The kingdom of God (Lk 10:9-10:9)

“Heal

Their sick people!

Say to them!

‘The kingdom of God

Has come

Near to you.’”

 

καὶ θεραπεύετε τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀσθενεῖς, καὶ λέγετε αὐτοῖς Ἤγγικεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus told these 70 disciples to heal the sick people (καὶ θεραπεύετε τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀσθενεῖς).  There was no mention of casting out demons or evil spirits.  They were to tell the people (καὶ λέγετε αὐτοῖς) that the kingdom of God (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ) had come near to them (Ἤγγικεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς).  There was no exact equivalent to this passage in the other gospels.  However, Matthew, chapter 10:8 said that the 12 apostles were to do what Jesus had been doing.  They were to heal or cure the sick or ailing people.  They were to raise up the dead, a difficult task.  They were to cleanse the lepers, and cast out the demons.  Since they had not paid to get this gift to be an apostle, so thus they should not receive any payment for their work as an apostle.  They should give freely of their own time since this was not a money-making project.  The idea of the kingdom of God coming near was also present in Matthew, chapter 10:7.  There, Jesus wanted the 12 apostles to go and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand or near.  This was exactly the same teaching as John the Baptist, word for word, as in Matthew, chapter 3:2.  This connection of the message of John and Jesus was very strong in MatthewLuke was more precise, since the kingdom of God was coming near, they ought to be alert.  Do you think that the kingdom of God is close at hand?

The first laborers hired (Mt 20:2-20:2)

“He agreed

With the laborers

For the usual daily wage.

He sent them

Into his vineyard.”

 

συμφωνήσας δὲ μετὰ τῶν ἐργατῶν ἐκ δηναρίου τὴν ἡμέραν ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ.

 

This parable is unique to Matthew.  Jesus continued with his parable.  This land owner hired the first group of day laborers.  They came to a mutual understanding.  This land owner agreed and the day laborers also agreed to accept one denarius as payment for that day, the usual or common wage for a day’s work (συμφωνήσας δὲ μετὰ τῶν ἐργατῶν ἐκ δηναρίου τὴν ἡμέραν).  This Roman silver coin was worth about $.15 USA.  They would work all day for about 15 cents.  Then he sent them into his vineyard to pick the grapes (ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ).  So far, so good, nothing unusual here.  A land owner and some workers agreed on a day’s pay that was not extravagant, without any middle man.

The servant slave owed ten thousand talents (Mt 18:24-18:25)

“When he began

The reckoning,

The one who owed him

Ten thousand talents

Was brought to him.

He could not pay it.

His lord ordered him

To be sold,

With his wife

And children,

With all his possessions.

Thus,

Some payment

Would be made.”

 

ἀρξαμένου δὲ αὐτοῦ συναίρειν προσήχθη εἷς αὐτῷ ὀφειλέτης μυρίων ταλάντων.

μὴ ἔχοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀποδοῦναι ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος πραθῆναι καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ πάντα ὅσα ἔχει, καὶ ἀποδοθῆναι.

 

This parable about the unforgiving servant slave is unique to Matthew.  This king began to settle his accounts (ἀρξαμένου δὲ αὐτοῦ συναίρειν).  This first servant or slave owed the king 10,000 talents (προσήχθη εἷς αὐτῷ ὀφειλέτης μυρίων ταλάντων), an unbelievable sum.  A talent was about 60 mina, 10,000 denarii, or 3,000 shekels.  Thus, in current money that would be about $1,500 for a talent.  The amount owed would have been approximately $15,000,000.00, that’s right 15 million dollars.  There was no way that he could have acquired that much in debt, and certainly no way to repay it (μὴ ἔχοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀποδοῦναι).  Thus, it is called a parable story.  This lordly king decided and commanded that the best way to get this debt off his books was sell him, his wife, his children, and all their possessions (ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος πραθῆναι καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ πάντα ὅσα ἔχει,).  This would make a small payment (καὶ ἀποδοθῆναι) to this enormous debt, but not very much.  Things did not look good for this servant slave with the large debt.

The work of the apostles (Mt 10:8-10:8)

“Cure the sick!

Raise the dead!

Cleanse the lepers!

Cast out demons!

You received

Without paying.

Give without payment!”

 

ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε, νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε, λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε, δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλετε· δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.

 

There is no exact equivalent to this passage in the other gospels.  Jesus, via Matthew, laid out what the work of an apostle of Jesus should be.  These apostles were to do what Jesus had been doing.  They were to heal or cure the sick or ailing people (ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετ).  They were to raise up the dead (νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε), a difficult task.  They were to cleanse the lepers (λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε) and cast out the demons (δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλετε).  As they had not paid to get this gift to be an apostle (δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε), so thus they should not receive any payment (δωρεὰν δότε) for their work as an apostle.  They should give freely of their time since this was not a money-making project.

The destruction of Gomer’s life (Hos 2:10-2:12)

“Now I will uncover

Her shame

In the sight

Of her lovers.

No one shall rescue her

Out of my hand.

I will put an end

To all her mirth,

Her festivals,

Her new moons,

Her sabbaths,

All her appointed festivals.

I will lay waste

Her vines

With her fig trees.

She said.

‘These are my pay.

My lovers

Have given me

These vines,

These fig trees.’

I will make them

A forest.

The wild animals

Shall devour them.”

Hosea was going to shame Gomer. He was going to uncover her nakedness in the sight of her lovers. Nudity was considered shameful, not glorified. No one would be able to save her from his hands. He was going to put an end to all her merry ways. Strangely enough, this included the various Israelite religious holidays, such as the festivals, the new moon observance, the Sabbath observance, as well as the other religious appointed festival days. Hosea was also going to destroy the vines and the trees that her lovers had given her as payment for her various sexual activities. Hosea was going to make them like a overgrown forest, so that the wild animals would devour and destroy them. Gomer was then a symbol of what was going to happen to Israel.

