Mt27v1 'Early in the morning..': cinematically the sun comes up, it's a new day dawning.. The moment of daybreak, so evocative of new mercies and graces, here connotes unwanted light spilling into an illegal courtroom, where an illicit trial was being concluded, and the hasty scuttling away of evidence from a merciless all-nighter. Vampires and werewolves are we who switch a day face on, masking a murky interior. Rather be day-timers, day-light using, alfresco, fresh air lovers of the light because 'we belong to the day,' 1Th5v8; and 'the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness' Rm13v12; because 'if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.' Jn11v10.
Mt27v2 'Early in the morning.. they bound it up, led it downstairs, handed the black bag of complicated shame over to the authorities.' Think of this every time you put the bins out. It is a not dissimilar moral outsourcing of our dirty work to 'the system'. (See Klein on Morton's 'no away' goo.gl/4oK15u) So much of my sin is invisibly exported in black bags, because I have legitimated putting the moral burden of sustainability on some civic structure, while I indulge over-packaged consumption by night. Apart from the cross, there is no 'away', ours is a closed system of crimes and consequences. Apart from the cross we have only blame-shifting, out-sourcing, scape-goating, guilt-obscuring techniques to save our tribe at the expense of another. We live under Roman rule, some of the civilisation it affords us is not victimless. But it doesn't have to be this way.
The damage is done
But mercies are still new
And symbolic gestures
Are where salvation
Mt27v4 I am trying to write about Levinas' account of responsibility, which is stronger than we might think can be bourne. He that responsibility begins simply in the basic pre-verbal orientation of non-indifference to the other - that is, to any other one faces. And one finds that one is responsibility even for their responsibilities. There is nothing that is not my business. No grounds upon which Judas can be dismissed from my life. Too much?
Mt27v6 Beyond the obvious duplicity of the chief priests declining the money they themselves soiled, this passage raises the question of money's launderability. Certain monies are not permitted in Kingdom purposes, ESVSB cites Dt23v18 as the root of this prohibition, a passage that also speaks against charging interest. Should SpaceMax receive lottery money? Does money carry with it some spirit of its past use and association?
Mt27v7-8 The field of blood is also the potter's field. & it feels like a suicide, like cheap useless clay only good for dry bones, & I am these death images, I am a refugee dying unknown, a guilty suicide scream. But there is a potter, & it is not true that he just leaves me to die, though I tell him so, note the suicidal of clay to potter in Is45v10. Yet Jer18 & Is64v8 should also tremble as Ps139 & Eph2v10 then Is65v17 & 2Cor5v17. Made & loved to live.
Mt27v9-10 We live in a prophetic reality. What is prophecy? Oddly there is a hiccup in the referencing here - a passage clearly in Zc is ascribed to Jr - so the narrative hammer, as it were, is broken and the brief conspicuity of the mechanisms of prophecy brings to the fore the question of the nature of prophecy's essentials which we might otherwise take for granted. Matthew has a familiarity with God's pictures of promise and he had a frame of expectation, an understanding that this life is foreknown, that there is an author God who is weaving details into our history that reinforce his working in our present and future, beautifully. In a prophetic reality we should expect to see patterns, foreshadowings, coherence, recurrence, intentionality, poetry, symbolism.. we live in a parabolic reality and this is exciting. While yet somehow the error allows a gentleness, an elegant anexactitude (Delanda/Husserl) to the mode by which God makes himself gloriously known, while yet, somehow deniable. I am struck this morning by the Jesus of Zc11v7 "So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered" - this he was and is, this he calls us to be, relentlessly available to the most broken of people. Thank you God.
Mt27v11-12 and why is that a question for you? Why that narrative, why that phantasy? Sometimes Jesus does this - points to the thing behind the thing and then only leaves a silence to thrash around in, the lack of an answer. And it is quite hellish, worse than Sissyphus, who at least had gravity & the nobility of aching muscles. To fall through silence with nothing to hold on to is much worse. Part of the blackness of good friday is the vertigo of a blank white void. But Sunday is coming. The wood at the bottom of the boat smells real as you claw towards him in the storm, & he calms the storm to a different kind of silence. The therapists know there are different types of silence, that can devastate or heal. A new silence us coming; the split-second after He says your name un the garden & you realise its Him. We watch an early Easter morning fire together in silence. The flames permit no void. Alleuia, Christ is Risen.
