instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shaky exegesis

Consider the story of the storm at sea in Matthew 8:
He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"

He said to them, "Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?" Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.
In St. Matthew's Earthquake, Paul Hinnebusch, O.P., proposes that Matthew intentionally writes this story so that the early Church would recognize themselves as the disciples in the boat with Jesus. In Mark, the disciples call Jesus "Teacher" (Διδασκαλ&epsilon), and Luke "Master" (Επιστατα); in both, they merely tell Him "we are perishing!" Only in Matthew do they call Him "Lord" (Κυριε, Kyrie) and ask Him to save them.

Why is this mentioned in a book called St. Matthew's Earthquake? Well, as the NAB notes, the word they translate as "storm" (σεισμος, seismos)
literally, "earthquake," a word commonly used in apocalyptic literature for the shaking of the old world when God brings in his kingdom.
When does this seaquake happen? Looking back a few verses:
A scribe approached and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."
Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But Jesus answered him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead."
He got into a boat and his disciples followed him.
(I don't have to say "emphasis added" when I'm quoting the Bible, right?)

People are asking Jesus what is involved in following him (and notice the scribe calls him, not Κυριε, but Διδασκαλ&epsilon). Jesus tells them His followers can expect no earthly home, but they will find life.

Then the disciples who do follow him find themselves in a violent, even eschatological, storm. But they also find themselves with Jesus, Who after all has promised, "I am with you always, until the end of the age."

When Jesus says, "Follow me," He isn't saying, "Trail along behind Me, watch what I do, cry for Me in My sorrow, and cheer Me in My triumph." He's saying, "Do what I do, love as I love, drink from the cup I drink from." We don't merely follow Him to the foot of the Cross, we follow Him onto the Cross, and into the tomb; only them will we rise with Him.