Expected and Unexpected Readings
A distinction can be made between responses that would be expected of readers and responses that would not be. Let us imagine four people reading the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospel of Matthew:
- Reader One is inspired by the story because it presents Jesus as a man of interity who is willing to die nobly for his convictions
- Reader Two is traumatized by the story because it reveals the depth of human depravity on the part of those who denounce, betray, and torture an innocent man.
- Reader Three is comforted by the story because it portrays Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice through which God offers forgiveness and mercy to the undeserving.
- Reader Four is delighted by the story because it reports the gruesome execution of a meddlesome busybody who tried to tell everyone else how they should live.
Although all four of these responses are very different, I would put the first three in a separate category from the fourth. I can account for the first three readings without knowing much about the readers. All three of these readings pick up on clues within the Matthean passion narrative. The story seems to solicit such responses. I cannot, however, account for the fourth reading on the basis of Matthew’s narrative itself. I find nothing in the story that solicits or encourages such a response.
Chasing the Eastern Star
by: Mark Allan Powell