Day 239: Matthew 26:45-46

Then he returned to the disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”

Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing that it will be the place where he will be killed.  He walks straight into the fire to deliver the news that God is no longer on board with the whole Temple worship thing.  God is using Jesus to start a revolution of love.  And God is taking away their temple.  He is taking the whole thing down.

On his last night on earth Jesus goes off to pray.  He takes three of his disciples with him, hoping that they will keep him company and use their time effectively by following his example.  He hopes that they will pray.  Instead, they fall asleep.  Three times, in fact.  They can’t stay awake.

Now, Jesus tells them that it’s over.  He has asked God if it is absolutely necessary and he has apparently received the reassurance he was looking for.  He has prayed it out and he’s ready for whatever comes next.  He’s good to go.

Again Jesus left them, went away, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then he returned to the disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”

Jesus knows both who is going to betray him and when it will happen.  He has received divine revelation about what’s going to happen each step of the way in this entire process.  He knows that Judas will betray him. He knows that he will be murdered by the religious authorities.  He knows that it will happen in Jerusalem.  He knows that Peter will deny him.  He knows that he will be resurrected from the dead.  He knows that he will return.  In addition to being able to predict the future, Jesus could also read people’s minds:

  • Jesus perceived what they were thinking, and so he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things? (Matthew 9:4).
  • Jesus knew what they were thinking, and so he said to them, “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart. (Matthew 12:25)
  • Jesus knew what they were saying, and so he said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? (Matthew 26:13).

I wonder how he knew?  Did these things come to him when he was praying?  Did God speak to him with words, like he spoke to Moses or Samuel?  Did these revelations just pop into his head as concepts, or were they visions like those of Isaiah?  Or were they dreams like his father Joseph had?  There isn’t any evidence that he was visited by angels like Abraham was, although he did have a conversation with Moses and Elijah.  I wish he had shared more about the logistics of how he knew these things.  He had supernatural knowledge.

We know from the Law of Moses that there are certain things related to the supernatural that are strictly prohibited:

  • Praying to other gods – Absolutely prohibited (Exodus 23:13).  And of course there are hundreds of scriptures about worshiping other gods.  I suppose people would worship those gods for protection, supernatural knowledge, and other benefits.
  • Magic and witchcraft – I assume this means we aren’t supposed to try to control other people through supernatural means.  Or any means at all. It was actually another one of those capital punishment laws. (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 18:10).
  • Consulting with the spirits of the dead – I guess the purpose of this would be like mediums, séances, Ouija boards and that kind of stuff.  Another capital offense. (Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:11).
  • Asking people who consult with the spirits of the dead for advice – Sounds like fortunetelling to me.  Not a capital offense, but it will make you ritually unclean, which means you will be thrown out of town. (Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6)
  • Divination – Based on the word “divine,” divination is based on the assumption that there is divine knowledge out there that human beings can evoke or tap into.  It’s really a catch-all term that includes all means of trying to gain information through supernatural means. Popular divination activities in Biblical times were astrology, divining rods, and examining the livers of animals.  Today people are still interested in astrology and divining rods, but also other things like palm reading, crystal ball gazing, Tarot cards, and psychic hotlines.

The Law of Moses is clear that there is one and only one God, and throughout the Bible he communicates with humans through prayer, prophets, angels, signs and wonders, visions, dreams, and spoken words.  But the line between what is allowed and not allowed gets pretty blurry sometimes.  For example, wasn’t Jesus consulting with the dead (Moses and Elijah) at the Transfiguration (See Day 151)?  What about Catholics praying to Mary and all those dead saints for wisdom or a word of comfort?  Isn’t that consulting with the spirits of the dead?  Why is it divination when you meditate on a beautiful piece of crystal, but it’s OK to gaze at a candle during prayer time?  Why is a candle different from a rock?  They are both just inanimate objects. What about those three “wise men/3 kings” who watched the skies (and were therefore considered to be astrologers) and in so doing predicted the birth of Jesus?  They weren’t Jews, and there’s no sign that they believed in the God of the Jews.  Were they actually evil, even though they are celebrated for bringing Jesus gifts at his birth?  What about people who make a living predicting about business, medical, or cultural medical trends?  Is this divination?  And fortune cookies?  And horoscopes?  Where do you draw the line between divination and entertainment?

