Saturday, March 04, 2017

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 12:33-50

--> A difficult passage, because (1) this is not the pat, nice Jesus we like, (2) it is very black and white, and we moderns like the phrase “It depends,” connoting contingency, gray areas, unnecessary complexity to give us wiggle room, (3) we see ourselves in the condemnation of foolish talk, (4) we see our culture in those who have massive amounts of revelation and still rejects, and (5) the parable of the demons coming back after exorcism is odd and creepy.  But this is coming after the unbelievable accusation that Jesus was demon possessed or even worse.

I don’t think the story of the unclean spirit is so much a parable as a hypothetical story.  Or even a generically true story, because it is in present tense.  If a demon spirit is exorcised (commentators imply this rather than that the demon leaves by choice, which they apparently don’t do), he will not find a place in the desert.  The Jews of that time believed the desert was a place of demons (which gives another sense to Matthew 4).  So the demon decides to re-enter the person and takes “friends.”  The formally possessed person is now socially acceptable, clean well-ordered, but the demons can return and cause more devastation.

This raises a lot of questions. Can a person who has gone through exorcism be possessed again?  Apparently.  How much choice do demon spirits have?  What were the conditions that allowed the demons back? And Jesus ends with “And so shall it be with this wicked generation” referring back to those who want a sign when they  already had plenty of them already.  They did not recognize the power they were witnessing or the level of person they were dealing with.

So, he’s talking about the religious leaders of Judaism at that time. The commentators say this is about outward legalism compared to true belief.  After the demo is sent out the person looks good on the outside but is still vulnerable to possession.  The legalism did not fix the core of the person and they were more possessed than before.  He end of the religious leaders and their system will be worse.  I read somewhere that Josephus wrote about the Jews after the crucifixion as having many internal problems; I have never heard that and should only quote it if I have read it.  It is simply wrong to cite things secondhand. 

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