Monday, November 15, 2010

Morning meditation

I have a hard time understanding the Jesus of the gospels. I think a lot of this has to do with the manner in which the gospels are written: read alone, they tend to present a man, wandering the land with a band of disciples, saying and doing incomprehensible things. I read the gospels and I think "no wonder they thought he was crazy and dangerous." Jesus' life on earth only makes any sort of sense in context of the whole history of God with man. The overarching story of God's dealings with his people, entwined through the Old Testament, helps me get a sense of why Jesus was there in Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem. But it is John's vision in Revelation that helps me the most.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I was seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."
This is a vision of power, beauty, flaming strength, awe-fulness so profound that the best John could write were similes. Jesus like a flame of fire, like burnished bronze, like the roar of many waters. Jesus in whose presence you fall as though dead. And then I am reminded that this Jesus, this awesome being, scrunched himself down into the broken and glorious and pitiful form of a man. Walked among us. Loved us. Let us kill him.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"
I understand this passage best, actually, when I think of Mary. How her heart must have ached over her son. How much she must have wished she could gather him into her arms again like she did her toddler boy. How she must have yearned to hold him in safety and love. It isn't the same, of course; Jesus was doing God's work and Jerusalem was killing the prophets. But the aching heart that yearns to protect and draw near those it loves? That is Jesus.

It is in the juxtaposition of these images that gives me the most solid understanding of Jesus the Messiah. Not just an incomprehensible wandering prophet, but one like a Son of Man, flaming burnished bronze and roaring waters, loving us with the tenderness and compassion and sacrifice of the most perfect form of mother. Jesus who gently touches those he loves, and for our sake says, "fear not".

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