IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
I love making breakfast for my wife and when we get up early enough on a Sunday, I can make her breakfast before we read Scripture.
This morning I made my signature sausage casserole. Once in a while I take it to work, usually when I’m hosting a Bible study, and people love it.
I wouldn’t say Issy loves it; she’s not a “pepper” person, but with all the fluffy eggs and the thick sausage crumbles, the pickled Jalapeño peppers fit in great.
Wow, I’m such a good husband, I thought, virtually patting myself on the back.
This morning, after breakfast, Issy and I lay in bed reading the harmonization of Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23, entitled, “Conflict with the Pharisees.”
“Then some Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law. . .”
September A.D. 29, Conflict with the Pharisees
I was listening to the religious and political leaders but watching Jesus’ expressions. This wasn’t going to be good.
Many of the men, who came all the way out to us from Jerusalem, were good men; men I trust. And frankly, they were giving some very sound and helpful advice to Jesus, but Jesus wasn’t listening. I could tell.
I was sitting outside the group of us Twelve, eating, when Jesus stood up and started to quote Isaiah. I don’t know for sure, but He may have misquoted the passage. At any rate, I’m sure Isaiah did not mean for it to be applied to our great religious leaders and politicians. What He said to the Pharisees was unmistakable though.
Jesus continued, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites. . .”[i]
My jaw dropped and my eyes became the size of saucers. The leaders were simply asking Jesus about our traditional responsibilities as they relate to cleanliness. Why couldn’t Jesus have responded nicely, or at least smiled?
Instead He went on and said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”[ii]
I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t Jesus know He would need to cater to some of these men if He were going to unite the Jews?
“Where did Jesus learn His political savvy?” I was thinking to myself. I remember hoping He was done, but He wasn’t.
Jesus then called them to account for their personal corruptness. At least I think that’s what He was doing.
He seemed to sum it up by saying, “You nullify the Word of God by your traditions.”[iii]
And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus called the crowds to him to explain the spat, which they had all seen and heard.
Looking them in the eyes and ignoring the Pharisees, Jesus said to the crowd, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”[iv]
I admit, the argument made sense but why couldn’t He smile when he said it?
Then one of the Twelve said, “Do you know the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”[v]
“You think?” I said sarcastically.
Then I heard Jesus say of the Pharisees, “They are blind guides!”[vi]
January 22nd, Sunday Morning, Arlington VA
“Jude,” Issy started the discussion of this week’s passage, “Were the Pharisees and teachers of the law considered the political gurus?”
“If they were considered political gurus it would have only been in the minds of those who were expecting a political Messiah to come onto the scene and shake off the bonds of Rome on the Israelites.”
I continued, “What I find fascinating in this passage, Issy, from our perspective as political consultants, was the passion they seemed to have for their way remaining the only way. They did not want any changes. They liked their traditions.”
I paused and then went on, “Remember that at the trial of Jesus, we find they were so jealous of Christ that even Pilot knew it.”[vii]
“So, what’s your point, husband?”
“My point, my dear wife, is my ‘Surprising-Challenge.’ I like things to move as they always have in the past. Change is not always good, but what Jesus is saying here, to me, is ‘Jude, get over yourself. Maybe the same-old-way needs to change.’ And frankly, Issy, change scares me.”
She looked at me, nodding in understanding. “That might dovetail with what challenged me, namely, am I only honoring God with my lips?”
I grunted in understanding. “What about an ‘Unusual-Promise?’” I asked.
Issy sat up tall and blurted out, “Clearly the confirmation that uncleanness in a person is defined by what comes out of their mouth.”
She took a deep breath and then asked me, “What about you?”
I took a more sobered approach but used similar words, “Clearly the confirmation that blind guides lead people into a pit.”[viii]
There was silence and then I said, “Baby, let’s not be blind guides to our bosses.”
She leaned over and kissed me, but there was a smirk in her kiss and then she said, “Didn’t the passage talk about the blind leading the blind? And then falling into a pit?”
