Peter’s Footnotes

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 — Week of Proper 14, Year One

Laurence, Deacon, and Martyr at Rome, 258

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, 978)

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning) 119:121-144 (evening)

2 Samuel 14:21-33

Acts 21:15-26

Mark 10:17-31

The annotated Bible that I use is called The Access Bible. It is published by Oxford Press and is intended to be a study Bible for individuals and groups. It uses the New Revised Standard translation. I like this Bible because of the footnotes, the introductions to the various books of the Bible, and the occasional block of background explanation. I mention all of this because a footnote in today’s reading offered me a couple of insights I’ve never thought about.

Today’s gospel passage features Jesus’ dialogue with the wealthy man who has diligently kept the commandments. “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Not only is the wealthy man shocked and repelled, but the disciples are perplexed as well. Jesus amplifies their perplexity, telling them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

In his lovable way, Peter makes one of his “Everyman” declarations. Seeking some credit, Peter says, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” He receives some reassurance from Jesus — anyone who leaves such things for his sake and the sake of the good news will receive a hundredfold now, and in the age to come.

But The Access Bible footnote adds, “Peter exaggerates: He retains his home in Capernaum.” So he does. I’ve visited that home, or at least what the Church has traditionally identified as Peter’s home. According to the archeologist who led our tour, the foundations of this small building in Capernaum show that it was a home that dates to the first century, and that it was converted into a public assembly space in the late first century. The walls were covered with writing and the floor plastered. Many lamps were found there, but none of the typical household items. Many believe that it became a house church for the Christian community. There is a small room within the structure that remained its original size. It is called “Jesus’ room” — a speculation that it may have been preserved because it was where Jesus may have stayed while he lived in Capernaum.

The footnote brought back my memory of visiting the site that is traditionally called Peter’s home. But it also leaves me thinking about Peter’s exaggeration. I’m good at that too. I exaggerate my sacrifices.

There is something generous about the gospel account. There is no record of Jesus correcting Peter’s claim of having left everything. Only an expression of Jesus’ appreciation and his promise of a greater new communityto replace whatever was lost.

There is another footnote that caught my attention. When Jesus lists what his followers will receive in compensation for all that they have left or sacrificed for the kingdom, the list does not include “fathers.” Here’s the whole text: “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters, or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life.” No fathers included. The Access Bible footnote remarks, “the new family does not place anyone as head of the household or patriarch.” Fascinating.

How different might our church history have been had the church focused on this non-patriarchal, egalitarian model for the church. What if this verse had been central to our self-definition, rather than Matthew 16:18 — “I tell you, you are Peter, on on this rock I will build my church”? It seems like we might have perpetuated another exaggeration of Peter’s.

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