Two Biblical Stories and Human Nature

Today is Maundy Thursday of Holy Week. The day of the Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest in the Garden  of Gethsemane.

Events on this and subsequent days include two intense examples of human motivation not limited to strictly spiritual contexts.  Rather the story shows how any individual might react to events in their own life.

Prophets and Honor

Every social system has ways of recognizing the successful and the benefactors of their profession. In credit unions a major event is the Herb Wegner dinner, the occasion for presenting lifetime achievement awards to honor selected leaders.

These traditions salute individual’s values and/or performance that fulfill the goals of the industry: profit, service, innovation,  growth or even longevity.   Some goals are very tangible, others more qualitative.

Those Without Honors

But whose contribution does not get honored?   The topic is raised at least twice in the New Testament:

In Mark 6:4 Jesus said to the crowd, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

And, in Luke 4:24 (English Standard Version 2016): “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.”

Why this disbelief?  Does familiarity breed contempt?  Are we skeptical of any special insight let alone prophetic wisdom from persons we know well, have worked with over years. and who seemingly share the same experiences as everyone else?  Why should one peer’s views be trusted over another’s?

There is an inherent caution to see those among us, whom we know well, as having special insight versus merely expressing a different opinion.   Persons, often outsider who focus more on the message, are often more inclined to listen to these singular views.

Ordinary people can have extraordinary wisdom.  Sometimes their outspokenness make them unpopular with those in authority or leadership.   The “prophetic voice” is uncomfortable.  It challenges current shortcomings often with a passionate hope for a different future.  For those who are being challenged, this passion feels like anger.

I am not referring to the purveyors (often consultants) of innovation who promote operating improvements. The prophet’s concern is more deeply rooted in fundamental meaning and purpose.

The question for credit unions is, are there any prophetic voices challenging local or national priorities today?  Who might they be?  What is basis for their critique?

And if we can name none, what does that say about the state of our “movement”?  Has consensus trumped wisdom?

The Thirty Pieces of Silver

A second example routinely pulled from Maundy Thursday is Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the Garden for 30 pieces of silver.

Think of how often this metaphor is used to accuse someone taking an action for monetary or other rewards seemingly to betray their personal beliefs.

Rev. Megan Brown takes a more nuanced view of Judas’ motivation:

“Judas was not a peripheral bystander, but one of the twelve, the inner circle of disciples who had accompanied Jesus in his ministry and in a shared, communal life together.

Surely Judas knew the implications of his actions. Surely, he knew that the chief priests and the elders were growing weary of this rabble rouser, Jesus, and that they wanted him gone. This exchange, and the kiss that follows later are ominous moments in the life of Jesus and his followers. They leave one wondering about Judas’ motivations. “

Judas was a believer. Some have interpreted his action as driven by deep disappoint that Jesus was not radical or bold enough in his Jerusalem journey.  The march from the Mount of Olives to the Temple should signal a rebellion against Roman rule, not a pacificist call to turn the other cheek.

Or, maybe he sensed that the multiple political forces mobilizing against this upstart rabbi from Nazareth were becoming too strong; so he decided to go to the other, more likely “winning” side.

Perhaps he was emotionally confused by the historical intensity of the Passover remembrance, the increasing crowd appeal of Jesus and the growing immanence  of a life-making choice.

What we know is that Judas deeply regrets his actions, attempts to return the silver coins and commits suicide.

Judas shows us the very human side of intense hope and belief. Is this a movement that will go in the directions I believe it should? Is there another option to this leader’s course of action? How does one express dissent if convinced current directions are not the best?

How many initial “reformers” give up their quest from exhaustion,  just to get on with life, and be comfortable with their peers?

Whether Prophetic Voice or Judas?

All movements have both personalities in their adherents.   We all might cite leaders who took courageous stands or whom we believe compromised their duty to their followers.

That is what makes leadership so critical, and often controversial.   It is also what makes public dialogue so vital.

We live in an era where there is continuing reinterpretation and debate after millennia about faith, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or just a value-centered life.   While many believe that truth, when proclaimed, is universal; even some would challenge that assumption.

The one common approach that all faith and other “movements” followers have ultimately taken to succeed, is to pursue these issues in community. People aligned with one another agree to listen and learn together how their differing perspectives can arrive at common purpose or priority.

The Necessity of Community

Scott Galloway has put the power of relationships in a much broader context in his precent post

“Within and across species, relationships are essential to surviving and thriving. . .

“Humans have speedballed the power of relationships. Physically we are weak, slow, and fragile, with mediocre senses and absurdly long infancies. Yet, thanks to our superpower of cooperation, we’ve dominated our environment and become the apex of apex predators. There are more birds in captivity than birds in the wild. . .

“We are wired to seek and sustain relationships and cannot survive without them. The future of the human race won’t turn on space travel or climate tech, but on our ability to attach to others. A sense that we matter, that we can call on and be called upon by others to ease burdens and celebrate joy.”

It is not coincidence that the last moments of Maundy Thursday’s Biblical events were spent in community.   Christians call it The Last Supper.

Music for Holy Week

Stabat Mater, by Antonio Vivaldi (1712). There have been many beautiful settings depicting the scene of the Mother of God standing in sorrow at the foot of the cross.






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