Contemplating Jesus


Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

One of the many challenges Jesus had as a teacher was transforming the mindset of not only the scribes and priests, but those of his apostles and disciples.

The learned, who had studied the scriptures and laws and commandments (and upheld their interpretations) were outnumbered by the multitudes of witnesses to astonishing miracles (and new interpretations of the ways of God) from one who spoke with authority bearing an unusual gentle and loving manner.  However, Jesus’ ways were, for the most part, misunderstood by both groups.  The scribes called for signs from heaven, and the others, who had received signs from heaven, were lost to their significances.  Even with Jesus’ proclamations that all he was doing was fulfilling the scriptures, he was forced to ask “But what will I compare this generation?  It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,  ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn.’   (Matthew 11:16-17).

Citing John the Baptist’s mission as that which was “more than a prophet” Jesus confronted the hypocrisy of the time, that when John was perceived as possessed by a demon (because he abstained from regular food and drink) Jesus was judged as “a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”  (Matthew 11: l9) Without explaining in fine detail what he was saying – something he refrained from doing to any extent until after his Resurrection – Jesus frequently provoked his listeners with the phrase “Let anyone with ears listen!”    He concluded with what he was attempting to explain :  “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”    In other words, those listening need to be open and receptive to honestly hear without the deafness of preconceptions, opinions or staid stances, and be willing to accept as truth the wisdom of God Jesus revealed through not only his words but his actions.

Jesus’ command to hear, were for his words and deeds foretold in scripture. “Without knowledge there is no wisdom…. an attentive ear is the desire of the wise.”  ( Sirach 3:25,29) Jesus was calling for an awakened spiritual intelligence which could not only recognize but synthesize what had been foretold by the prophets and explained in the wisdom books.

The prophet Isaiah wrote of the redemption of Zion as a desert rejoicing, abundant with blossoms like the crocus, “with joy and singing….. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God…..”  (Isaiah 35:1-2). Isaiah continued with a litany of the bursting of life God’s redemption brings forth:  “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”  (Isaiah 35:5-10). Jesus was inviting followers into a new, joyous, celebratory time.  “The kingdom of heaven has come near”  (Matthew 3:2)) but instead of a glorious welcome to what he was bringing, he received skepticism, suspicion and misunderstanding borne from the roots of ignorance.

Sirach explains this well in his writing – “For wisdom becomes known through speech, and education through the words of the tongue.  Never speak against the truth but be ashamed of your ignorance.”  (Sirach 4: 24)

Jesus commonly taught the importance of humility of heart, of a need for mercy from a merciful God as the way to follow him.  Those who provoked and accused, and tested or doubted his authenticity, he walked ahead of them, summoning them to expand their limitations, to allow his joy to pierce them open to the limitless.  “Do you still not perceive or  understand” he asked his disciples after  the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, “Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear?”  (Mark 8: 17 -18).

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