Mt27v13-14 This is the passage by which Philip leads the Ethiopian eunuch to faith. Silence before a slaughter demands an answer. Unprecedented calm before such a storm of injustice, such composure in the very teeth of death needs to be explained. Jesus' silence here is a function of his being a wide open empty vessel for accusation, a shock absorber for affliction, a great black hole for oppressions, a white blank page for condemnations, an open plug hole in the moral universe draining the dregs through him, with no strainer, with nothing bubbling back. I am struck by this lamb's shearing. Jesus was to be sheared: no one has ever been so naked a Jesus on the cross, stripped of every scrap of clothing, dignity, friendship, protection. Utter shame. My silences are often silences of shame. They are misplaced silences, when I have so much to say, so much to be unashamed about, so much to be unashamed about, so much to tell the Ehtiopian eunuchs.
Mt27v15-16 Do i tend to think that liberation in Christ is more that of a roman governor? Uncertain, arbitrary, impersonal, just for a few, a means-end spectacle without substance? Do I slink away believing I've escaped the death penalty, but without joy, still guilty underneath, a result of chance rather than love? Blamelessness & Belovedness knows more than Barabbas does.
Mt27v17-18 Jesus Barabbas or Jesus "the Christ" (scare quotes Pilate's own) the crowd are taunted to literally choose which 'Jesus' they want. Don't we all. Somewhat in a Life of Brian sense, we pursue a lookalike, Messianic variation, a simulated saviour going by the same name, accidentally or intentionally. And the Jesus we want is the easier one, the more macho one, the murderous nationalistic guerilla leader. .. 'Envy' - "I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller.." "I'ma tell you who I be..I'ma make you hate me, cause you ain't me" Deadly comparatives, the slippery slope of sideways glances, envy entails the poisonous abstraction of the irreducible person, envy seeks identity horizontally, competitively. A flimsy way to measure your value, envy is an immaturity, but it is also deadly sin, pointlessly but necessarily antagonistic, it kills both the subject and object of those who enter into it.
Mt27v19-20 waking up from the dream and a sense of something lingers at the periphery, nagging. And then it rushes on you, in remembering, all at once, a whole other world, with a different set of signs & signifiers. Dreams can give us a whole landscape, & there is a whole other landscape, a whole other world inhabiting this one, if we have eyes to see it. What do they say - it makes children laugh & the learned tremble? Pilate here chooses not to see or hear. He is persuaded otherwise, that the shadows are the real thing. But lo! There are angels & demons at war, there is a glint in the eye of the universe, a cascade of meanings unlike the penal system, education system, church system, whatever system you think provides the framework for meaning. Oh my. Rub us thin, oh Lord, that we may see the world transformed, in dreams through windows & then some. We want to see Jesus.
Mt27v21-22 "And what shall I do with Jesus?" I am struck this morning that we could have asked for some other punishment, a light beating, a prison sentence, something somehow less ultimate and infinite, less superlatively cruel. But where would be the penal substitution in that? Putting a thing to death, finally extinguishing that grit of shame, and the catharsis of making it suffer in the process, is a deep need I have. And when you find me in a crowd, I am truer to that instinct which I have learnt otherwise to politely conceal. Mobs are mobs by the dissolution of singular culpabilities as personal persons are absorbed into the impersonal mass, by this process the depravity within me is unharnessed and bateable, a savagely more authentic fearful carnal violence by which I save myself by literal scapegoating. Football hooligans and London rioters are theologians with an understanding of the penalty that must be paid.
Mt27v23-24 When we say the creed I often think that it seems unjust that pilate is singled out by name, over & over in church history, for his culpability, when we are all thus. But what of most urgent importance might be highlighted in this moment, for all humanity? v24 is on responsibility & individuation, which my current paper hopes to speak to. Pilate does not answer the normative demand upon him, choosing people-pleasing, & as such he is not even an 'I', not really. There is nothing to single him out, no substance. He forfeits his identity to the totality, the crowd's totality & the myth of collective responsibility (different from shared responsibility) already a totality, & so a death. So we remember the Pilate, and what he wasn't, & pray most urgently for the courage to be, which is, to respond to the call. To respond to the call.
