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Stoning a Rebellious Son, Deuteronomy 21:18-23

Jesus, an Anomaly and a Mystery

Clearly God and the Israelites were not above corporal punishment. For us in this culture, it is hard to believe God condoned the stoning of a child for rebelliousness. All I can imagine is that obedience was crucial to the survival of a people so newly freed from cultural slavery. It might be that obedience had to be part of the DNA of the families following God, or chaos would take over. 

What does strike me, however, is the second part of this text involving hanging on a tree. (You see where I'm going with this, right?) It would have been heinous to leave a dead body on a tree. This is why Jesus' followers would have needed to remove his body from the cross and place it in a tomb temporarily while they recognized the sabbath, then prepare his body for permanent burial the following day. This is one of those moments when the stories of the Old Testament become so beautifully intertwined with the stories of the New Testament – each elevates the meaning of the other. How wonderfully, too, these stories highlight the juxtaposition between the curse of God that befalls a hanging body with the divine Jesus hanging on a cross. Jesus' divinity shines the more brightly in contrast to the devastating humiliation and despicable nature of the crime committed against him. Jesus is anything but a "son of ours ... stubborn and rebellious." Jesus is the most obedient, but is suffering the fate of the least. Once again, Jesus is an anomaly and a mystery.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Deuteronomy 21:18-23

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession.