Ez 28:1-10; Deut 32:26-28,30,35,36; Mt 19:23-30
We are not so unlike our ancestors in the faith; some days we are willing to follow the LORD and some days we are unwilling. However, we do so enjoy it when the LORD outsmarts our enemies. We like it when the LORD puts them in their place. In the responsorial from the book of Deuteronomy this is exactly what the LORD is doing. The LORD who deals death and gives life; He is God, and there is no other. The LORD will not tolerate the insolence of the enemies of Israel. He will not give them total victory over his people, even though he allows them to inflict hardships and defeat on Israel, so that they might learn to obey him and honor his ways. The LORD refuses to give complete victory over Israel to these punishing nations lest they think for one moment that their own hand won the victory and that the LORD had nothing to do with it. Their reasoning is complete foolishness; “For they are a people devoid of reason, having no understanding.” The only reason that any enemy of Israel has any victory is that the LORD, Israel’s Rock, sold them and delivered them up. Those, who hold such self-deception and believe the lies of their prideful hearts, are close to the day of their disaster, and their doom is rushing upon them. “Surely, the LORD shall do justice for his people; on his servants he shall have pity.” Ezekiel the Prophet proclaims that the Prince of Tyre was just such a foolish man; and his self-deceit was his ruin. The Lord Jesus confounds the wisdom of his disciples; their foolish common sense he repudiates. Our own favorite ideas and pet ideologies are challenged and changed by the wisdom of the Crucified Lord Jesus.
The Prophet Ezekiel hits the nail on the head in the preface of his case against the prince of Tyre. “Because you are haughty of heart, you say, ‘A god am I! I occupy a godly throne in the heart of the sea!’” Such foolishness survives the destruction of Tyre and its god-prince. Even among believers today, there are the haughty of heart. There are some who think themselves like a god. They trust in their own wisdom; because they are wiser than Daniel, there is no secret that is beyond them. This wisdom has become mere financial expertise and market place skill. Such money-sense provides abundant riches; this wealth only supports the haughty in their self-deception. Riches and wisdom will not protect anyone from the barbarous foreigners who have no regard for words of wisdom or skillful negotiations. These invaders will take all the riches upon which the haughty depend, and because the haughty are not divine, they will die like a bloodied corpse in the heart of the sea. These harsh words of the Prophet Ezekiel make clear the threat of the LORD in the midst of Tyre and its god-prince. These harsh words are still a warning to the haughty of every generation, even those who hide in the church.
The wisdom and power of this world have no value when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory. In the world of the disciples of the Lord Jesus, everyone saw worldly wealth as a clear sign of God’s favor. The rich were seen as blessed by the LORD. They were already beginning to live heaven on earth. For the many more who were not rich, the wealthy were a constant temptation to envy. Into this very stratified and clear cut world of rich and poor, the Lord Jesus proclaims the gospel, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” What a joke! The disciples must have laughed at the image of a plump rich man trying to squeeze his way through the eye of a needle. Or they must have chuckled at the reversal that the Kingdom brought; this was completely unexpected. These men were small in the eyes of the rich. They had nothing in this world, and they were insignificant in the structure of society. They were among the poor and powerless. Not destitute, but living from day to day. Saint Peter knows that somehow their choice to follow the Messiah Jesus has already made a difference in their lives. However, he had no idea that the Twelve would replace the twelve sons of Jacob. Sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel is itself an unexpected vision. This thought must have caused a smile if not a chuckle. The abundance of blessings in the Kingdom of God is unspeakable, and beyond these blessings, the inheritance of eternal life. The Lord Jesus has one more surprise for all who heard him that day, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Never let your wisdom and position among the disciples of the Lord Jesus become a source of haughtiness and pride. Always treasure the last place, the place of the servant. There you are in good company with the one who will soon wash the feet of all those he leads into glory.