Mt27v25-26 "His blood be on us and on our children" As if to emphasise the callous cruelty of their murderous calls for capital punishment, they offer their children to pay the price. Suggesting a nihilistic understanding of Jesus life as offensive, their own lives cheap, and their children's lives as nothing. Costly: death abounds because, who counts the cost when you have nothing to loose? Who counts the cost when their is no one to repay? Who counts the cost to their children of the murders we make in this life? As in the Act of Killing, they know not what they are doing. As in abortion, as in the looming environmental disaster, we offer up our children to pay the price. We call down guilt flippantly like it's a flimsy thing, because our consciences are seared: life, ethics, reality have become sin-less, guilt-less, god-less power-play.
Mt27v27-28 120-200 soldiers, here to scream at this one man. A la Ignatius I can imagine into most gospel characters. Except Jesus himself. Here is especially hard, the roar of clanging crowd, all 200 of them their contempt focused on me. Exposed, with rough abusive hands stripping me of my clothes, making me a piece on a game. The roar of blood in the ears, I cannot get too close, like a repressed memory, fearful. Such is the humiliation my of Christ.
Mt27v29-30 Ahead of preaching on James 3 in June, I have been given to think about the power of words, and connectedly of pictures, symbols, the tragic theatre of the school playground and the many non-contact ways we break a person. I have thought of the cross and the preceding abuse it entailed as primarily physical, because in the end he dies physically. If he had survived this ordeal, perhaps more would be made of the breadth and depth of the abuse to his person, value, identity. Somewhat as the portrait of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, vicious shaming, the savage deconstruction of persons. Jesus knows the pain of contact torture, but he knows also the utter and ugly ways we malign and misrepresent, disempower and destroy verbally, conceptually. Jesus knows what it is to be held in utter contempt, to be a plaything and a nothing. When no one believes you, or knows you or cares in the slightest, when all shades of bitterness are held against you, when your dreams are trampled and the glorious kingdom in-breaking through mustard seeds is made sport of by a brutal economy. Jesus has been there, he knows you, he weeps and he hopes alongside you.
Mt27v31 That they put Jesus' clothes back on him is the clear demarcation of a ritual of mocking, opened and closed. How do I 'thing' my abuses & thus compartmentalise & legitimise them? I was going to send the text as is, but realise I ask a hypothetical question, with no intention of letting it put me in question. Professionalism is such a way. I think of my self as not a professional, as a bumbling humantities-grad-hotchpotch, but perjorative professionalism (the 'ism' making it different from what it is to do a job excellently) is still to be found here, in the trajectory assumed & of what of personhood (mine or other) can be sacrificed for its thingedness. And not just in work but in all things one feels one needs to have 'together'. Oh God, who distorts nothing, make us good all the way through.
Mt27v32 Do you seriously think I have the time in my day to carry this cross? I feel your imposition, taken by the scruff of the neck, physical rage and physical constraints. Do you know how inconvenient this is? Surely a well-boundaried person wouldn't be carrying this cross. A successful person wouldn't be carrying this cross. I couldn't begin to believe you that this - This - is it. This is IT. Its going on right now, the salvation drama, the for all, the symbol & event. The cross. This cross. Forced into my day. This. Is. It.
Mt27v35-36 Two verses on ways of detachment? v35 it was good to learn from J. last week that Jesus' clothes were gambled for not only as part of an indignity of stripping & dispossessing, but also as an extended part of the coronation parody. Parody, as all irony, tends to death & detachment. It de-personalises persons, it forces me to stay outside the I-thou. Similarly v36 they watched him. There is a watcher observer position that is necessary detached, that keeps the other a he a she an alien, not a you. Dear Christ, who challenges me with a look in the eye & not just a character in a play to watch to admire to mock. It is you. You you you.
Mt27v37 Words. James 3 is all about words, the 'tongue' is something of a distracting metonym, the wriggly incidental agent, the one that lays that landmines. Urgent to consider is the power of statements we make, the landmines themselves, the identities we write over people. They are a death sentence. Facts rendered in a mocking tone with saberous irony, half truths calculated to wound. 'King of the Jews' is vicious exercise in missing the point, while being yet devastatingly spot on. We kill Jesus twice, doubting him as King, and then knowingly committing the daylight murder of the most inconvenient King. They are double-minded ones that word this way Jm1v8.
