Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Roost

And a scribe came up and said to him, Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.  And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. – Matthew 8:19-20

Commentaries and preaching about this verse typically focus on the poverty of Jesus or the fact that the poor person who has no great possessions may be more like Christ than the rich.  Because of the context, I think we can allow that Jesus is issuing a challenge to the scribe who offered to follow Him.  He is not, He makes clear, the ordinary type of rabbi who is interested in finding a place in this world. 

The word translated “nests” is related to the word “tabernacle”.  It is more like a roosting place for the night than a nest for eggs.  There was no place on earth for the Lord to settle, though He had “tabernacled” with Israel and had, to a degree, dwelt in the temple.   In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:26-36), we read of Peter’s reaction:  And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah—not knowing what he said.  The Lord had no intention of staying here, of building houses, temples, cities, palaces or fortresses. 

One reason I have probably remained a Protestant is because I find a disconnect between the primitive (in the sense of primacy) “Book of Acts” church and the kind of medieval tradition of Catholicism and Orthodoxy with the tendency toward cathedrals and an emphasis on buildings.  Of course, Protestants learned that worshipers like nice facilities with good parking, and that become one of the trademark gimmicks for “church growth” in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  It probably still is today, but I pay a lot less attention. 

The church is not a building, though parts of it may meet in one.  Jesus says that wherever two or three gather in His Name – where there are relationships, communion, and fellowship, there He is.  His dwelling place is in us, and ours is to be in Him. 


Rick said...

"The church is not a building.."

An important point worth reminding.

And Matthew 8:19-20 certainly is mysterious and thought provoking.
Not a little foreboding in it too. That He can't lay his head for even a minute. Or simply won't. Danger everywhere and yet so much to be done.

julie said...

True, the church is not a building... but then again it is, in a way, or else all those wisecracks about Peter being a rock and about laying foundations would seem to fall a bit flat. No?

Which isn't to say in any way that you're wrong, of course. You're not. Just a different way of looking at things.

julie said...

Interesting about the bit of wordplay between tabernacle and nest, btw. I never would have guessed that, but of course they are related.

I sometimes think the Bible must be seriously funny in places, only a lot of the jokes got lost in translation.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I second Julie's comment. I had no idea that nests were related to tabernacles.
Gives new meaning for me.

John Lien said...

There was no place on earth for the Lord to settle, though He had “tabernacled” with Israel and had, to a degree, dwelt in the temple.

Is he speaking only about himself or is this also to be a characteristic of those who follow him as well? As in, this world isn't our home. Can't really settle down here.

Yeah, I can see that.

mushroom said...

Yes, Peter the rock and the foundation. What's built upon him, are living stones.

1 Peter 2:4-5, As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I appreciate what is behind the building of the great cathedrals. They can be a work of art, testifying of truth of the invisible church.

Again, making the invisible visible -- it didn't stop with the Old Testament.

mushroom said...

John, I think we are supposed to be "unattached" to some degree. Detachment to the point that we just don't care can come about by egotism and narcissism.

If we get an eternal perspective, we see that some things matter, because they are eternal and some don't so much because they are more like logs floating in a stream which we may use to help us cross.

Souls always matter because humans are eternal. Houses matter when they shelter souls that need cover for the night -- otherwise, not so much.