Easter Monday, April 9, 2012 – Exodus 21:1-11 – Freedom
When we read portions of scripture like this one today we can see why it is fool’s work to believe in sacred texts in a black-and-white, off-on way. As we read these Laws Regarding Slaves we see that they made sense in the context of their time. It is my hope that we can also see that they are out of step with 21st Century living. Anyone reading these statutes as absolutes will have difficulty explaining them away. How, for example, do we make sense of these phrases? When you purchase a Hebrew slave . . . if his master gives him a wife . . . the woman and her children remain his property . . . when a man sells his daughter . . . if her master dislikes her . . . Any of us who knows true freedom will cherish and defend it for others. Any of us who enjoy controlling others will find these rules to be liberal and kind. Any of us who understands that Christ has come to liberate us from all kinds of slavery will see these decrees for what they are: laws that kept social order thousands of years ago, not laws that we will want to enforce today. Why is it, I wonder, as we struggle with one another do we treat one another as slaves who must comply with our whims? And why is it that we often live our lives in full denial of the fact that when we live as we like without considering the far-reaching effects of our whims we enslave others? We want cheaper electronics made in factories where workers toil in a poisonous environment. We want clothes that cost less because they are put together in sweat shops where children work long hours under horrible conditions; we do not mind that the diamonds we wear so easily are brought to light by child slaves. Has Jesus taught us anything?
If we learn anything from the Easter story it is that we are free. In today’s Gospel Matthew tells us that the structure which tried to extinguish Jesus bribed guards and implicated Jesus’ disciples. The chief priests and elders took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep”. And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble”. The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. We can only presume that the plot was unsuccessful. I often wonder how the elders, priests, and soldiers quieted the small voice of truth that must have niggled at their consciousness. Perhaps they had hardened their hearts. We will never know.
On this first day after the resurrection of Jesus we might want to spend some time examining our lives to see where we pay small and big bribes to silence truth. We may want to think about how and where we turn blind eyes and deaf ears to realities that insist on nagging at us when our guard is down. How much easier it is to admit these certainties and conform ourselves to the greatest law there is, the law that supersedes all laws: The Law of Love.
Jesus died, Jesus was buried. And behold, there was an earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it . . . The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. These guards later accepted a sum of money to forego the truth. Jesus comes to rescue them, the elders and priests, just as he also rescues his friends. We may try to enslave one another with our whims and our fears. We may allow ourselves to be enslaved for a time or forever to a person, an idea, or an addiction. In the end, Jesus stands ready to rescue each of us. When he calls outside the door of our enslavement which we have shut tightly against the darkness of our fears, will we be willing to open it to the truth and the light and the freedom beyond?