As I read the text this morning I saw Jesus bringing the scripture he had been taught to life. Like an actor taking a script and not only committing their lines to memory – but making the story their own, embodying the text and helping those watching feel the intent and intensity of what was written.
Yes, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew is known for “proof-texting.” We learned in Bible class that this was necessary in order for Matthew’s audience to make the connection to Jesus from the teachings that had been passed down for generations. And, to not only make the connection – but to believe he was who he said he was. The One they had been waiting for. This style of writing helped Matthew gain some needed credibility with his audience in a time of fear and confusion. Connection matters.
But this particular pericope feels like more than simple proof-texting. What happened on that day was astonishing! Jesus-in all of his fabulousness showed up as a true “drama king” and was “all in his feelings.” Matthew could not have made this up!
Jesus truly embodied the text. He carried the story within him. It was in his DNA. Jesus had internalized what he has been taught. It was in his heart and head and on his hands as commanded in Deuteronomy 11. (Wait, am I proof-texting now!? wink).
Carrying all. of. this. can. be. heavy.
Especially when you look around you and everything is in chaos. Folx are saying one thing and doing another. Proclaiming faith and living lies. Attempting to survive under empirical rule by creating structures of hierarchy, class, othering and exclusion within the religious community – and almost everywhere else.
Feelings of urgency are expected when death is immanent and there is still so much to do. So of course Jesus had to do something to get everyone’s attention. Something so extravagant and outrageous that the people would not soon forget. Something to get people riled up and out of their heads, away from their false sense of knowing and awakened from their complacency and complicity. Something that would cause a visceral response – feelings that lead to a returning, repenting and reconnecting as God’s beloved.
Jesus cleverly and creatively used street art to disrupt the dominant narrative that perpetuated poverty, oppression, isolation, marginalization and violence.
Jesus’ deep love for God and God’s people allowed him to defy respectability politics in big, bold, dramatic ways; taking the stage in order to center God’s Word and ground it in the midst of the politics, marketplace, religiosity, and culture of the day.
Jesus – livid, hurt and impassioned – interrupted expectations, assumptions and behaviors.
Now, I imagine that this was not the moment to tell Jesus to “calm down,” “don’t be so angry,” “you are too loud,” “you are embarrassing yourself,” “this is not how Rabbi’s behave!”
This was not the time to ask Jesus, “are you crazy?” “Are you trying to become an (even greater) enemy of the state?” “Why are you so political?”
I imagine Jesus unapologetically fueled by his feelings, but not consumed by them doing what he does best – which is to exude his purpose and showing up freely, fully as God’s Word, God’s love, made flesh.
I am writing these thoughts while attending the othering and belonging conference. Yesterday there was a panel made up of an author, an actor and an athlete – each sharing how they use their craft, their platform to speak life and demand justice.
In what ways is Jesus reminding us to use our various platforms in kin-dom building? To not be silent? To get our of our heads and to lead with our hearts?
How can we claim this story in new and creative ways? How can we embody it and share it in ways that reconnect us to our purpose? Infuses energy that is healing and reconciling? Disrupts apathy? Challenges our traditions and practices?
Share your musings in the comments below. I look forward to reading them.
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/hers/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter, minister, spiritual entrepreneur, teacher, and life-long learner committed to the liberation of colonized peoples, centering the marginalized, building power and creating community. She lives in Chicago with her spouse and their teenage son (pray for us) and has two adult daughters and eight grandchildren (!—please keep praying ;)) Dr. Pagán-Banks currently serves as executive director of , pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.
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