I just looked at her, shaking my head because I knew there was a political comment behind her statement. She continued, “Maybe your leader is blind, my lover.”
She immediately got out of bed and I tried to swat her, but she was already outside of my reach.
“Time for church,” she said, running into the bathroom.
An hour and a half later, Issy and I were walking into church when Harold, our small group leader walked up to us.
Actually, he made a beeline for me and when I reached out to shake his hand, he neither proffered his, nor stopped walking. Instead, he pushed my hand aside and stood two inches from my nose.
“Jude, I can’t keep silent anymore. I’m sick and tired of being polite to you. In my mind, you are. . . How can you work for who you do, attempting to put your candidate in the most powerful office in the world, and call yourself a Christian?”
He took a breath and went on. My wife stepped toward him, but without taking my eyes off him I put my hand on her arm and she stopped.
He continued, “I don’t want you to come back to our small group. The things your candidate stands for, the things your candidate has said, the actions which will come about in this country if your candidate wins, sicken and disgust me. And by inference, Jude, you disgust me, too.”
He walked off as quickly as he had arrived. I don’t mind admitting, I was upset. In fact, while sitting in church I was actually shaking a bit.
“Do you want to leave?” Issy asked, and I shook my head no.
We sat through church and then walked home quietly. She could tell I was deep in thought.
“What are you going to do?” she asked, when we stepped into the front door.
“I’m not sure, baby. I’ll have to pray on it.”
The remainder of our day was pretty quiet; I couldn’t even enjoy the Redskins’ playoff game. Issy was honoring my need to process the morning’s events.
As we went to bed, she caught me smirking. “What’s so funny?” she asked.
“Oh, it’s not funny, but I was just thinking of a famous line given some three decades ago.”
She lifted her eyebrows asking to be let in on it. I said, “Rodney King, 1992, ‘Why can’t we all get along?’”
We both shook our heads and then I said, “Seriously, babe. I expect the world to act like this, but not a friend of mine, in my church.”
We looked at each other, and then I added, “Our country is in the midst of great division, but our churches need not be. Isn’t the church equipped to handle the ugliness of our day? If our unity is in Christ, how can we have disunity based on the way we vote?”
“I don’t know, my darling,” she answered.
I said, “We have got to seek the Lord. . .”
And my Issy kicked in, “. . .for unity.”
We both went to bed and slept soundly, spooned together.
January 22nd, Sunday, Washington D.C.
Three days earlier, Pete was true to his word, and his report was on my desk at 5:00 p.m. I opened it, quickly perused it and then put it in my briefcase for home-reading. Fortunately, it was not Top-Secret yet.
I hadn’t opened the file all weekend when the Washington Redskins playoff game started.
Surprise, surprise to everyone, including Pete, they were still in the hunt for the Super Bowl, but just barely. They came off a 4 and 12 losing season the year before, to be in the hunt, if the Cowboys would only have a few key losses. Well, they did, and then Washington upset them in the last regular season game, and somehow, Washington made it to the NFC Championship. Maybe they could get there again.
I picked up the files, expecting to turn off the Redskins quick loss to the Forty-Niners (which I would never confess to Pete), but it was a real game, and I never touched the files until late Sunday evening. What a game!
When I finally got to the file it was a boring read. Three weeks of investigation and still no specific Perps, still no awareness of intent, or even an understanding of the hacker’s goal. Nothing of any significance had been fleshed out.
The only thing I knew for sure was that I would get to make Pete’s day, while keeping him on a tight leash.
What I had to make sense of now, was my conversation with the Cyber Security Geek I had met with on Friday.
[i] Mark 7:6a
[ii] Mark 7:6b-7
[iii] Mark 7:13a
[iv] Mark 7:14-16
[v] Matthew 15:12
[vi] Matthew 15:14m
[vii] Matthew 27:17
[viii] Matthew 15:14