April 09, 2019

What gives you the right to speak about God?

The life of Jesus: His last week - On Tuesday he was challenged by the establishment.

Jesus went to the Temple Mount on Tuesday with his Apostles and a number of disciples. He climbed to the top step of the stairs leading to the Temple Gate. He spoke to the crowd gathered below him in the Court of Gentiles. His popularity and the content of his teaching irritated the priests and Levites who feared Jesus would diminish their religious authority. It was on this day the Chief Priests, backed by other priests and Levites, as well as elders and scribes, came out of the Temple to challenge his authority to speak about God and theology. Jesus was talking about our relationship with God when a Levite spoke up.

“What gives you the right to speak about God? Are you a Levite? Have you any training?”

Jesus stopped for a moment and looked intently at the Levite.

“Who cannot speak of God? What is it that you teach? Do only the holiest of the holy have the right to speak of God? You think too much of yourselves. We all have the right to seek our Father in heaven. If we are sincere, then of course we can....  Every humble person who looks for God has a right to find God....  And he will respond.”

The Pharisees grumbled among themselves. One of them, an expert in the Law of Moses, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which are the two greatest commandments in the Law?"

Jesus earnestly replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your thoughts. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the words of the Prophets center on these two commandments."
A priest spoke up. His rude interruption contained words of condescending arrogance.
“Do you really know what you are talking about?”

Jesus responded with conviction. “The second commandment encourages us to love others with the same sensitivity and empathy we have for ourselves. It assumes we are able to take a thoughtful view of our interpersonal relationships. People with a healthy outlook on life will not choose to hurt themselves either physically or emotionally. We are expected to project this same caring attitude in our personal relations with others. It does not matter whether our contact is casual and brief - as with a stranger we meet on the street - or the result of a long term relationship such as marriage. God wants us to love others as we would want others to love us. Our failure to obey this commandment is often the source of inexcusable sorrow, friction and hatred.”

Jesus paused for a moment. There was a murmur of agreement within the crowd.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of God’s law.”

“So you dare to speak like a prophet!” jeered a teacher of the law “why should we practice what you are teaching?”

Jesus spoke again with conviction. “The more we try to follow these two commandments, the closer we come to creating God’s Kingdom on Earth, which is paradise. The further away we move from these two commandments, the greater the risk of creating personal and social hell here on earth.”

“But that breaks the rules of our social structure!” exclaimed a Levite.

Jesus gave a forceful response. “We do not believe in a class social system where there is a hierarchy of privilege. We believe in the inherent equality of each person. One is not condemned to forever be at the bottom of the sociological pyramid. Even the poor can have dignity and status. Within our community there is love and compassion for the sick, the elderly, the very young, the hungry, the widow, and the poor. No one need live in the loneliness of isolation. One can have a sense of belonging to a community of friends, all brothers and sisters.”

Then Jesus raised his arms as in prayer, but looked directly at his tormentors.

“We are created equal in the eyes of God, all humans, male and female.... That has always been God’s intention and we are the fruit of God’s labor.”


Jesus spoke again that afternoon on the steps of the Double Gate. Although his message was well received, many in the crowd assembled to hear him were disappointed in his message. Jesus did not speak about the Romans. He did not tell them how he would expel them from Israel.

“Am I Your Son?”


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