The straw that broke the camel’s back – Monday, 16th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 12:38-42

Texts must be understood in their context. We are in chapter twelve of the Gospel of Matthew which focuses on the rejection of Jesus. On Friday we began chapter twelve and the Pharisees have their swords drawn out right away. Our Lord confronts their wickedness with the very scriptures that they claimed to be guardians of. But while the first controversy was directed towards embarrassing Jesus by pointing at his disciples who were ‘breaking the Sabbath’ (12:1-8) the second attack was more pointed; directed to Jesus; “is it lawful to cure on the sabbath” (12:10). The Lord’s answer left the Pharisees red-faced but they were not ones to back away. We are told, “They went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.” (12:14)

Their angst against Jesus was so obvious that word got to Jesus and he departs from that place. But while our Lord may have left that place, he did not leave his ministry. Again and again, the scriptures bear witness to the attacks against our Lord only to follow it up with his resolve to “cure all of them” (12:15). Yet, Our Lord’s detractors are relentless. Scripture tells us that no sooner does he cast out a demon from a man who was mute and blind than the Pharisees accuse him of relieving the sick through the power of Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.

This it seems was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Our Lord draws the line in the sand, “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me, scatters.” (12:30). The Lord, clearly riled up shows no mercy. His words are blunt and direct when he calls the Pharisees “a brood of vipers” and “evil” (12:34). It is with this background that we now approach our text.

The Pharisees now approach the Lord for the fourth time in chapter twelve. This time they are joined by the scribes and together they ‘wish to see a sign from him.’ Our Lord is in no mood to ‘entertain’ their whims and fancies or back down. He calls them out for what they are, ‘evil and adulterous.’

The Lord has worked two great miracles in this one chapter and yet they want a sign. Asking for a sign was nothing short of a demand that the heavens open up; a sign was always something from above. Yet they could not see, that the God from whom they wanted a sign, was the God who stood in their midst. Hate takes a terrific hold on us as it did with the Pharisees.

Jesus is in no mood to pander to these religious leaders and while he will give them no sign, he speaks of the sign to come; his resurrection. Using a character from the scriptures he highlights their incredulity. The people of Nineveh, a hated race of the Israelites, took heed to the words of a very reluctant prophet Jonah who did not want to preach repentance to them. Yet when he did, they all repented and were saved. It is the hated race of the people of Israel who on judgment day will point a finger at these very self-righteous religious leaders and haul them over the fire.

There is so much hate and angst against Our Lord in this chapter and while we have grown used to listening to the hate against Our Lord, imagine his own pain and suffering.

Today, examine your heart. Is there someone you hate so much that it has consumed you? If so it’s time to get RID of ‘hateRID’


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