Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Doing

February 4, 2018

 

 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

                                                                                                               Mark 1:21-28 NRSV

I don’t know about you but every time I read these verses I wonder, “What was Jesus teaching?”. Why didn’t anybody preserve that for us? Which of course, misses the point. The point of the story isn’t the particulars of the teaching, the point of the story is who the teacher is.

Who is this teacher?

Theologians like to say that Jesus is what he does. Meaning that what Jesus does is as instructive and important as what he says. For some of us, this is a difficult idea. We would really just prefer Jesus to tell us things. Preferably directly, clearly. No hints, no suggestions. Don’t make us wrestle with meaning. Just please, tell us what we need to know.

So far, at least, in Mark’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t say much- a sentence here, a sentence there. Mostly Mark shows us what Jesus did.

Jesus is baptized

Jesus is tempted

Jesus proclaims the good news by speaking one sentence.

Jesus calls disciples by speaking one sentence.

Jesus removes an unclean spirit by speaking one sentence.

 

Jesus heals Simon’s mother in law, and then

“That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”     Mark 1:32-34

Then Mark tells us, after praying  in a deserted place, Jesus goes to other towns “proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons”.  Mark 1:39

The message is that the kingdom of God is at hand. Mark doesn’t spend time telling us what that means. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus shows us what that is. To be fair, Jesus does speak more as the gospel continues. But in the first chapter, Jesus doesn’t say much. We learn about Jesus by watching what he does.

This is a good reminder to me. What Jesus does matters. It explains and shows who he is.  What I do matters. It explains and shows who I am.

What we do matters.

I wonder this week- if what I do shows who I am- what will those around me see?

 

 

 

 

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Wise men asking odd questions

January 28, 2018

It has been a while since I’ve written about the Magi. Perhaps it is time to spend a little time with them. This is one of those stories in the Bible that we think we know, but maybe we haven’t giving it it’s proper attention. If you want to read the story, it is Matthew 2:1-18. 

The Magi are not Jews and they are not Romans, they are foreigners in every sense of the word. They don’t belong in Israel, they don’t belong in the Roman Empire, yet they show up in King Herod’s court looking for the king of the Jews because they want “to pay him homage.” Gentiles traveling to worship the Jewish king. And they ask the current Roman approved king of the Jews- Herod- where they can find the new king of the Jews. Notice they don’t pay homage to Herod, they are looking for Herod’s replacement. In fact they scare Herod and “all of Jerusalem”.

Frightened Herod needs to find this new King of the Jews. The chief priests and the scribes, people who should know about the birth of the King, can narrow down the location to Bethlehem. But Herod, the Roman approved king of the Jews, still needs the Magi to find Jesus. Herod tries to use the Magi for his own ends, sending them off to find the child.  The Magi find the child,Jesus and “overwhelmed with joy” they worship him. And then, they wisely pay attention to a dream and avoid Herod on their way home.

Often we end our reading here, with Herod tricked, Jesus worshiped by mysterious wise men and the Magi safely on their way home. A tidy and satisfying ending.

If we read farther we find that the rest of the story is horrifying. An angel warns Joseph and the Holy Family flee for their lives. Herod is “infuriated” by the actions of the Magi and kills all the children “in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under”. Even after Herod’s death, things are not safe in Judea for the Holy Family. Archelaus is ruler there and so Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Nazareth in Galilee. It’s a grim ending to the nativity story.  Babies have died. Families mourn. The Roman Empire continues its oppressive rule.  The young boy Messiah is in hiding in Nazareth.

Look where Matthew’s emphasis is-  7 verses on Jesus birth, focused mostly on the disgrace of Mary’s pregnancy and 18 verses on the story of the Magi. Matthew tells a pretty grim story.

And there is truth, hard truth in this story. Kingdoms and rulers do not give up their power without a fight. And innocent people suffer. Babies and toddlers suffer. Salvation is a costly business for everyone.

The Bible, whether we like it or not, describes the world with a clear eyed realism. There is no fairy tale happy ending. The kingdoms and powers which resist God are strong and not to be trifled with. And yet, yet a voice cries out, “Prepare the way of the Lord..” the beloved Son has come. The way is not easy, but God will not stop until God’s purposes are fulfilled. Which is for us, in our days, good news. The beloved Son has come and God will not stop until God’s purposes are fulfilled.

 


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