The good son
Monday, January 6, 2003
Psalm 2:7-11, Matthew 4:13-25
7I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.
8Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11Serve the Lord with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
Jesus went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—
14to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, along the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
17From that time on Jesus began to preach,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” …
23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
24News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.
25Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Before Jesus went to the Capernaum area he was tested by the devil:
8 The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
This is the same scenario described in Psalm 2. The devil offers Jesus the same deal God gives him without pause, sovereignty over all the earth. But the devil must be paid; he must be worshipped. His offer is hollow and worthless.
9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
God’s gift also involves worship, sacrifice, martyrdom and death, although it is not demanded. Serving the Lord is terrifying, the joy of the Lord is marked with trembling. Jesus does not receive comfort or security from God’s gift.
What does Jesus do with his gift? He preaches the good news and heals every disease and sickness. He pushed away death and despair in one life after another, for men and women and children who had no claim whatsoever on such a rejoicing. And then he went on the next place, and did it again.
In the meantime Jesus prayed for hours at a time, sometimes all night. He lived with the ones he called his disciples, and his most important teaching was that the gift he passed on to them could not be held close to their chests. It was not for them to keep, but to give away.
The earth’s kings - holders of all things gold and silver, keepers of the bank - live the antithesis of Jesus’ teaching. So do I, over and over. Jesus calls out to me, “Repent (turn around)! You don’t need all that stuff, all that comfort, all that assurance. The kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Epiphany marks the day of choice for Herod and the wise men. Herod coveted power and wealth, and killed to keep it. The wise men gave away their gifts, to Jesus, who grew up and gave them away to us.
So now … what will I do with the gift I’m given?
God, you are gentle and wise and strong. You know me, you know me, you give your gift to me. I will give it away, and follow you.