Mt27v38 Between thieves. Jesus hangs with sinners, associates with the worst, lets his reputation be hung shredded in bad places. Thus he is numbered among the transgressors Is53v12, go deeper. So he finds the temple of his body struck down between another den of thieves Mt21v13, go deeper. So this is his glory, and they are thieves at his left and right hand Mk10v37. But finally I am led to meditate of the triad of crucifixees. How necessary it seems that there should have been three hanged, a triangle of relations, as we are always relating to Jesus as other, and relating to other others relating to Jesus. Lk23v39-43 makes the most of this joint portrait. Who do you say Jesus is? Who do others say you say Jesus is?
Mt27v39-40 There's a rationalism, an indignance, a self-satisfaction within such mockery. The knowing eyes-to-the-camera of mock the week. Like the false righteousness of false righteous anger. A word to the philosopher especially, wanting to 'test her hypothesis' as a bargaining disbelief. Oh batter my heart, 3-personed God, save me, keep me from mirror-views that go nowhere.amen
Mt27v41-42 Smile for me. Jesus knew street harassment, he was familiar with loutish bland bullying barbarity, being the butt of the joke. Regard his epic meekness, utter non-violence, perfectly effective. There is a structure to true salvation, contrasted with the measure used by his antagonists who would follow him if he proved himself to be more like them: the self-interested follow self-saviours. Jesus' salvation is very different. As his taunters, so am I similarly impatient for quick fixes, I twitch a dirth of poetry and foresight, ungenerous embittered, I pray if-then prayers.
Mt27v43-4 Jesus' belovedness under attack, not primarily plans or purposes, not coherence, but belovedness. Not 'God would save you if he wanted it', but 'if he wanted you'. Wanted you. Desired you. If he loved you, things would be different. Beloved. You keep using this word, but I do not think it means what you think it means, Sarah. Letting my words be few, I pray to know my belovedness of God, & you yours. On the edge of vision I ache to know.
Mt27v45-46 Plunged into darkness, the viscous air, a thickly painted totality, subterranean pitch, blind and infinite. The world blacks out. We extinguished the only animating illumination, the one point source which gave light and shadow to a moral reality, we crack the vacuum of the filament bulb and, at the speed of light, all colour, contrast, shade and tone are eviscerated. Then, through the jet black, rings a hoarse urgent clarion call. My God. My God. The dark I experience in myself is the dark of abandonment: the dark of a short-circuited reality in which I choose against God, the dark I tinted windows with for the shady dealings of my soul. What a strange transaction at the cross, that this blackout which I carry with me could be transferred? As if every man's dark glasses of sin took flight in that one moment, and swarmed locust-like across the sky to calvary. Do you see it?
Mt27v47-48 Trying to over-construct a meaning today. Interested to learn that there are two Greek words for wine: 'ozos' & 'onios', connoting good & bad (?) wine, or even more subtly types of bad - between sour wine & bitter wine (?). Does a meditation on the differences between bitterness & sourness have anything to teach me? I cannot find it. I feel God wants to remind of the more straightforward truth that he suffers-with, he pains-with thirsts-with is misunderstood-alongside. We are with Christ because he first was with us.
Mt27v49 'Wait..' You see Christ in his glory, majestic in salvation, convincing in his miracles, unsurpassed in his kindness, are you yet waiting? Is yours a tragic faith? Suspecting the worst, timidly procrastinating, hesitant, waited down.. Blind to see the already-now-ness of Rm8v1 'There is *now* no condemnation..' Don't wait for Elijah, don't dither for further proofs. Again I am reminded of Gideon, threshing grain in the wine press, killing time, treading water, letting the world go by. God, take the wait off me. Bring me into the now.
Mt27v50 'yielded up his spirit..' Crucial in this verse is the active verb, he didn't lose his life, and no one took it from him, he gives it up willingly. Interesting in this verse is 'his spirit..' 'They say we all lose 21 grams at the exact moment of our death .. The weight of a stack of five nickels. The weight of a hummingbird.' Without problematically dichotomising body and spirit, what is this spirit? If I could picture my spirit (somewhat like a Patronus from Harry Potter..), perhaps I would speak to it as the Psalmist (57, 103 etc) does.. And so command my molten core, my substance. Come on my soul, awake my soul.
