer any book from which to hear words?

The Isaiah text is quite vague about this book. There is no definite article, so it's not 'the book'. Hey, maybe it will be my book, coming soon to your local bookstore....in my dreams.

Second:
Your text says the gospel will be preached to the poor, while Isaiah says the poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. I'm looking at this a couple different ways.

A. Your text is a paraphrase of the original text, preaching the gospel should make the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. If the gospel is just words, however, can someone really rejoice in these words if they're hungry and homeless, or if they're stressed about bills and providing for their kids? And if the gospel is more than just words, why doesn't the text say 'the gospel will be shown to the poor' or something like that? Where's a Greek expert? Does the word translated as 'preach' have any other meanings?

B. Your text is saying the opposite of the original. Instead of the poor rejoicing in the Holy One of Israel, Jesus is now saying they should be content with his words. There is no rejoicing for the poor right now. Perhaps they are to be content with nothing here because they're going to heaven one day, hallelujah?

These methods of looking at the changes in this text are valid within Judaism. Words are removed, words are expanded upon, and words are changed to mean the opposite of the original.

Enjoyed your post and enjoyed the studying I was led to as a result. Thanks.

Jim Jordan said...

Yael makes some good points, but we also must look at the context. There is still a significant stretch of time before Jesus goes to the cross. John wants to know if he is the Messiah, the promised one. Jesus sends this encoded message back to John paraphrasing Isaiah 28:18-19. What is different?

Isaiah - "On that day the deaf will hear the words of a book and from darkness and blackness the eyes of the blind people will see. The meek will increase their joy in Adonai, and the poor among the people will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel."

Jesus to John the Baptist - "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." (Matthew 11:2-6)


OK, I made it a little easier for you. This begs the question; Who raises the dead? Any ideas?

Yael - If the gospel is just words, however, can someone really rejoice in these words if they're hungry and homeless, or if they're stressed about bills and providing for their kids?

Yes, because the gospel is much more than mere words. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel did a survey of local homeless people. When asked what gave them the most hope, the answer was nearly unanimous - their Bible.
Regards.

Yael said...

Ah, but I would say they were asked what they have now which gave them the most hope. They have nothing but their Bible so of course that gives them the most hope. Are they truly rejoicing? Or are they just grabbing hold in desperation?

The higher you go up the economic scale the fewer people there are clinging to that Bible. Perhaps we only rephrase Marie Antoinette for the poor, instead of let them eat cake, we say let them read their Bibles?

Good comments, Jim. I'll pass on the resurrection question, however, since that's not my belief. The book part is interesting to me since it comes from Isaiah, part of Tanakh as well. Certainly I place great value in this book, but when it comes to tzedekah, a book alone, even this book, seems quite inadequate.

OneSmallStep said...

I always liked the section of this in Matthew 11:19 -- God's wisdom is proved right by its results, which very much ties into the list you've laid out here, with 5/6th of the things on the list being actions. And actions produce results, whether they be good or bad.

Matthew 11 also sets up a contrast between John the Baptist, who neither ate nor drank, and was called possessed. Jesus does both, and its called a glutton and a drinker, and a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners. And Jesus ends that with saying how one can determine the wisdom of God: it's almost as though it's not *who* is doing the action, but what the produce of that action is. The wisdom of God isn't tied into one specific person, or anything about that person.

Yael,

**If the gospel is just words, however, can someone really rejoice in these words if they're hungry and homeless, or if they're stressed about bills and providing for their kids? And if the gospel is more than just words, why doesn't the text say 'the gospel will be shown to the poor' or something like that? **

If it's just words, then I would say no. In many ways, words are meaningless unless there's an action to back them up. Writers here all the time about "show, don't tell." Showing is the action, telling is simply saying a few words. We evaluate someone's sincerity based in their actions, not their words. If someone says that they are kind, we expect that we'll see that kindness in action. Or if our spouse says that they love us -- aren't those words meaningless unless we've seen them supported through actions?

To your second question, it would probably depend on how one defines "the gospel." If the gospel is that the poor will be taken care of, or shown justice, then the poor are hearing something that they can soon expect to see in action, through others, or even through God.

Yael said...

If the gospel is that the poor will be taken care of, or shown justice, then the poor are hearing something that they can soon expect to see in action, through others, or even through God.

Should the words be that the poor will be taken care of? Things probably would never change then since they would ever be waiting for the next handout.

Shown justice would allow both the temporary taking care of along with the long term being able to take care of more things themselves as time goes on, at least I would hope so.

I would say 'through others' and 'through God' are the same. Otherwise I'd have some real issues with God's priorities when kids are abused and crying for help but someone prays and then finds $10 on the street.

SocietyVs said...

Thanks Bob for that point you made - it's a worthy addition to the list I put there.

"but that the deaf will be able to hear the words of a book; not words from heavens, words from a book, divrei sefer. What book is that?" (Yael)

I like this view - 'a book'. My guess would be Isaiah is calling people to the Torah - as you mention in your comment. Or maybe Isaiah was writing his stuff down - so he called it 'a book' - not to be confused with 'the book' (Torah).

"What are the words of this book? I would say those which are repeated over and over: Show kindness to the stranger, the orphan, the widow. Then added from Micah: to love justice and walk humbly with God." (Yael)

I like this view - it's also what I am using as a paradigm for my life and value system. There is something very noble about wanting to help those in need of it - namely the poorer aspects of society - like it's an inherently 'good thing' to do.

"If the gospel is just words, however, can someone really rejoice in these words if they're hungry and homeless, or if they're stressed about bills and providing for their kids?" (Yael)

But the gospel is the accumulation of all those things added together (is how I see it) - not that the preaching aspect is aside from the others - but part of the same ingredients in a pie. I would actually say the gospel is comparable to the recipe for the pie - why is that we use certain things for this pie? Once you understand the recipe - all things fall into place and can be changed (like pie flavors).

