Monday of the Second Week in Advent

Lectionary: 181


...and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. 


Perhaps we take it for granted that the power of the Lord was with Jesus but Saint Luke does not. We might suppose Jesus is God and can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. He has THE POWER and like Samantha in the 1960's TV show Bewitched, he throws it around at will. Or, like Darth Vader, he might strangle his opponents if he were so inclined, without laying a hand on them. 

Our religious imagination has been afflicted with these modern notions of Jesus' authority. It's something like "will power," which many people suppose actually exists. When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you; when you wish upon a star your dreams come true. 

Not. 

If we're going to practice faith in Jesus we're going to have to discipline our assumptions and pet notions by the traditions and teachings of our religion. Neither Jesus nor any of his contemporaries watched television; nor had they ever heard of will power. That imaginary notion belonged to Enlightenment philosophers who never managed to connect their idea of a soul to something that exists in the real world. It came to be known as the "ghost in the machine." 

Jesus' authority to heal, as Saint Luke tells the story, begins with his willingness to forgive sins. 

And then, like the scribes and Pharisees, we have to ask, "Where does he get the authority to forgive sins?" They cannot imagine it. 

For that matter we never asked where Samantha got her power to create roast turkey dinners out of thin air. She twitched her nose? 

The source of Jesus' authority is as mysterious as, "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood...." 

It has to do with his very deliberate trip to Jerusalem, his controversial entrance of the city while riding a colt, his appearances in the temple, before the Sanhedrin, in Pilate's chambers, and on Calvary. 

Jesus has authority to forgive this man because he is willing to pay the price of this man's sins. And then we immediately realize he has superabundant authority to forgive sins because the man rises and walks. 

His opponents could not imagine this. Neither could the producers of Bewitched and Star Wars. They like power. They'd be happy to grab for power, but not at the price of humiliation, suffering and death. 

The word advent means coming; during these weeks leading up to Christmas we contemplate the coming of such authority. It is like nothing the world can imagine or produce. They'd  like to think it's just will power, forgetting that will power doesn't actually exist in the real world. Willing it to be so never made anything happen. 

When Jesus forgives our sins and heals our wounds, he does it by paying the price of our salvation.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.