The “Second Week”: Week Fourteen/Session Two.
Theme: The Hidden Life of Jesus.
Our reading for today: John 20: 30-31.
Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way He personally revealed it. (John 20: 30-31 MsgB)
It’s very apparent that the life and ministry of Jesus caused a great stir in the first century. Love Him or hate Him, this God-man from the sticks of small-town Nazareth did something very few others in His generation could do. Within just a few decades of His death and resurrection in Jerusalem (33 AD), people living throughout the expansive Roman Empire, both rich and poor, were buzzing about this amazing wonder-worker from Galilee.
The first disciples of Jesus, of course, were not as interested in recording their stories on paper as much as they were telling their accounts to others as eyewitnesses. Church historians define this practice of telling stories versus writing stories as “oral tradition.” In other words, the earliest Christian communities used spoken words to relay their important traditions and values rather than recording them to be read by others. Most scholars believe that it was not until after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 AD) when the first Christian leaders decided to gather and write down some of the important facts that are now recorded for us in the four Gospels we find in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, many of Paul’s letters to the churches scattered around the Roman Empire may have been written prior to some of our Gospels!
Yet, just because the Gospels may have been written later rather than earlier, doesn’t change the validity of the messages they contain. As a matter of fact, when John writes at the end of his Gospel that “Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book,” it’s obvious that our four Gospels are intentionally limited in the telling of the Jesus-story, and that intentionality is there to help you and me know just enough of the story so that we can wisely make our decision about Christ; who He was, what He said and did, and how those things affect our lives and the belief we have in Him as Lord and Savior.
Historians today now know that there were other letters and books written within the first few centuries of the time of Christ that contained countless pieces of information or theory about the God-man we call Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospels of Thomas and Marcion are two such examples. Another fictional piece written in the second century is called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. And it’s in this volume where readers can find a whole array of legends and lore surrounding the life of Jesus from His birth to age 30. Thanks to a reliable report I found on-line, here’s a quick overview of just some of the stories fabricated about our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth:
- Even in the cradle Jesus could talk and proclaims that He is the Son of God to Mary.
- Jesus’ swaddling clothes are given to the Wise Men, followers of the Zoroastrian religion. Zoroastrians have a holy fire, and toss the swaddling clothes into the fire. The clothes do not burn, and the Wise Men rejoice.
- The holy family escapes to Egypt following Herod’s decree. Soon after their arrival in Egypt, some of Jesus swaddling clothes fall on a possessed boy. At that moment, demons fly out of the boy’s mouth and he is cured.
- A leprous woman is healed by washing in Christ’s bathwater, and a leprous princess is healed by the same method.
- A seven-year-old Jesus plays with other boys, and makes clay animals. Jesus causes the animals to walk, fly, and eat. (A version of this story also appears in the Islamic holy book, the Koran…Quran 5:110)
- Joseph spends two years making a throne for the king of Jerusalem. It is too small, so Jesus miraculously enlarges the throne.
- James, Jesus’ brother, is bitten by viper and cured by Jesus.
- Jesus is sent to school to learn the alphabet, but teaches the schoolmaster. When a second teacher asks Jesus the alphabet, Jesus asks a question. The teacher raises his hand to whip Jesus for insubordination, and then falls dead.
Yikes. Somehow, when I think about St. Ignatius encouraging us to contemplate or ponder on the early years of Jesus, I don’t think he had this kind of thing in mind! As a matter of fact, it was in the earliest part of the third century when church leaders looked at such writings and began confirming for honest followers of Christ that so much of the stuff recorded in these other books just didn’t cut the mustard when it came to telling us the whole truth about Jesus. It kinda makes me appreciate the honesty presented by Luke at the beginning of his Gospel when he states…
So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. (Luke 1: 1-4 MsgB)
Thanks, Luke, and thanks St. Ignatius. I need that gut-honesty today, taken from the reliable Word of God, to keep my imagination from going off the deep end!
My prayer: Father God, just as it is today, there is ‘truth’ and then, there is ‘fiction.’ Today, in our society, I need to discern the major differences between Harry Potter and the words found my Bible. One is full of imaginative fables and makes for enjoyable reading; the other is full of reliable facts that are needed in order to truly change my life. Thank You that past generations chose to be discerning as well, thus giving me the ‘real story’ as compared to adding in lots of interesting fables, but nothing really worthy of my attention when I’m seeking ‘truth.’ Keep me discerning wisely. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How am I allowing ‘fables’ and ‘fun facts’ to mingle with truth, thus watering down the reliability of the basic facts surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus? In my desire for more information, am I allowing fiction to become fact, thus reducing the power of the basic good news Gospel message of Jesus found in the New Testament?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.
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