Here, as promised, is the text of Sunday's sermon at Trendlewood:
What authority are you under?
was a human, living in a particular place at a particular time under
a particular jurisdiction and a particular religious heritage.
may have become confused over the years at mentions of Pharisees,
Sadducees, Chief Priests, scribes and teachers of the law.
were a Jewish group dating back to the time of Ezra. They believed in
particular that the exile in Babylon in 587 BC was because the law
had not been kept properly. They were interested in ethics not
theology. Especially tithing. There were about 6,000 of them in
Herod's day. They kept themselves separate and wouldn't even buy food
from a non-Pharisee in case it hadn't been tithed. They had scribes
who wrote out detailed explanations and commentaries on the law so
that any argument about it could be resolved by reference to them.
were another party or group but their origins are harder to pin down.
Whilst Pharisees were populist the Sadducees' appeal was mainly to
wealthier people. They stuck to the law as outlined in the Torah
(first five books of the Old Testament) and this brought them into conflict with
the Pharisees' modern interpretations. Most of them were priests, but
not all priests were Sadducees. They disappear soon after Jesus'
resurrection. They didn't believe in resurrection, the soul or the
after-life because they did not see it in the Torah.
are descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, both from Levi's tribe.
are members of the tribe of Levi not directly descended from Aaron.
most holy jobs were reserved for priests. Levites got the less
glamorous stuff to do. Probably clearing up after sacrifices.
is the chair of the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin. Since it is a post
people held for a period and then stood down it is why we see
references to Chief Priests - plural (in the same way as all previous United States presidents are referred to as Mr President). It includes all
previous office-holders. High
is just another name for chief priest. You find it in some
these movements had their scribes
- the people who wrote things down.
all taught the law so Teachers
of the Law
anyone who did such a work.
we know Jesus gradually, through his behaviour and teaching, came
into contact and opposition with these groups.
was popular so the Pharisees wanted to like him, but he did stuff on
the sabbath, went into unclean houses and hung around with sinners.
quoted scripture so the Sadducees wanted to like him, but he spoke of
resurrection and demonstrated it from the Torah.
valued the synagogue so the priests wanted to like him, but he acted
in a priestly way without being from the right tribe - Joseph's
lineage was to David, from the tribe of Judah.
all this is of nothing in the light of the political situation at the
was a decree from Caesar that sent Joseph to Bethlehem for a census.
was eventually an order of a distant local ruler appointed by Caesar
who sent Jesus to his death.
we know, from our current middle eastern politics, what local
difficulties there are about whose land is whose and how unwelcome
intervention is no matter whose suffering is being alleviated.
we also know from our own history that under Roman occupation a
number of people adopted the Roman way. We have villas, and
bathhouses and mosaics under our soil in this land which show not so
much an occupation as a changing way of life.
also know that throughout the Empire, from the Black Sea to modern
Spain and North Africa to Hadrian's Wall, there were insurrectionists
who worked against the Romans. Zealots - Jesus had one of those in
his gang and Barabbas was one too.
is why our passage today is the key one about Jesus relationship with
centurion. A Roman soldier in charge of 100 men. Seems
to have been a good guy. Will
Jesus heal his servant?
think this passage tells us that relationship to authority and faith
are two separate things.
is no need for a Jew to be Pharisaic or Sadduseeic, drawing tighter
and tighter the rules of belonging. Faith can be found in the Jewish
world and the gentile world and will have its own rewards.
'...if we see God's authority, at work in Jesus Christ, as any less
absolute than that of a military officer, we are, according to the
passage, not only mistaken but lacking faith itself.'
observed this. He followed Jesus. Some years later as he reflected he
is for us to work out how to react to a tyrannical boss or what to do
if we find ourselves at odds with our MP. But the blessings of faith,
and God's mercy, and a relationship with Jesus are available to all.