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The Bible In A Year: Day 35

Exodus 34-35
Psalm 31
Mark 2

After the golden calf incident and Moses imploring God to remain with the people after they turned their back on him, Moses is called up the mountain to receive a replacement set of tablets containing the Ten Commandments. He is instructed to cut stone tablets and take them up the mountain where he spends another 40 days conversing with God. Here the covenant is renewed, but what is different is that prior to the golden calf incident there was the Ten Commandments, a couple chapters worth of covenant code, and some instructions on building the tabernacle and priestly garments. After the idolatry there is a restatement of the covenant code and then there is mountains of legal and ceremonial laws laid upon the people.

Some church fathers say that these extra regulations were given to be a heavy yoke upon the people to be a constant penitential reminder of the cost of idolatry in a bid to prevent further slips into idolatry in the future. While others such as Justin Martyr and Saint Irenaeus said that it was God’s way of gradually teaching Israel, and through them eventually the Church, the way to properly worship and respect him, and to pave the way for the Messiah.

When Moses comes down from the mountain his face is shining with the Glory of God, and this is the scene Matthew was trying to connect back to when he told about Jesus face shining at the transfiguration.

Chapter 35 sees God restating the sabbath restrictions and punishment for the 6th time in the book of Exodus. If they didn’t know by now, they probably never would, but God was serious about this. Moses also reminds the people of the collection for the tabernacle and the priest garments, and the response is great.

Mark 2

We start off this chapter with Jesus healing the paralytic man. (This is the same incident as recorded in chapter 9 of Matthew’s gospel) He does so by first absolving the man of his sins, which sets off some of the religious authorities and leads them to accuse Him of blasphemy. Up until this time, the only way to receive forgiveness for your sins was to offer a sin offering to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem, but here is this traveling preacher offering forgiveness outside the limits of the Mosaic Covenant. Had Jesus just been another traveling rabbi they would’ve been absolutely right, but Jesus has the authority to forgive sins because of who He is. As God, He has the authority to forgive this man, and after He does so he then physically heals him as a sign of His power and authority. After the resurrection, when Jesus breaths on the apostles and gives them all authority that He had on earth, He also explicitly tells them that they have the power and authority to forgive sins through Him, so this scene can rightly be seen as foreshadowing the sacrament of reconciliation.

The healing of the paralytic signifies the future resurrection of the faithful. The paralytic is the Christian whose sins are forgiven and who stands before God as son (9:2). When the Lord raises him (9:7), he will take up the bed of his body (9:7) and proceed to his heavenly home with God.

Saint Ambrose
Call of Saint Matthew

The next part of the chapter involves the calling to discipleship of a very unlikely candidate for the job. Saint Matthew, here called Levi, was a tax collector, and as such he was a collaborator with the brutal occupation of Judea. Think Vichy France during World War II and you can get somewhat of an idea what people thought of those who collaborated with the Romans. Add on top of that the fact that taxes haven’t been popular with anyone except politicians since the dawn of time. To say Saint Matthew was an unlikely disciple of the new Son of David would be a massive understatement. But here is the Lord calling the sinners to repentance and discipleship. I think back on my own life and can vividly remember times when I would’ve been the most unlikely of followers, as I’m sure everyone can, but that God we have been called and forgiven through the grace of God.

In Caravaggio’s Call of St Matthew, you see the outstretched hand of Jesus, and He is pointing at St Mathew man at the table. I’ve looked at this painting and even read different people’s take on what is happening and I can’t decide between two possibilities happening here. One is the the man pointing as if saying “who me?” is Mathew and the two men past him as so busy counting the money (the god that they worship) that they fail to notice the messiah standing at the door and calling their boss to follow Him. The second possibility is that the man pointing is showing who the boss is, and taking any heat off himself, while the tax collector Mathew hangs his head in shame and can’t even look up because he’s well aware of how his profession is rightfully perceived by his fellow Jews.

Either interpretation of this painting is viable, and the point driven home is that the call to discipleship with Christ is for all of us, no matter what we’ve done in the past, we all have a future with Jesus. /

When they question him eating with sinners, Jesus replies with his mission being to save sinners. A physician isn’t needed for the healthy, he’s needed for the sick, and the great physician didn’t come to heal physical infirmities only, he came to heal souls wounded by sin.

Tomorrow’s readings:
Exodus 36-38
Psalm 32
Mark 3

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