King Nebuchadnezzar will get the spoils of Egypt (Ezek 29:19-29:20)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘I will give the land

Of Egypt

To King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon.

He shall carry off

Its wealth.

He shall despoil it.

He shall plunder it.

It shall be

The wages

For his army.

I have given him

The land

Of Egypt

As his payment

For which he labored.

Because they worked

For me.’

Says Yahweh God.”

In a perverse sort of way, Yahweh was going to give King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon the land of Egypt as a compensation for not getting much from the capture of Tyre. Thus, the king of Babylon would get the wealth of Egypt. He was going to wreck and plunder Egypt to get the wages for his army. Egypt was the payment to the king of Babylon for doing the work of Yahweh, the God of Israel.

The paying adulterous wife (Ezek 16:32-16:34)

“‘Adulterous wife!

You receive strangers

Instead of your husband!

Gifts are given

To whores.

But you gave

Your gifts

To all your lovers.

You bribed them

To come

To you

From all around

For your prostitution activities.

So you were different

From other women

In your prostitution.

No one solicited you

To play the whore.

You gave payment,

While no payment

Was given to you.

You were different.’”

Jerusalem was a different kind of adulterous wife. She took in strangers rather than her husband. However, instead of getting gifts as most prostitutes did, she gave gifts to her lovers. She bribed them to come to her from all over the place to share sexual activities. Thus, she was different from other female prostitutes. No one solicited her as a prostitute. She paid people to come to her, instead of receiving payment for her sexual activities. She never received any money or gifts. She was a different kind of prostitute.

Vows and the Lord (Sir 18:22-18:26)

“Let nothing hinder you

From paying a vow promptly.

Do not wait until death

To be released from it.

Before making a vow,

Prepare yourself.

Do not be like one

Who puts the Lord

To the test.

Think of his wrath

On the day of death.

Think of his wrath

In the moment of vengeance,

When he turns away his face.

In the time of plenty,

Think of the time of hunger.

In the days of wealth

Think of poverty,

Think of need.

From morning to evening

Conditions change.

All things move swiftly

Before the Lord.”

Sirach reminds us about the problems of making vows. You should prepare yourself before you make a vow to give an offering or payment. Then you should pay your vows promptly. Don’t wait until your death, so that it will be forgotten. Don’t test the Lord. Think of his wrath on the day of your death, if you have not fulfilled your vows. He will turn his face away from you. So also remember when you have plenty to eat, about the times when you were hungry. In the days of your wealth, remember the days of your needy poverty. Remember that things change quickly before the Lord, sometimes as quickly as from morning to evening of the same day.

Menelaus become the high priest (2 Macc 4:23-4:29)

“After a period of three years, Jason sent Menelaus, the brother of the previously mentioned Simon, to carry money to the king. He sent him to complete the records of essential business. But Menelaus, when presented to the king, extolled him with an air of authority. He secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver. After receiving the king’s orders he returned. He possessed no qualification for the high priesthood. He had the hot temper of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a savage wild beast. So Jason, who after supplanting his own brother, was supplanted by another man. He was driven as a fugitive into the land of Ammon. Menelaus held the office, but he did not pay regularly any of the money promised to the king. Sostratus, the captain of the citadel kept requesting payment, since the collection of the revenue was his responsibility. Two of them were summoned by the king on account of this issue. Menelaus left his own brother Lysimachus as deputy in the high priesthood, while Sostratus left Crates as the commander of the Cyprian troops.”

In 172 BCE, 3 years later, Jason the high priest and brother of Onias III sent Menelaus, a Benjaminite brother of Simon, the brother-in-law of Onias III, to King Antiochus IV with money on official business. However, this Menelaus decided that he was going to outbid Jason for the position of high priest by offering 300 talents of silver, about $180,000 USA. Although he was not qualified to be a high priest since he was not a Levite, the king gave him orders to become the high priest in Jerusalem. Obviously the position of high priest went to the highest bidder. Menelaus was cruel and full of rage. Jason was then driven into the land of Ammon, east of the Jordan River. Menelaus never kept his financial promise to the king, although he ruled as high priest for 10 years from 172-162 BCE. Meanwhile, Sostratus, the captain of the citadel troops was not getting any money. The king then called Sostratus and Menelaus to settle this money issue. In the meantime, Lysimachus, the brother of Menelaus, was the deputy high priest in Jerusalem, and Crates became the commander of the citadel troops.

The problem of pride, idleness, injustice, and drunkenness (Tob 4:13-4:15)

“For in pride there is ruin and great confusion.

In idleness there is loss and dire poverty

Because idleness is the mother of famine.

Do not hold over until the next day

The wages of those who work for you.

Pay him at once.

If you serve God,

You will receive payment.

Watch yourself, my son,

In everything you do.

Discipline yourself in all your conduct.

What you hate,

Do not do to anyone.

Do not drink wine to excess.

Do not let drunkenness go with you on your way.”

Pride can lead to confusion. Idleness will lead to poverty and famine. It is interesting to note that idleness is the mother of famines, that somehow humans are responsible for famines, rather than weather. Tobit wanted his son to pay the worker’s wages immediately, not even wait until the next day. When his son served God, he would receive his payment. He had to be disciplined in his conduct. He was not to do to others things that he himself hated. This is the kind of ‘do not do unto others what you yourself hate done to you.’ He was not to drink wine in excess. Drunkenness should not become part of his lifestyle. Clearly these are all the prescriptions of the Jewish post-exilic life style.