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Sunday Reading

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English: Mary and Jesus

Mary and Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew 11:2-11
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

Jesus’ Tribute to John

7 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,

‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’

11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Commentary

John the Baptist was no ordinary guy. He was something of a wildman, eating locusts (grasshoppers) and an uncultivated substance that tastes like honey. He wore rough cloth made of camel’s hair. Today, he’d be like a self-sufficient hobo, living away from the city, offering salvation to sinners. Authorities would probably shoo him away to somewhere he couldn’t be seen and “bother” people. Maybe even issue a citation or arrest him if he failed to comply. And I don’t think Jesus would have won any fashion contest, either. The issue of clothing is brought up in today’s reading. Jesus notes that royalty wears fine clothes but, for the people of God, it really doesn’t matter what we wear.

Jesus proceeds to tell us that John is simply the best human being ever to walk the face of the Earth. We can assume that Jesus is excluding himself in that assessment. But here comes the clincher… Jesus adds that, although John may be the best, he can’t compare to the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. Wow. Can you get your head around this? What Jesus is saying is that heaven is so fantastic, so altogether different from this world, that we just can’t imagine it. We may have glimpses through moments of grace. But on the whole, heaven is a completely different order than this physical universe, and all the conventional judgments that usually go with it.

So with Christmas coming, it’s great to see family, friends, and enjoy giving and receiving whatever toys may come our way. But most important, Christmas is a time to remember what it’s all about. What’s behind and above it all. What counts. What makes it possible for us to enjoy all the lesser, temporary things of this world.

And what’s that?

Well, the Lord. And for most Christian believers, Christmas is a time to remember how God came to us as Jesus Christ. Myself, I can get so caught up in the tree, the lights, and the idea of “Christmas Cheer” that it takes a while for me to get in that quiet space where I just think of a young teenage woman, Mary, giving birth to God-in-the-flesh amidst all kinds of persecution and resentment. (Remember that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus, even as an infant). But when I do get in that headspace, that’s when Christmas takes its most noble and holy form.

—MC

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12 thoughts on “Sunday Reading

  1. Hey Mike,

    Excellent Sunday reading! It makes me realize that John the Baptist, Jesus, and many of important Biblical figures certainly weren’t out to make a fashion statement or impress anyone in their day. I doubt the ego could follow us into a place like Heaven. 🙂

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    • Right Dave, I’ve wondered about that. What part of our total personality continues on? There are different Christian and non-Christian theories. But I think they’re all just theories and speculation. Maybe some mystics believe they’ve seen it clearly, but I imagine they are still interpreting according to their belief structures. 🙂

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  2. Good point! Now you’ve got me wondering. I’ve always understood that the personality survives death. What part though? I imagine we take our memories with us. I would never say that we are the product of our experiences. Our experiences are certainly a part of us. I agree with what you said . . . we are actually the interpretation of our experiences. This interpretation becomes our source code and programming . . . they are our beliefs systems. Who knows maybe even the emotions we’ve created in life are carried with us. Energy cannot be destroyed . . . so I would think that every kind of mental energy we create in life stays with us when we make our final transition. That would be important know.

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  3. Thanks for linking back to my blog! I enjoy reading yours too! It’s refreshing to see John the Baptist having doubts like the rest of us do.

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  4. I agree. It’s completely normal to be in doubt . . . at times. I would wonder about a person’s sanity . . . . if the person told me he/she had all of the answers. 🙂

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    • From a Biblical or Christian perspective it’s an interesting problem. So many seem utterly convinced about specific issues of faith based on some experience they’ve had. Thing is, sometimes you get two or more people utterly convinced who disagree. Each claim the Holy Spirit told them. But each has a different story.

      I guess when I was talking about “believing without seeing,” as described in the gospel, I was thinking about people who believe that God is real and loving, and that God actually gives them this belief. But I’d have to look up the specific quote and probably research it a bit to see what the original context was. It’s actually hard to pinpoint the original meaning because when you get into the scholarship, there’s usually quite a bit of disagreement. So I just go on what it means to me. And if anyone else gets something out of that, then great!

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  5. and we remember why He came – He came to die and calls us to come and die as well

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  6. Mike,

    I’m focusing on this part of your comment. This is piece that resonates as the “truth” for me.

    “So I just go on what it means to me. And if anyone else gets something out of that, then great!”

    That’s a good personal statement. You personality shines through in making it.

    As for you Mr. Evlanlaar 1922, 🙂 I agree with you. The Bible states that Jesus made the ultimate self-sacrifice in dying for our sins. I understand that this is an act of love. I’ve been told: “It is a choice. It’s not a sacrifice. I did it because I wanted to do it.”

    I feel that I would make such a sacrifice for my loved ones. This is a radical change in thinking for me. In one of my books I talked about “self-preservation”. It’s one of the many things I may have been wrong about.

    I’m sure this sentence is true:

    “He came to die and calls us to come and die as well.”

    I’d like to say it a different way:

    “He came to bring us eternal life and love. . . and he calls us to bring eternal life and comfort to others.”

    I’ve read your insightful comments before. I remember you’ve made some interesting comments on a couple of my past articles. I appreciate what you have to say. 🙂 I hope you don’t mind me making my own interpretation of what you said. 🙂

    Thanks!

    David

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  7. I’m taking this “dying” that we have to undergo as the symbolic death of ungodly attitudes, opinions, beliefs and practices. I remember talking to someone about this, a long long time ago. I was just back from India and was talking about my great “death” and “rebirth.” She very quickly pointed out that we go through many deaths and rebirths. Not just one. I admit I thought she was being superficial and just didn’t get it. I was probably a bit inflated then (in the Jungian sense). But now I can see that she was right. I think the symbolic dying and transformation continues on, right till the end.

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  8. That is positive way to view the event called death. Death is a phase in the continuity of life. That’s why many people call this phase “transition”. The life, death, and rebirth cycle is a transformative process. I think it’s a healthy and useful philosophy. Whether or it is true doesn’t really matter/ If a belief serves our highest purpose, then I feel it may be a good one to follow.

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  9. Yeah, I guess what I meant was that we undergo many changes in life. Old ways of being and doing are no longer appropriate as we continue to evolve with our changing environment. So the old ways must “die”, to put it metaphorically. We can remember them, even cherish moments in the past. But we have to stay rooted in the present or else we can get lost in nostalgia.

    Myself, I find a curious process of abstraction in this. For example, I was an avid skier as a kid. I don’t ski any more, and don’t go north to the ski area I used to frequent every winter while growing up. But, although this part of me has “died,” I can still get the total feeling of it just walking down a snowy backstreet in Toronto. I don’t know if it’s a holistic memory triggered by the environment or if there’s more to it, like some kind of connecting with myself through time. I tend to favor the latter theory because the soul, I believe, can perceive and connect beyond our conventional ways of perceiving.

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