Whenever I launch on my brand of Christianity, which is that John’s Gospel is the first preferred book of the Bible and Matthew, the next: i have brickbats aimed at me, and some have even let loose the much misused verse, “ALL SCRIPTURE IS GIVEN BY THE INSPIRATION OF GOD AND IS PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, REPROOF, CORRECTION …..etc.etc.” For me a SUPER EVANGELIST is still lesser than an APOSTLE, who was not only chosen by Jesus himself, but even after the death & resurrection of Jesus propagated Christ and told what they had heard with their own ears.
Paul of Tarsus upbraids Peter, the apostle who was the most daring and action oriented disciple of Jesus Christ. That narration could be seen in Galatians Chapter 2 verses 11 onwards:
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
This upbraiding was, in my opinion unworthy of a proselytized Christian who did not have the benefit of the WORD IN FLESH. Further, when the Phoenician woman asks Jesus, while He was in the flesh, for the cure of her daughter, He said,
“But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” (Matt:15:26)
But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. (Mark 7:27)
Matthew, a disciple of Jesus, while in the flesh, had no axe to grind after the resurrection of Jesus to tell something which he did not hear, therefore I suppose Matthew’s narration has authenticity and verity. Whereas, Mark, was first a disciple of Peter and then of Paul and I see more reason to adjust the FACTS to be in harmony with their doctrine. These adjustments may be in line with the present day thinking, but for Matthew who saw and followed Jesus, there would have been no necessity to accommodate the morale of the gentiles, like Paul and his disciples had to!
Jesus said, “Salvation is of the Jews.” (John4:22), which is very clear and as Khalil Gibran says about one’s children in his “PROPHET”: “They come through you but not from you, they are life’s longing for itself”, it is the preposition OF, which spells from where the salvation is to emanate and such salvation is not FOR the Jews only.
One should call into reference Jesus’ many parables, one of which is that the king made a big feast and invited guests but none having turned up, sent his men and collected people from the streets and idlers for the marriage feast. But when one invitee was found without the wedding clothes, Jesus did not say that since he was an invitee, he could come to the dinner without preparation. Even if one is invited, one cannot enter certain places without being WORTHY of that august company to which one has been invited! (Matt 22:5-14)
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
This parable shows that the Jews were the original INVITEES, but because they did not turn up, citing one flimsy ground after another, the invitation was extended to the gentiles also. This doesn’t mean that the gentiles could go in because of an INVITATION, the gentiles had to be prepared.
So in my humble opinion, Paul was too eager to get in the gentiles into the fold without preparation, all in the name of FAITH, but the Jacobean WORKS was also important.
So that leads to the next question whether eating with or being seen eating with the gentiles was proscribed by CHRIST? My answer is that it is most important that there are some etiquette which are necessarily to be followed. Let us cut back and go to the feast organized by Joseph for his brothers in Egypt, Joseph did not want to be seen eating with the shepherdic Jews and did not eat with his own brothers for a while. Peter was merely NOT WANTING TO DISTURB THE FLEDGLING FAITH OF THE JERUSALEMITES, Jerusalem was the core. There was no reason, much less, any authority vested nor did Paul have the heritage to go ballistic and write such an epistle to Galatians proclaiming his doctrine and how he upheld his beliefs, even before the centre. According to me he broke ranks and even if that was forgivable, he did not have the courtesy of deference to an Apostle like Peter, who despite his impulsive nature was chosen by Jesus, after having seen through the heart of Peter. At I Timothy 5 :1 , Paul says:
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
But Paul doesn’t seem to have practised what he was prone to PREACHING. But, who am I to judge? Yet I have to choose a Christian path, which is : to wisely make choices like a serpent, yet to be INNOCENT like a dove in, ACTION. And therefore I WEIGH to CHOOSE! Even if I have done something wrong in such weighing, may the Lord be merciful to me.
Paul to me was a messenger of God to the non-Jews, but Peter was chosen as the ROCK on which Jesus brought every believer. Peter’s ability to REPENT as soon as he realized; the trust he had to try walking on water – can you imagine the TRUST he had in Jesus? No other disciple dared, but Peter did it! He was shown in his utterly human weakness so that I do not glory in my flesh, but depend on His Grace. If Jesus died for me, Peter trusted and DID, but he could not sustain and thereby has shown that my failings do not have to hinder my access to God. Thomas by his doubting, has cleared my ‘fundamental’ doubts!
Paul is a bundle of contradictions of a dying Pharisaical attitude, with a relentlessly emerging CHRISTIAN CONSCIOUSNESS. And Paul chose his company – Paul tonsured his head because of a vow- WOW! But it is his EFFORT, which surpasses all his defects. Yet Paul is no norm for a Christian.