That’s what Matthew aims to do, in fact, is to tell in his gospel the story of God’s power and presence come among us in a new way, of God among us in the Messiah in a way that we did not, could not expect.
During Paul’s time in prison, his relationship with Onesimus was transformed by the gospel, and he expects the same will be true with Philemon.
All-in moments come in all shapes and sizes. They can come at any moment. And they can change our lives.
This is a highly unusual encounter; as Barbara Brown Taylor put it, “For a modern parallel, imagine a diplomat in Washington, D.C., inviting a street preacher to join him in his late model Lexus for a little Bible study. The inclusion in this story runs both ways.”
And now this woman–this woman who once was possessed, whom they knew to be unstable, she was telling them this absurd thing, that Jesus wasn’t dead anymore, that the world didn’t work the way they knew it worked.
Maybe Joseph was on the fence before about who this man was and what he stood for, but in claiming the corpse of Jesus he is publicly associating himself with Jesus. All the way to the grave.
The name Judas is synonymous with betrayal. He’s one of the most widely-known figures from the gospels. We know who he is. We know what he did. But why did he do it?
Who is someone who’s maybe not a “headliner” in the official version of your life’s story, but who has in her/his/their own way prophesied for you a future that others might not have seen in the moment? Who has had eyes for the divine and perceived the divine at work in you?
It is appalling, the mercy of God, the mercy, compassion, patience, faithful love, and willingness not to destroy. It’s appalling because we like to sort the world into neat, clearly-defined categories of who’s redeemable and who’s not, and God somehow transcends those categories.
Even before Nebuchadnezzar, the three men leave open the possibility that their God, the God of Judea, won’t come through. Yet they remain faithful. They step into the furnace.