The Penalty for Mutiny

Aug 20 2020

The late summer period of Jesus’ last year. A time of preparation – for the winter rains and for the fall feasts. In Capernaum, homebase for Jesus’ family and closest disciples, the residents live in a rare tension. They, at least their leaders, must determine whether to silence Jesus.

The Hebrew Law states that from time to time prophets will make predictions and perform miracles and then propose worship of previously unknown gods … as a test of loyalty. The penalty for this mutiny is death by stoning. (Deut 13:1-11)

Throughout human history in culture after culture, mutineers and traitors receive the stiffest legal penalties. The Hebrew law is no different. But for the people of Capernaum, the law continues:

If that prophet-scoundrel leads his neighbors  to worship other gods, if they all conspire together, then the town must receive the mutiny-punishment as well. (Deut. 13:12-17)

Conspiracy to commit treason is treason and receives treason’s penalty. Rules always sound so clean and forceful when read from the rulebook. But on the ground in human experience, there are always complicating factors. A major theme of Jesus’ experience, a theme that appears over and over in the Gospels, is this conflict over Jesus’ identity — teacher … false prophet … The Prophet … Messiah … And the people of Capernaum lived in the tension, at least for another month…

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