"Instead of the poor rejoicing in the Holy One of Israel, Jesus is now saying they should be content with his words." (Yael)

I actually don't see that there - what they should be content with is that 5/6 th's of what he is doing is something about the actual problems - the other 1/6th is kind of like 'now I am going to show you what to do - by showing you the recipe'.

"These methods of looking at the changes in this text are valid within Judaism. Words are removed, words are expanded upon, and words are changed to mean the opposite of the original." (Yael)

Just maybe the disciples are accurate in calling Jesus a rabbi? I think this is where I can gain a lot of learning - is that you can pick something out like that - and I knew full well that actual passage was not quoted verbatim - but was a 'feel' for some idea in Isaiah.

And I am back - Yael called me back to my own blog and to start getting in the dialoue again - thanks!

SocietyVs said...

"Matthew 11 also sets up a contrast between John the Baptist, who neither ate nor drank, and was called possessed. Jesus does both, and its called a glutton and a drinker" (OSS)

Or - you can't judge a book by it's covers? I see both of these people being mis-represented in their days - and people call them certain things (label them) - yet do not really know them (it would seem).

This happened on a certain blog just a little while ago - I do believe that person was called a 'non-Christian' and was then 'shunned' by a said group for what he said - and he was only being friends with gay people and enjoyed Halloween (lol). But wisdom is justified by her children? I really enjoyed your point OSS.

"I would say 'through others' and 'through God' are the same" (Yael)

I would also say - I am on that train also. There are certain times when Paul or James point to the idea 'loving your neighbor is loving God' (they are so tied together they are synonamous with one another).

Also I have been toying with the idea God has provided for all (it is there) - just we aren't sharing it (on a mass level or even on a community level) - so we get this inequality in communities and economies (ex: inner city ghetto's to suburbia). Does God care about these things or is this of no concern to Him? If I went by normal church theology - I would come to the conclusion He does not - why - because we do not. Even here the idea of what 'we know' effects 'what we do'...but we see the limit of human compassion to one's knowledge - not to the limit of what God must see?

Jim Jordan said...

Yael said Good comments, Jim. I'll pass on the resurrection question, however, since that's not my belief.

Thanks. I have a question that your perspective would be greatly needed on. Isaiah 8:14 says,

And He shall be a sanctuary [a sacred and indestructible asylum to those who reverently fear and trust in Him]; but He shall be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Your response "since that's not my belief" made me think of this. In your exegesis, what does the prophecy above refer to?
Thanks.

Yael said...

Jim,
I have been pondering for several days now if I should respond to this or not. I do not debate Christian proof texts but there was the small possibility that this was a sincere question, which I might then consider answering.

However, after glancing at your blog, I can now answer. According to you, you are a 'perfected Jew'. Surely anyone who claims to be a Jew, and a perfected one at that, would know Jewish interpretations of the usual verses Christians have thrown in our faces for 2000 years? Why ask me?

Jim Jordan said...

Yael,
I'm a Christian, true. But I wasn't planning an ambush for you. I really want to understand how that and so many verses in the OT could be interpreted apart from Jesus Christ.

I would add that the delimiter "modern" or "post-Christian" should be inserted between "know" and "Jewish" in your last comment.

My next step, then, is to research modern Jewish exegesis of prophecy on my own.

Frankly, I don't understand your offense. I am not offended that you do not accept Christ as your Savior. By definition, you are Jewish, not Messianic Jewish but Jewish. I believe your people missed the explicit meaning of God's own millenial epistle to your nation. But then that is consistent with being a Christian. It is just as illogical for me to apologize for accepting Christ as you apologizing for not accepting Him.

For me to be a nominal Christian is to be nothing! Real dialog does not happen unless the people in the dialog are real. I'm pleased to know you are not a nominal Jew.

Expect no less of me as a Christian.

God bless you.

Yael said...

I am not bothered that you are a Christian, I am bothered by your calling yourself a 'perfected Jew'. You are not a Jew. Period. Why not be content with being called a Christian?

I believe your people missed the explicit meaning of God's own millenial epistle to your nation. and I really want to understand how that and so many verses in the OT could be interpreted apart from Jesus Christ.

So, you think we have misunderstood our texts but you don't know how we interpret our texts? How then do you know we've missed the explicit meaning? Certainly you have the right to conclude we're wrong, but I'm not sure what is the basis for your conclusion.

Now, I'm not trying to be mean or angry or snooty. Even if as you say, your question is sincere, I still would hesitate to answer it. Proof texts are just such a waste of everyone's time. You think they're a slam dunk for your side, we look at them as why do you get so excited about these things.

However, if you really would like to have such conversations with Jews, Messiahtruth is a good place for arguing. Any one can start a thread there. Jews For Judaism I don't think allows debate anymore but I could be wrong. Outreach Judaism with Rabbi Singer had mp3s about a variety of topics related to Christianity and Judaism. He also has online radio programs where I think most of his listeners are Christians. He talks a lot about prophecy, a topic of little interest to most of us Jews. Listeners can ask questions live on the air, btw so you could probably ask your question directly to a rabbi.

Perhaps one of these sources would help you find the answers you desire. Good luck with your studies.

Jim Jordan said...

Thank you for the websites and info, Yael.

Yael said...

You're welcome. Beliefnet Judaism Debate is another place to debate if you want. If you just want to ask questions, Beliefnet has a Learn about Judaism section. I still think Rabbi Singer is the best though. Certainly he's the most civil and has a good sense of humor as well. If you want to listen to some right wing Jews...Israel National Radio. I used to listen to this station sometimes, but my left wing sensibilities can't stomach them anymore!