Prophecy versus Tradition

     Jesus said, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his friends and his own family.” He couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. (from Mark 6:1-13)

      What’s your understanding of prophecy? The Greek definition says it’s a discourse arising from divine inspiration and explaining the purposes of God. More telling is the Hebrew word that can be translated in these ways:

  1. load, bearing, tribute, burden, lifting
    1. load, burden
    2. lifting, uplifting, that to which the soul lifts itself up
    3. bearing, carrying
    4. tribute, that which is carried or brought or borne
  2. utterance, oracle, burden

prophet     To prophecy is not an easy task. It’s often a burden. Why? Because it’s to carry the burden of telling people what they probably don’t want to hear. And most of the time, people don’t want to hear something different from what they’ve been taught for years and years. It’s the stuff of tradition that people don’t want to let go.

     Let me give you a quick example from the gospel of Mark in the passage above. Jesus couldn’t do any miracles (mighty or wonderful works) in his hometown except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

     Did Jesus instantly make the illness of people go away? That’s what tradition has convinced us. Yet as I explained in my book, The Kingdom of Heaven is for Real…, the word for heal is therapeuo. It means to serve as an attendant (to take care of), to cure (to relieve pain, to make better, voluntarily serve), or to worship (to wait upon, render voluntary service).

     Jesus couldn’t do any mighty works except to lay hands on sick people and voluntarily wait upon them to make them feel better. That’s not as dramatic or almighty Godlike as tradition might want you to believe. Jesus tended their wounds. Maybe he used healing oils to reduce infection or gave them something to relieve indigestion. (After all, he was given the tools of a first century physician by the magi – golden balsam, frankincense, and myrrh.)

     Jesus was more like you and me than tradition (through translators) would have you to believe. And you are also more capable of performing wonderful and powerful works than tradition would have you believe. You can heal [serve voluntarily] in the same way Jesus healed. But let’s not stay with that line of prophecy.

     Let me move to what’s happening in 2015, the burden of declaring things that tradition would not want you to change. Like the Supreme Court decision to allow anyone to commit his/her devotion, love, and life to another person regardless of the complementarity of their genitalia or physical gender appearance.

     The prophets bore the burden of revealing purposes of God that didn’t always agree with the oral and written tradition. The prophets said poor people were valued by God, not being punished by God. Rituals were nice but not when they were placed as higher in importance than the care of people who were hurting. Rules are important but not when they hurt people instead of helping establish equity and order in large groups of people.

     That’s why Martin Luther said things like these: love is the only law for Christians now, and love is to be the interpreter of the law, and if any law, divine or human, does not lead to love and care for people, it should be abolished. People of religious law don’t like to hear things like this. It’s hard to manipulate people to be like you imagine they are supposed to be with something as ambiguous as “love.” And it’s harder to love than to judge.

     I explained two of Jesus’s parables in my book (chapters five and nine) that clearly (in my mind) teach that it’s important to sort through all the things tradition has taught so that you keep the good teachings and get rid of the ones that are not helpful anymore.

     The only problem with bearing the burden of prophecy is that people of tradition don’t react with love and kindness to changes in tradition. That’s why they crucified Jesus, and many of the prophets.

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