Mt27v51 this verse. As I spend the week thinking about types of love, I note that this picture has God's agape for us leading to philia. God loves us downwardsly, from top to bottom, not because God lives in the sky, but because of the 'descending' quality of agape, love that loves because it loves, not because its object is lovable. So Christ died for us while we are still sinners. But agape, creating value in us, make us beautiful, & we get to go through the torn down curtain, into the holy of holies. We get to spend with-time with God, face-to-face philia time behind the curtain. He calls us friends. The death of the Christ loves us from love to love (to love).
Mt27v52 Christ died and immediately the dead are raised! I do not pay attention to this verse. Like a seed being dropped in the soil and immediately flowers springing up within 3 seconds. God brings us to life in lots of gentle ways, but sometimes it is violent, absolute & immediate. So we are praying for healings today, for Phil for F for V. Please. Because Christ died, once for all, to bring us to God. Spring up new life!
Mt27v53-54 A strange glitch in the life death continuum causes unexpected side effects.. So weird a going-on that commentators have to juggle their chronology to make sense of this. I like to think that Jesus' death damaged death itself, that he fell to hell with such a force that the watchful guardians of the dead are knocked off guard and having no time to regroup, some of their captives are allowed sneak out. And so glorious undead saints rise to add zombies to the seismic pandemonium going on upstairs. Some of this is speculation. Importantly and absolutely these verses reinforce that there is a domain of death that has been dealt a once-and-for-all blow in the historic event of Jesus death. And so, like the centurion we should be filled with awe.
Mt27v55-56 hey friends. Mary Mary & gang. I know your worlds have been shattered & your hearts are heavy within you. Your grief is hidden from us here, but surely all numbness & unknowing has stolen everything. It is hard to speak to those who are grieving, it is. I know I do not know all the ache of your ache. But quietly, let me speak it, between letting you sob or rage. Easter is coming, & he will speak your names & his truth 28v9, Jn21v16.
Mt27v57-58 There will be rich people in heaven. They will be those who use their wealth for excessive worship, and who risk their political status in pursuit of the impractical, tenuously symbolic, displays of prophetic extravagance: asking the empire for the body of a criminal guilty of high treason, wrapping the dead body in an epic quantity of myrrh and aloes and putting it in an piece of privileged cemetery real estate - for what? James 2 basically writes off rich people, Jesus also uses eye-of-needle hyperbole to emphasise that the rich people getting in heaven will be statistically negligible. All my sacred textees are in the global 1%, and we would do well to take a leaf out of Joseph of Aramathea's book and do something excessive, aromatic, and politically dangerous today.
Mt27v59-60 Struck by the parallel with lk2v7 joseph of arimathea wrapping jesus' body in cloth & laying it in tomb, as mary wrapped his body in cloth & laid him in a manger. (Her firstborn. And He will be the firstborn from the dead col1v18.) Joseph also an exemplar of extravagant worship, like another mary mt26v7 - how long would it take to cut a tomb out of rock without machines? Let us be such lovers of the light; brooding mothers & generous artisans.
Mt27v61-62 The day after the day of Preparation. The day after the preparation for the Sabbath, ie. the Sabbath itself. The phrasing is made to distinguish it from the Passover which is also a Sabbath. But also possibly chosen to hint at an end-of-all-preparations-for-all-Sabbaths.. Sabbaths before now were enactments of an anticipated event. All subsequent Sabbaths celebrate an historic and on going reality. Momentous.
Mt27v65-66 This tragicomic scene plays a gaggle of cowardly baddies in a spoof gangster movie flailing chaotic schemes from the enemy camp: all this weaponry at their disposal and they are bickering: '.. no you appoint the guards'. The incompetent and grovelling henchmen of a wearied evil genius, vexed that he is threatened now by even a dead man. Elaborate if nothing else.. we want a tamper-evident seal, like you get on fire exits and jam jars. And then.. a bunch of roman soldiers, maybe 4, maybe 60. Peter is watched by 16 in Ac12v4, so inclined to go with the more absurd estimates. Absurd. As the efforts I make to deceive God and suppress the truth, over engineered if there is no God, woefully thin if there is.