Tag Archives: Godfather

Make No Mistake… It’s Personal

Simeon and Levi Slay the Shechemites (illustra...
Simeon and Levi Slay the Shechemites (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 34

Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. Genesis 34:13 (NLT)

Being human is so fascinating. I find it interesting how certain things are common to the human experience. I’ll hear people talk about circumstances in our lives as being “like a Greek tragedy” or “Shakespearean.” Yet the the truth is that we make parallels to these fictional stories because those fictional stories are founded on universal human themes. All good stories are simply a reflection of the Great story God is authoring through us, and that is why they become so much a part of our culture and weave themselves into our thoughts and lives.

I couldn’t help but notice the parallels in today’s story with The Godfather. The strong patriarch with a flock of sons and a thriving family business that is dependent on managing a tenuous peace with other powerful families and power centers around them. When the daughter is defiled (remember Carlo beating Connie?), the hot headed older brothers exact their revenge (remember Sonny starting a war?) against the wisdom of the patriarch (remember Vito waking up to find his family falling apart?). Make no mistake, despite Jacob’s desire to protect the family business, this is all personal and it doesn’t bode well for the long term peace. [cue: Godfather Theme]

One more observation is that right at the moment of crisis the pattern of deceit once again creeps its way through the family system. So it is with the human experience. When faced with supercharged amounts of stress and emotion, our conscious choices tend to give way to base instincts and reactions. We’re now into the third generation down from Abraham and each family story carries the familiar theme of deceit. It’s amazing how certain tragic flaws or sinful behaviors can perpetuate themselves in a family system for generations. It takes a person of wisdom and strength to break those kind of cycles and the result can be chaotic for both the individual and the family system.

In fact, get ready. In a few chapters we take up the story of the truth teller: Joseph.

Five Movies I Can Watch Over and Over and Over and…

"Here's looking at you" again and again and again again

Five Things Friday presents a beautiful friendship of the cinematic variety. Here’s looking at the top five movies I can watch endlessly without every getting tired of them:

  1. Casablanca
  2. Henry V
  3. Last of the Mohicans
  4. Lord of the Rings
  5. The Hunt for Red October
Also ran….

Chapter-a-Day John 18

Pendulum clock conceived by Galileo Galilei ar...
Pendulum clock conceived by Galileo Galilei around 1637. The earliest known pendulum clock design, it was never completed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. First they took him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time. John 18:12-13 (NLT)

Along the journey I’ve become increasingly aware of how systems work in families, in businesses, in communities, organizations and even churches. Within each system there is  a power source that may, or may not, be clearly identified. Most systems have a labeled decision maker or decision makers, but those decision makers may often be influenced in one way or another by individuals who are power brokers within the system.

In today’s chapter I found it interesting to get a peek at the religious system of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day. The high priest, Caiaphas, was obviously the designated leader. So why was Jesus first taken to the house of Annas for questioning and roughing up?  There are a couple of answers to this question.

Annas had been the high priest before Caiaphas and he was Caiaphas’ father-in-law. I can only imagine the political and familial machinations in that family system. The mantel had been passed, but that doesn’t mean that Annas had given up the power behind it. In The Godfather: Part II, Frank Pentangeli may have run his own family and may have been living in the Corleone’s old house, but he still took orders from and answered to Michael. I think Jesus was taken to Annas first because Annas was the power broker and puppet master in the system.

The other reason was that Caiaphas was on a crucial errand while Annas conducted his own personal trial and dished out his own personal punishment with the young upstart Rabbi who had caused the system so much trouble and threatened their lucrative corner of the religious marketplace. Caiaphas was quickly trying to assemble a quorum of the system’s ruling body, the Sanhedrin. He wanted and needed their rubber stamp on the decision to send Jesus to Pilate for execution, and doing so in the middle of the night ensured that the quorum could be handpicked to avoid anyone sympathetic to Jesus’ teaching like Joseph of Arimathea. Of course, holding a trial in the middle of the night was itself against their own law, but power brokers within a system often believe that they are justified in breaking the system rules if they are sure they are protecting the system’s interests. Caiaphas himself said that it would be better to kill Jesus to protect the nation. Of course, killing Jesus and protecting the nation also meant protecting his money, power, and prestige. But, protecting the nation sounds much more altruistic.

As an actor, I often read a story or watch a film and wonder what part I would play. Alternatively, I look at the archetype and ask myself who am I in this scene? Am I the suffering servant or the self-protecting power broker? Am I the betrayer? The denier? The slave? The soldier just doing his job? Today, I’m doing a little soul searching and meditating on the part I play in the various systems in which I am a cog.

