"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hi, My Name is Jesus and I’m a Jew from Nazareth

By Micky Wolf

No, you won’t find that line anywhere in the Bible. Does it matter anyway? Maybe. I would like to suggest we consider the possibilities of such a statement, were Jesus to come among us in this day and age.

Jesus was a Jew. Jesus came from Nazareth. And if you are a Christian, you believe Jesus to be the Son of God and a vital part of the Trinity. But here’s the beauty about all the good things we know and appreciate about this man—naming and labeling himself with regard to local, social or political convention was simply not the focus of the way he chose to interact with people.  At the same time, he was never disrespectful of those he encountered, given their particular title or place of standing in the community.

So, let us imagine for a few moments. Given the broadly accepting culture we live in, would Jesus start things off with this kind of introduction?

It’s not about me…

Jesus was a really special guy. Duh. But not to the point he wanted anyone then, or now, getting so distracted by his personal information that they missed who and what he represents—Divine Love—all of which transcends time, place, nationality, ethnicity, and most any other form or designation by human definition.

It is one thing to introduce ourselves in some detail, especially the first time we meet, however, when we begin to make the who, what, when, where, and how of “me” the priority, “you” will soon have little importance in the bigger picture. Jesus, probably more than anyone else, knew the challenges of keeping the focus on God and God’s desire to develop relationship with us.

Jesus was so resistant to being the center of attention he continually reminded people to “go and not speak of this to anyone”. True humility will always decline the spotlight, and on many occasions, rebuke any recognition of supposedly accomplishing what only our Creator God can do.

Labels can polarize…

Naming something has its place. Asking for help finding the seafood section of the store is important if I’m preparing salmon for dinner. But there is a huge difference between naming something for what it is, and using labels to categorize or define a person or a group of people, especially when we are using a label as a means of judgment or critical comparison.

Jesus knew full well that there were circumstances that being a Jew would alienate potential listeners before he had barely spoken. At the same time, in confronting those who were leading sinful or unloving lives, he could speak the Truth in Love with piercing effectiveness, notably when using the term hypocrite, not as a mark of discrimination, but for the purposes of describing a set of behaviors.

The value of example…

Words were important to Jesus, yet it was often his actions that have left the greatest imprint on humanity throughout the centuries. Yes, he taught and he preached, but was so much more—he was a surrendered vessel through which God could inspire, encourage, heal and transform wounded and broken bodies and hearts. He did so in many ways—feeding people, breaking bread with them, turning water into wine, weeping with them in their suffering and loss, laughing with them in their joy and celebration.

Jesus spoke of the Beatitudes, gave us the Lord’s Prayer, and offered other helpful instruction, however, had he not lived the principles he shared, his words would have been meaningless and not stood the test of time.

The Way, the Truth and the Life…

When Jesus spoke these words some of his listeners were in shock at his seeming arrogance. Many though, were startled into a new and deeper awareness of Love which forever transformed and challenged them to take risks, to grow, to give and to serve without counting the cost. In the process, they discovered the invitation to be and become authentic, compassionate lovers—lovers of God and of others, beyond anything they could have comprehended until they had a personal encounter with the Divine in the person of Jesus.

Those of Jesus’ time, as now, were not perfect Christ-followers by any measure. But because of their experience, they made the choice [quite suddenly in some instances] to follow the Jew from Nazareth. In the end, they realized this decision was intimately associated with being and becoming the person God had created them to be.

Jesus had no reluctance in bearing witness to being The Way, the Truth and the Life. Why?—because this describes a lifestyle of bearing goodness which begins with heart attitudes.

As the song goes, they will know we are Christians by our love. Not the sum total of our words or the finite details of our doctrine or dogma. Not by the amount we put in the collection plate at church, or how many prayers we say.

Our love, the way we behave, the way we treat one another, Christian and non-Christian alike.

“Hi, nice to meet you. How’s your day going?” Love, Jesus.

What does “it’s not about me” mean to me?

Do I tend to use words as labels? Been on the receiving end? How did I feel?

Am I open to Jesus helping me let go of language that may be judgmental or critical?

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