Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant. Where the law says not to commit murder, Jesus says He has come to bring life. Where the law says not to covet, Jesus turns His back on the riches of this world. Where the law says to remember the Sabbath day and make it holy, Jesus makes whole-ly on the Sabbath. Where the law says to honor thy mother and thy father, well...
That's where it gets a little fun.
There's one way to read this, and that is to say that Jesus must honor Joseph and Mary and give to them what a first-born son would be expected to give to them - financial security, continuance of name, maintenance of land, and so on and so forth. But I want to read this another way, and I'm going to take today and tomorrow to do it. Today, I want to read this little phrase: Honor thy father.
Or honor thy Father.
Jesus had an obligation to honor His Father. He says so rather often, if you listen to His words. I have to do what my Father sent me to do. I have to say what my Father tells me to say. I have to believe what my Father has told me. And so on and so forth. He gets lost on a return trip from Jerusalem, but He's lost only because He's not making the return trip at all. When Joseph and Mary finally find Him, He is sitting in the temple. Nonchalantly, He looks up and says, You should know I would be in my Father's house. Later, He says, I must be about my Father's business. He repeatedly warns His disciples about what will happen to Him in Jerusalem, but always reminds them this is what His Father has willed for His life. And He surrenders to that will in the Garden of Gethsemane just hours before this bitter cup comes to pass.
Thy Father was always on Jesus's mind.
And whenever opportunity arises, we see Jesus honoring what the Father has put in Him. We see Him choosing the hard thing because it is also the faithful thing. We see Him doing the unpopular thing because it is also the required thing. We see Him again and again honoring what His Father asks of Him. And this, I think, is what it means to honor thy Father.
Not to get too graphic, but let's get into this: the Father's role in the creation of you is the seed. He plants the seed. (In human terms, we call this the sperm, but let's not get lost in human terms.) You've heard me talk about this before - you are the product of divine imagination. God planted something small in you. Faith is as small as a mustard seed; God has put it inside of you to grow you in the faith as you live. The Kingdom of Heaven begins this way. The very universe may even start here. Again and again, I keep coming back to this image of the seed because it's powerful. It's important.
It's the very thing your Father has given you.
So I think this commandment is still incredibly powerful. We are called to honor thy Father. We are called to live in the way that Jesus lived, with one eye always on God, with the Father always on our mind. We are called to choose the hard thing sometimes because it is also the faithful thing. We are called to do the unpopular thing sometimes because it is also the required thing. We are called to do what the Father has sent us to do, to say what the Father tells us to say, to believe what the Father has told us. Were it such that we could easily respond, I must be about my Father's business. Because we must. We must honor the seed God has planted in us. We must honor the very nature He's created in us. That includes the purpose, the passion, the power, and the presence He's put in us, among so many other things.
When I think about this commandment, then, it's not just about Joseph and Mary. Or Bill and Betty. Or whatever your parents' names happen to be. This first part, here, honor thy Father, is about paying attention to the seed of my Father in me, to what God has planted and desires to grow in me. There is a way that I am to live honoring Him, and I strive for that. I hope you do, too.
Honor thy Father. And come back tomorrow for what it means to honor thy mother.
Hint? It's not about Mary.