Chapter-a-Day Mark 14

Matthias Stom's depiction of Jesus before Caia...
Image via Wikipedia

Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

 Jesus said, “I Am.” Mark 14:60-62a (NLT)

The more you understand about the scene that unfolds in today’s chapter, the more amazing it is. The religious racketeers led by their own version of the Godfather, Caiaphas the high priest (who wasn’t really in charge – the real “don” was his father-in-law, Ananias), pull together a kangaroo court in the middle of the night. The trial itself broke their several of their own laws and reveals how desperate they were to deal with Jesus secretly and swiftly, before the public got wind of it.

When Jesus answered the high priest’s question with the word “I Am,” he was making far more than a simple admission. The word Jesus used was the Hebrew Yahweh, translated “I am who I am.” It is the name to which God referred to Himself in the burning bush when He spoke to Moses (Exodus 3). The Jewish people considered that name holy, and it was reserved only for God Himself. The name was so holy, in fact, that it was never to be uttered by human lips. When Jesus responded to the high priest’s question with the word “Yahweh” He was literally claiming for Himself the holy name of God, and with that admission He drew a line in the sand.

The response from the high priest was swift and showy. He tore his robe (a traditional act  to show how grievous of a blasphemous wrong he’d just witnessed) and immediately called for a verdict. By uttering that one word and claiming to be God, Jesus sealed his human fate. He was savagely beaten for his admission and led off to the one man in Jerusalem who could legally have Him executed. It was another political move by the high priest. If Caiaphas and the religious racketeers killed Jesus, the public would turn on them. By getting the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to sign the death order, they could point the finger of blame at him.

Today, what stands out for me as I read the chapter is the reality that the line in the sand remains two thousand years later. C.S. Lewis argued that with Jesus’ bold claim of being God, we find ourselves standing in the sandals of the religious leaders. Reason and logic dictate that Jesus was either a liar (He knew he wasn’t God but claimed to be), a lunatic (He thought he was God, but wasn’t), or Lord (He knew He was God, and was exactly who He claimed to be). As we read today’s chapter and consider the enormity of Jesus’ claim,  we each must each answer the high priest’s question: “What’s your verdict?”

Chapter-a-Day Mark 11

Michael Corleone
Image via Wikipedia

When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. Mark 11:18 (NLT)

This past weekend, Wendy and I watched the classic film The Godfather. I never cease to be amazed at this compelling and tragic story. When his family’s lives, power, and money were threatened, Michael Corleone found himself resorting to any means necessary to hold onto their influence.

I thought about that as I read today’s chapter. Jesus was a big problem for the established religious leaders in Jerusalem. It was one thing when He was off in the north of Galilee attracting the crowds with his traveling side show, but now Jesus had moved back onto their turf and he was a direct threat to their power and, more importantly, their money.

The sacrificial system around the temple in Jerusalem was a cash cow for the religious elite. Since all good Jews had to make a regular pilgrimage to the temple for sacrifice, the system had evolved into a den of corruption that victimized the poor pilgrims and lined the pockets of the Chief Priest and his cronies. They were organized crime dressed up in religious robes. Jesus threatened not only to start a riot, but to diminish the profits and power of the Chief  Priest and his religious racketeering.

Jesus was not ignorant. The handwriting was on the wall. He knew that he had made powerful enemies. He knew their hearts. He knew that they would have to kill him to keep their grip on earthly power and the purse strings of their lucrative religious racket. He knew that the interests of God’s kingdom were in direct opposition to the little earthly kingdom they’d established for themselves.

Today, I’m thinking about every human organization with which I’ve ever been involved: businesses, churches, ministries, governments and service organizations. I’m recognizing that every one of them has “power brokers” within the system and political maneuvering and machinations play a part in each organizational system. It would be a lie for me to say that I’ve never allowed my own heart, mind and actions to be tainted and skewed by positions of power and influence within them.

Lord, have mercy on me.

I’m praying today that in my sphere of influence and in my roles within each earthly system, I can be more like Jesus and less like the religious leaders. I pray that I will serve God’s kingdom and others more than I serve myself.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 2

It's not personal. It's strictly business. The king then gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he went out and struck Shimei dead. The kingdom was now securely in Solomon's grasp. 1 Kings 2:46 (MSG)

All great stories are a reflection of God's great story. That's what my wife consistently reminds me, and she is correct. That's why, when I read the Old Testament historical books, like Kings and Chronicles, I'm constantly reminded of stories, plays and movies that reflect the same biblical themes wrapped in the language of the present culture.

We read in today's chapter about Solomon, the youngest son, and his succession to his father's throne. We read about his "settling accounts" with the enemies of his father and the contract killings of Joab and Shimei. We read of the killing of his own brother who betrayed him. 

How could I not help but think of Michael Corleone, the youngest son, and his succession in the family business, his bloody settling of accounts, and the killing of his own brother who betrayed him?

All great stories are reflections of the Great Story.