Friday, January 30, 2009

What is this?

It is so obvious that people just did not get it. The Hebrews had wandered and watched for years and years waiting, waiting, for their messiah. Moses and Abraham tried to get them ready. Still, they wanted kings to tell them how to live, how to love, how to be. So, David came along, a beloved son but not THE son. Even David, as loved as he was, did not understand how to fully be as God intended him to be. So many kings; so few answers – at least, so few answers that made anyone happy.

So, here comes this young girl, this Mary. Into her keeping was given a new child, born of a woman yet not of man, Jesus, this child born of a virgin teen. Reading the synoptic gospels, one learns little of this special child – he was born, he was revered, he was blessed and then we are catapulted into his ‘tween years when began to teach at the age of twelve. Everyone was amazed at his knowledge.

Then suddenly, Jesus is a man spreading the message, “Follow me”. The idea of ‘do unto others’ and ‘love one another’ communicated numerous times. Miracle after miracle, healing after healing, water into wine, raising the dead, curing the sick, feeding the thousands, the touching of his cloak, the speaking only of words of faith – so many instances to show how special was this guy Jesus. Still, just as often we read the amazed exclamation, “What is this?” The people just couldn’t get the answer that they wanted.

Had we access to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas , might we have looked at this exceptional child differently? Might we believe that he, in and of himself, was a miracle child in his own right? Might it cause us to believe more strongly, more fully in the holiness of this child born of Mary?

Or would we do as was done – would the reality that his truth acted upon and spoken to the powers that be would too much to allow this ‘divine human’ to live?

Maybe they did get it. Perhaps the question, “What is this? A new teaching – with Authority!” was merely rhetorical. In all truth, perhaps it was more of an exclamation at his audacity to challenge those who had been presumed to hold authority. This child, this young man, this carpenter’s son from Nazareth was so audacious as to sound as though he knew more than the scribes and teachers, the authorities? Impudence, pure and simple!

We are so divided as a Christian community about who Jesus the Christ is and was. That is not necessarily a bad thing – it is just something that we need to understand. It might help us to answer that question, “What is this?”

Some think the virgin birth is so important, vital even. To others, it is all about the crucified Jesus, the pain, the agony, the betrayal, the suffering endured for all of us who are so unworthy.

To others, the resurrected Christ is the main thing – with Christ resurrected, there is hope in the idea that one day when our bodies stop working here on this earth we will continue life forever in heaven above.

Then there are those who put their priorities in that in between life of Jesus – the God made flesh living and breathing Jesus who walked among us.

So what is this man, Jesus? Audacious, certainly. The very idea of him was audacious from the beginning in that if the conception was immaculate and the birth of a virgin mother, then it was a miracle. The risk that the young girl, Mary took could have cost her life. Yet Joseph paid heed to his dreams. Both Mary and Joseph risked much by the tossing of tradition to follow what they believed to be God's call to them.

The young boy, Jesus, in the Infancy gospel, impudent as he spoke to his elders, rude and disrespectful many would claim, could easily have caused his parents to be run out of town.

Jesus, the man, defied those powers-that-be who presumed authority to talk of a new covenant, a new way which really wasn’t a new way at all; rather it was just the way that God had told of all along but everyone was too stubborn and selfish to follow. Jesus said it another way – actually showing signs – healing, loving, curing, praying, teaching, feeding – proof that he was not an ordinary type of guy. Finally, he gave up himself for an ideal. Whose? To prove God right or to prove the "authorities" wrong?

He died. Audacious not on his own but by the very punishment – so strict and extreme for someone who had only pissed off the “authority”. How he, his miracles, his words and actions must have frightened those who had long led the Hebrew people! How dare he be so audacious!

And then the resurrection. Again…audacious. That they would go to all that trouble and attempts to shame him to have him disappear! And then the news that he was alive! Resurrected?

So what is this? Who is this guy?

To me…the virgin birth…well, I do believe it but I don’t think it would matter if I didn’t. Whether or not I believe doesn’t change the actuality of anything. But I don’t think it matters. It just isn’t the most important part.

And while the resurrection is really important if one is a Christian, well, I just sort of take that as a promise and go on.

The important part to me is the Jesus who people followed…all over the place…and obviously for many miles and willing to stay as long as he was willing to speak. This is the part of him to which we need to be paying attention.

What is this that people were so willing to give up everything and to follow him? If we come up with this answer, maybe we will finally understand…maybe we will finally get it.

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