March 15, 2008

Hyperbole

Sometimes I think Jesus a bit harsh. I've just accepted some of these as his need for hyperbole - extreme exaggeration for a point. Like telling us to hate our mother and brother.

Like the man telling Jesus he wants to follow him, but "first let me go and bury my father". And Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead".

I learned about the Jewish burial customs in Jesus' day. It took place in two stages. Immediately after death the body is placed in a casket in a tomb to decompose. The family sat shiva (mourned) for seven days (you can read about this mourning 'celebration' in Lauren Winner's book Mudhouse Sabbath). After about a year the bones are taken from the tomb and put in an ossuary (box for bones), and then reburied for good.

It's probably between these two burials that the man approached Jesus and maybe it couldn't be for a year before he could finally follow Jesus. So he's caught - should he follow Jesus or follow how he understands the Torah - which is the commandment to honor one's parents in respecting the burial customs.

These are the exaggerated extremes: Do we love God by following Jesus more than we love the Torah and our family?!

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