Helen Keller, blind and deaf, said: “I thank God for my handicaps. I am blind and deaf. Through (my handicaps), I have found myself, my work, and I found God.” the salvation of Helen’s soul is indeed a miracle!
We’ve reached the Third Sunday in Advent – this Sunday- It’s the third week of readings that are meant to help prepare us for Christmas- the birth of Christ.
The Unusual herald of the Kingdom
John comes storming out of the desert dressed in camel’s hair and warning us to turn our lives around: “Repent! Change your ways! Or look out for what’s coming next.” It always pretty much fell on deaf ears.
John came to drive home the point that Jesus’s messages and his were not even remotely the same.
John said: “Repent. The Kingdom of God is coming!”
Jesus said: “Rejoice! The Kingdom of God is here.”
John’s is sitting in prison –He’s been arrested for stirring up the crowds and challenging the status quo. King Herod imprisoned him for criticising his lifestyle and turning the crowds against John.
A few more days later, King Herod ordered to chop John’s head off and serve it on a platter. But, of course, one didn’t mess around with Herod and lived long to talk about it.
Have you felt like you are trapped- like in prison- or metaphoric chains of some sort?
So, while John’s sitting in chains, he’s starting to hear stories about a young carpenter from Nazareth- his cousin, Jesus.
John and Jesus
John had quite a reputation and a considerable following. Jesus was drawn to John and he asked John to baptise him. Jesus likely stays with John for some time, learning all he can –But then, it seems equally evident that the teacher and his student parted ways. Jesus travels north – and his ministry goes off in a different direction.
He wasn’t so interested in warning the crowds about what was to come; Jesus seemed much more interested in welcoming them into what he said was already here.
In different ways, both Jesus and John were calling into being the Kingdom of God on earth.
John said: Get ready the Kingdom is coming soon.
Jesus said: Start the party, the Kingdom is already here.
And maybe another thing that made these two men different was who God was inviting to come into his kingdom.
For Jesus, it was the outcasts and the broken –the ones living on the edge and about to fall off, were the ones that Jesus seemed drawn to. Probably because they were the ones desperate enough to say YES to his invitation to leave their egos behind and follow him.
So, Jesus didn’t travel to fancy Jerusalem; instead, he carried the message out into the backward, little towns of his day – to Capernaum and Nazareth.
Jesus was different from John, and if he was to be the long-hoped-for messiah – GOD ON EARTH- then his would be a kingdom very different from what they were expecting.
John and Jesus the Jews
The Jewish culture raised both John & Jesus – there was this thing called the purity code, and much of the Jewish religion was built on it,
The purity code told the people who was clean and who was not. The code determined who was acceptable to God and who was fit to come inside the camp. But those who were impure had to stay out!
Back then, they thought that the sick & the lame were being punished for their sins, and the blind & the lepers were being punished for doing something even worse. Therefore, such people were rejected by the community, living a life of an outcast.
The prostitutes and the tax collectors were right up there with them – and collectively, they were all the scum of the earth.
You couldn’t get so much as touch one of them, and if you did for some strange reason, the purity code gave you a whole heap of things you had to do to clean yourself.
Getting clean often involved sacrifices of lambs and other animals putting getting clean outside the reach of the poor.
So, the outcasts were trapped both in their sickness and in their sin. They were indeed hopeless, but one day, this carpenter arrived in their towns, and he started turning their worlds and religion upside down.
Jesus the Rescuer
Jesus began to eat his meals with them, heal them and touch them, and he began telling them what sounded like some pretty good news: He said: “You’re God’s very own kids, and you’re welcome in his Kingdom!”
He said God’s kingdom was being opened to them right here and now. New Living Translation Luke 17:21
You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
So, all they had to do was take a step inside (John 3;16) and then welcome others into it too.
They had to welcome OTHERS in just the way they were being welcomed. The more hopeless the ones outside were, the more welcome they were made to feel.
And so, when those messengers from John finally meet up with Jesus and ask him if he’s the one.
Here, the blind see again, and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear.
Here, the ones who were as good as dead are being raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them free of charge. Indeed, the age of miracles has come, the kingdom has come just as Jesus had said.
And blessed are those who don’t take offence at what I’m doing – Jesus said.
The Pious Take Offense
Well, then, as now, some people did take offence. The ones who were offended and felt threatened were the rich and powerful. Like the rich & the powerful, the religiously proper had John killed; soon, they’d take care of this little nobody from Nazareth.
How we love & treat ourselves is how we love & treat one others.
We have got to realise that we’re all weak and wounded. We’re all prisoners to something. We are all blind, deaf, and dead to something or someone we’re trying to keep outside our camp.
Maybe it’s an old resentment, or an intense shame about something we’ve done, or something we’ve been told is unacceptable or unforgivable.
Maybe that would be true for John, but it’s not true for Jesus. With him, it’s always now, and with him, we’re always in the Kingdom.
Before we turn and walk away, Jesus invites us to stay just long enough to look around and see what’s happening in the world.
Jesus is touching lives today, people who felt like lepers were being touched and cleansed by the love of God. Around the world today, drunks and addicts are being made whole; even those who were as good as dead are being raised!
Indeed, the age of miracles has come, God’s Kingdom has come. So don’t turn away before the miracle and the kingdom come for you too.
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Remember to live life on purpose, in Hope. Faith and Love
Paula Rose Parish💕
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