I’ve got a lot of questions about this stuff, but Jesus provides no answers.   I guess the answer is that is in that good old advice that we should worship the creator, not the creation.  For example:

  • Do not be tempted to worship and serve what you see in the sky—the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Lord your God has given these to all other peoples for them to worship.  (Deuteronomy 4:19).
  • When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places—what are human beings, that you think of them; mere mortals, that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4).

And the proper attitude toward prophecy and the supernatural was probably best modeled by prophetic figures like Joseph, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Daniel:

  • The king said to him [Joseph], “I have had a dream, and no one can explain it. I have been told that you can interpret dreams.”  Joseph answered, “I cannot, Your Majesty, but God will give a favorable interpretation.” (Genesis 41:15-16).
  • A prophet named Elijah, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to King Ahab, “In the name of the Lord, the living God of Israel, whom I serve, I tell you that there will be no dew or rain for the next two or three years until I say so.” (I Kings 17:1).
  • The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, has said that he will put an iron yoke on all these nations and that they will serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia. The Lord has said that he will make even the wild animals serve Nebuchadnezzar.” (Jeremiah 28:14).
  • The king said to Daniel, “Can you tell me what I dreamed and what it means?” Daniel replied, “Your Majesty, there is no wizard, magician, fortuneteller, or astrologer who can tell you that.  But there is a God in heaven, who reveals mysteries. He has informed Your Majesty what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you the dream, the vision you had while you were asleep. (Daniel 2:26-27).

I also think that the key element is that we should seek to surrender to God, to become immersed in his presence rather than trying to use God to get him to do what we want him to do.  In these examples it’s not about what Joseph, Elijah, Jeremiah, or Daniel says.  They all make it very clear that it’s about what God says.  They take no credit for themselves.  When we hook up with God we may get knowledge, but it’s not because of anything we’ve done to make it happen.  It’s about listening, not manipulation.  Jesus always said, “Listen if you have ears.”  (See Day 106).  It’s about listening and watching and being aware.  I think God is always speaking. I believe his presence encompasses all knowledge and truth – past, present, and future.

Sometimes I think that the church has tried to ignore the words of Jesus and change the message of his life into magic.  I think Jesus challenged us to build the Kingdom of God on earth by living peaceful, harmonious, compassionate lives.  Instead, the message of the church is that all of this will fall out of the sky on some day in the future because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross or his second coming or something.  It’s like the difference between working hard to have a good life and waiting to win the Lotto.  The message of Jesus has been corrupted and degraded into magic and myth.  We use Christian incantations and rituals to make God like us and do what we want him to do.  Just like the pagans who sacrificed their children to the gods.

Jesus, on the other hand, taught that if we repent, change our way of looking at things, clean up our act, change our social paradigm, and work hard at doing what he has taught us, we can be victorious and overcome the powers of darkness. Jesus didn’t just sit around and pray for people to change their ways.  He went out – teaching, preaching, and healing.  He confronted the authorities and worked hard to make the world a better place.  He didn’t just wait.

When it comes to the Kingdom of God it’s not a matter of magic or manipulation.  It’s a matter of doing what God tells us to do and having faith that his way is the way of eternal life.  It’s about being at peace and harmony with all of creation.  It is surrendering into the power of good.  It is the opposite of manipulation.  The opposite of magic.

Anyway, back to the scripture.  Jesus knew that they were coming to arrest him and he was ready.  He had supernatural knowledge of his own demise, which underscores his courage, strength and integrity.  He was absolutely focused on doing what God wanted him to do.  He was determined to do the right thing, even though he knew the consequences.  And now as the perverted wheels of Jewish justice begin to turn, the words of Jesus become few and far between as Matthew’s synopsis of Jesus’ life reaches its climax.

What does this scripture say to you?

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