Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 35 of Lent, Monday, April 14, 2014

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

                  Jesus of Nazareth, Mathew 15:24 (NRSV)

Three people were killed at two separate Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kansas on Sunday.  As of this writing, rumor had it that the suspect was an older man who was shouting Neo-Nazi phrases as he was arrested.  

Seeing as how this was done right before the beginning of Passover, it certainly looks like it was fueled by hatred for Jews.
Passover begins this evening - unfortunately with a cloud.

As we heard the stories on Passion Sunday and approach Good Friday this week, there are elements written into the text that seem to be antisemitic. I didn't have time to deal with this in Sunday's sermon but after this violence erupted, it seems like a good time to address it.

In Sunday's scripture reading for Matthew, chapter 27, verse 25 reads, "Then the people as a whole answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children!'" in reference to Pilate's attestation of the innocence of Jesus. 

As Christians, we need to understand a few things about texts like this as well as the Gospel of John which often refers to "the Jews" as antagonists rather than as fellow citizens.

There should be no debate that Jesus was Jewish.  His disciples were Jewish.  He said things to indicate that his mission was primarily to Jews.

When the Gospels were written down, this was when Christianity was a minority break-away movement within Judaism.  How distinct it would be from Judaism would depend upon which community you were looking at.  

When I put on my scholar's hat, the words from Matthew 27:25 sound more like words coming from a heated debate among Christian and non-Christian Jews in a synagogue setting 50 years after the crucifixion rather than what a crowd would say in unison at a public execution.

References to "the Jews" as antagonists in John's Gospel also sound different when lifted up by an oppressed minority (which is what they would have been when written) than by the majority in power.

The apostle Paul still identified himself as Jewish and still understood that God's salvation was intended for the Jews.  As Paul states in Romans 12:9, "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;" These are important words for Christians to remember when confronting any kind of racism.

Today, I am in solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters and will keep them in my prayers as they begin Passover with such tragic and hateful news.

Photo by Eczebulun (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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