As I wrote last week, I had the good fortune of co-leading the Solomon’s Porch sermon discussion on Sunday evening with Rabbi Joseph Edelheit — you can watch the full 50+ minute video here; it was streamed on UStream via my iPhone, so forgive the audio and video.
I had asked Joseph, who serves as a kind of resident rabbi to Solomon’s Porch, to join me because we were tackling the 18th chapter of the Fourth Gospel, in which Judas leads the Roman Guard to the garden to arrest Jesus. We didn’t get through the whole chapter, being that Joseph and I — and many Porchians — are quite talkative. In fact, we only got through 14 verses, and here are some of the points 0f interest:
John’s description of this event contains notable differences with the three synoptic Gospels, some of which I attempted to point out. For instance, only John names the man whose ear (earlobe, actually) was cut off as “Malchus,” and in this Gospel, Jesus does not heal the earlobe. Also, when Jesus says “I AM,” a bunch of guys fall over, in a Benny Hinn-esque moment unlike any other in the Gospels.
Did I just compare Jesus to Benny Hinn? Forgive me.
Joseph brought up some points even more pertinent:
Judas is a name rife with significance for John’s readers/hearers. Literally, “of Judah,” it’s clear that Judas plays a literary role in this Gospel. Jew-das, you might say, is repeatedly referred to by John as the one who betrayed Jesus. Indeed, Peter’s denials are seen by the Gospel writer, and by us, as an endearing part of his overall bumbling faithfulness. But Judas is the betrayer and condemned to Hell.
Ever since, the rabbi reminded us, “Jew” has been an epithet, as in to “Jew someone down” on a price. And he reminded us of Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Judas clawing the ground for the 30 shekels after they fell to the ground.
Further, Joseph challenged us about the traditional opening of the communion liturgy. Across Protestantism and Catholicism, we begin that rite with the words penned by Paul, “On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he took a loaf…” Of all the things that Jesus did that night, the rabbi asked, why do we thousands of times per day around the globe begin this liturgical activity with a negative? And, moreso, with something that reminds us of Jesus’ betrayal by Jew-das?
As you might imagine, a rigorous discussion ensued at both worship gatherings on Sunday night. But let it be known that the rabbi did not ask us to sterilize our sacred text. He referred the the recent efforts to expurgate the “n-word” from Mark Twain’s novels, and he considers this a terrible mistake. Instead of redacting the anti-Jewish polemics in John, the Synoptics, and Paul, he wants us to confront them head-on, to acknowledge them, and to recognize the complicity of the text in the anti-semitism of the Christian church, both historically and currently.
If you make it to the end of the video, you’ll hear Joseph challenge all of us to be radically inclusive. “Christ is Lord,” he proclaimed, without a qualifier. Not, “Christ is Lord for you.” Just, “Christ is Lord.”
“But if I’m willing to say that, I expect you to say in return, ‘You, rabbi, are right with God.'”
I’m beginning to think that every church should have a rabbi.