This read through Matthew has certainly been striking for me. I've always known that Jesus is not particularly "chill" and there are a lot of things that He says that can be shocking to us because they sound hard and maybe even harsh to us. However, this "new eyes" reading of Matthew has made that even more obvious. Maybe it's just my mood and the situations I find myself confronting (I think the pandemic has sort of cast a gloom over a lot of what is happening these days) but I am really noticing that "gentle Jesus" is not a big part of the person Matthew portrays.
I choose Matthew because it is probably the gospel that is the least familiar to me, but as I read it, I realize that a lot of the passages are deeply ingrained in my consciousness. But my brain has always gone to the happier stuff--"His eye is on the sparrow" type stuff. However, I wonder if I had a chance to sit down and count the number of comforting "yoke is easy" passages with the number of "take up your cross" and "your a bunch of snakes" type passages where the count would end up.
So I find myself coming to the passage this morning with a wish that I could have more of the gentle Jesus and a little less of the Jesus the tough guy. Instead it's, "pick up the stake [you'll] be hung from" which is a startling image that helps with the "new eyes" reading. I want to say to Jesus, "I have a lot on my plate. Could I just leave all the stake/cross stuff for another day? I'm tired and frustrated and annoyed." I'm aware that Jesus was speaking to people who were suffering in ways I can't really imagine--poor, oppressed, bereaved, and yet He tells them to lay down their lives. I know that this is the paradoxical path into the abundant life, but it feels a bit heavy this morning.