For our morning readings Sara and I have been reading a book that came recommended to us. “What Jesus Meant” was written by Garry Wills, a Catholic who is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern University. I have mixed feelings about the book, but love what we read this morning.
Here are some quotes from his chapter on Heavenly reign:
(In reference to Jesus’ statement, “the first will be last and the last will be first:) The antihierarchical last sentence shows that the symbolic-prophetic meaning of the Twelve has nothing to do with church governance below. The biblical scholar John Meier concludes that Jesus gave his movement no authority structure.”
“But what of Peter? Did not Jesus found his church on Peter…? The Catholic scholar Raymond Brown wrote, “Peter never served as the bishop or local administrator of any church, Antioch and Rome included.”
The idea that Peter was given some special power that could be handed on to a successor runs into the problem that he had no successor. The idea that there is an ‘apostolic succession’ to Peter’s fictional episcopacy did not arise for several centuries at which time Peter and others were retrospectively called bishops of Rome to create an imagined succession.
Jesus said, “Where two or three are met together in my name, there I am in their midst: (Matt 18:20). Why do (any of us) met together in Jesus’ name need a bishop from Rome when they have Jesus in their midst?
He goes on to talk about Jesus’ establishing heaven’s reign on earth, not through our hierarchical religious institutions, but through the presence of the Risen Lord. Jesus equates heaven’s reign with his personal presence, and that in groups of twos and threes.
And all of this is from a Catholic! Amazing. I forget who recommended this book to me, and while it does have a few problems, it is as incisive a book about the life of Jesus as I’ve read. The presumptuous title aside, I think he does peel back a lot of the religious veneer we have laid over Christ and gets to the heart of why he came and what he wanted to instill in his people. I think I’ve enjoyed it more than Sara, but it is a good read.