Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Meditation XXVI -- Accepting the Message

"I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

A great deal happens in this chapter from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus heals the servant of a centurion without seeing or touching him, all because the "outsider" who was said to love the Jews knew the power of God and understood the authority of Jesus. Jesus raises to life a man on the way to the tomb, the only means of support for grieving widow. He then answers the question of John about who He was -- though I wonder if the answer was not really meant for John's disciples. Later in the chapter we have Jesus trying to straighten the vision of his Pharisee host, by pointing out that the "sinner" attending to Him was forgiven "for she loved much."

But in the middle is Our Lord talking about the prophet John, and Luke's parenthetical phrase. Jesus tells those listening (and us if we want to hear) not only that John is fulfilling prophecy about the Christ, but also that as important as John is, those who are "least in the kingdom" are even greater. Then Luke notes the reaction: those who had been baptized by John not only accepted Jesus' words, but "declared God just." However, the religious leaders did not accept what Jesus said because they had not been been baptized by John.

Luke's phrase "rejected the purpose of God" is telling. The Pharisees and lawyers rejected God, not because they had reasoned against Jesus' arguments, but because they were not part of the group that had taken the step of being baptized. They certainly saw no need to publically acknowledge their sinfulness and participate in the ritual cleansing (not because they might have been against the ritual, but they surely weren't going to go to that wild man for it!). So again we see that truth and a desire for holiness play no part in the spiritual lives of these men, but whether or not the message comes from one inside their group.

Jesus said, "wisdom is justified by all her children." Some will accept only the reasoning of those in their churches, political parties, and cliques. And they will produce only more of the spiritually dead. Some will accept they are sinners and seek to be clean, seek God, wherever He is found. These are the sorts God built a Church (not church with a little "c") around. These are the ones for whom God builds a kingdom.

Lord, grant that we turn to You always, and that we hear Your Voice wherever You choose to speak to us. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

thought, given your particular outlook, that you might appreciate this recent work of mine about 17th century alchemy & religion:

Cheers, X.