-Rev Melissa Fain-
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
Matthew 12:38-42 CEB
Here is my go-to on Biblical interpretation: We should read scriptures for action. What should we, the reader and listener, be doing? If the action falls on someone else, we've done it wrong.
This is why many Pharisee centered sermons get it wrong. Many take them as opportunities to pat their own congregation on the back. The Cliff Notes version being: "Ain't it great we're not them! Look at what those silly Pharisees did? Yep. Jesus is good. Go enjoy your lunch.,"
Anyone within the church should see themselves as the Pharisees. We are prone to fall into habit, and to avoid accepting wrongdoing. That's all of us. None of us want to believe we could be doing something wrong, but at some point all of us find failure. That's the nature of the imperfect human.
In the scripture above, Jesus is in a verbal battle. The Pharisee's not only want to crucify Jesus, they want a reason to do it. They were not happy because Jesus was, almost bluntly, saying "God is not yours." This is not to say God excludes. That's not what those words mean. The above scripture puts the Pharisee's on the outside, and the Gentiles (the outsiders) as those from Nineveh. The "Queen of the South" are the Gentiles. Jesus is basically telling the Pharisee's that the power is going to shift, and those who were hurt by their power grabs, will be vocal about their pain.
Ain't it great we're not them?
Well... we have a choice. We are the Pharisee's: Insiders who are clueless to the needs outside our own context. We are also Nineveh: Someone's enemy who God is calling to be part of the flock. In both cases, God is calling not for our own benefit, but for the sake of those we might be unknowingly (or sadly knowingly) hurting.
Here's my other part of Biblical interpretation- it hits upon the universal story. I believe that story is about God's love for the creation, and the redemption of that order. God calls us to that choice because God loves us. God wants us to see beyond ourselves. God doesn't belong solely to one group of people. God belongs to everyone. God is not yours.
Let Us Pray:
Dear God, help me see you through someone else's eyes. Amen.