Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The Perfume Incident Leads to Christ's Arrest
Judas Iscariot says, "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" 12:5.
Jesus responds, "Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." 12:7-8.
It seems then that Jesus cares more about himself than about the poor. This is what makes Judas turn against him. Later on, Judas realizes the enormous cognitive error he has made, and hangs himself from a tree.
In Matthew, it is not Mary but "a woman" 26:7 (I'm using the KJV), and she pours it not on his feet but "on his head, as he sat at meat" 26:7.
This time, many of his disciples feel "indignation" 26:8. Judas decides to turn Jesus in for money which he intends to give to the poor.
Jesus knows that Judas will turn him in, and realizes that not just Judas, but also Peter will betray him.
Meanwhile, the Jews say that Jesus is not God. He says that He is. Pilate says, "What is truth?"
Cognitive errors abound in this final scene. Everyone is wrong, it seems. But Judas at least realizes the enormity of his wrong, "And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." Matthew 27:5.
The thirty pieces of silver are used to buy a potter's field for strangers.
There is confusion to this day about whether or not the poor should be paid for, and how to answer the question: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (As Cain puts it after class envy has caused him to throw Abel under the bus.)
So Christ is crucified.
Was he my brother? Am I responsible, too, for his death?
It seems that I am not, because Christ knew all along what He was getting into.
Am I responsible for the poor, or only for my specific family members?
Most of us know someone who is poor, or has been in jail. What can we do for them? In my case I think of people who don't seriously think of what will happen next if I sleep with a jerk, or not go to work, or drink a stein of wine. The poor are people who make poor decisions. Should they be bailed out by the government? Should the children of the poor be bailed out?
Jesus implies that they will always be with us, and that it is better to worship Him with all of our might, than to care for the poor. Instead we are to use our talents to build up our own fortunes, and to take care of those around us. But how far around us should we care? As we step over the rotting bodies of the poor lying on the sidewalk at Christmas, should we pray for them, or should we pay for them, as the Good Samaritan did? It may be a case of thinking: what caused this person's collapse? If the collapse is inward, then no money can fix their case. If the collapse was an instance in which someone was attacked by bandits, then perhaps this person can again become a useful member of society.
Christ takes risks on many people. Mary Magdalene was herself a prostitute, it seems (she's presented as a prostitute in Jesus Christ Superstar). He says to the thief next to Him on the cross that he's going to heaven just for believing in Him. But what if that belief was another example of not thinking very carefully through a whole matter? Cognitive errors abound.
Jesus fixes the eyesight of the blind. He's a kind of opthamologist. He chases demons out of people who have been possessed, too. He offers marriage as one example of people sticking together. This it does seem is correlated with lower poverty rates, and creating less of a drag on society. Christ does attend a wedding and helps out when the jerks haven't provided enough wine to go around. He also helps out at massive meetings where people forgot the logistics of food distribution.
When a certain widow "threw in two mites" Christ praises her for this, Mark 12:42-45. But is this good sound economic thinking? Maybe she was poor in the first place because she wasn't that good at holding on to her money.
It seems that life is rife with cognitive errors, and that Jesus isn't exactly an economic logician. He's about something else. With enough faith, will we have enough, or do we need something like logistical planning, too?
Moses goes across the desert and gets a bailout from God in terms of manna. There is no dessert in the desert, but at least there are enough victuals to keep the 3 millions of Jews alive.
When Mary Magdalene or whoever it is pours out the ointment, is this sound behavior? It seems logistically ineffective, as do many of the other instances of extravagance throughout the Gospels. In Paul's letters he whines that the idiots in Jerusalem have to get money from around the Mediterranean to keep their communal paradise going. Jesus' disciples don't work until after he dies, and then they go back to fishing. I find a discrepancy between logistical planning, and faith, throughout the Four Gospels.
Still, in Luke, Jesus eats. He asks for a piece of meat (he's died and resurrected), and does eat a "broiled fish and of an honeycomb" 24:43.
Why doesn't He just produce it out of nothing? If we were meant to always have enough, then why do we work? Why do we save? Why not just count on God to provide? Why are there savings banks? Why not just pour our fortunes on each others' feet (or heads), and party down, living for today, and stop worrying about budgeting, and trying to prevent going over the fiscal cliff into material oblivion? When Big Government can no longer provide us with a bailout, then will God provide Big Government with a bailout?