News flash: There Is No Discount Jesus
Whatever we think of Matthew’s Gospel, we have to admit he doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. In his second
chapter he tells what might be the most shocking story in the Bible. Because Joseph and Mary brought Jesus—the Savior of the world—to live in Bethlehem, every little boy in that town under two years old was massacred.
Suppose you had been the rabbi in that town. You had invited everyone to welcome this new couple into the community. Then one night Joseph wakes you up and tells you he and Mary are leaving, because Herod is sending soldiers to kill the child. You pray with him, and go back to sleep.
The next morning you wake to screams all around you. Mothers are bringing the mangled bodies of their infants to your door. “Look what the soldiers are doing!” One of the mothers, in her loving concern, asks: “Did they kill Mary and Joseph’s baby too?”
You say, “No, God warned them, and they got their baby out of town.”
Would you want to be the rabbi in that town after that?
How could you answer the parents who asked, “Why didn’t God warn us?” And “Why did God send them here if it meant our children we’re going to be killed?”
Could you answer parents today who have lost a child in death? I tried once. I will never do it again. All you can do is cry with them.
There is an answer. But there is a time to give it and a time to be silent. The time to give it is long before or long after—like now, perhaps, when they (or you) are you reading this.
The truth is, the babies who died in Bethlehem—and all babies, wherever they die—went from life to Life; from the partial, passing happiness of this world to the total, eternal happiness of “heaven,” which is not a place, but a state of being caught up in union with God and with all of redeemed humanity in the ecstatic interaction of the Father, Son, and Spirit that is the ongoing Life of God.
For the babies, that is a blessing. But Matthew sympathizes with the parents. He quotes Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (2:18 ).
It is not true that they “are no more.” But they are no longer there for their parents. And that is hard to take. Jesus himself wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35).
The bottom line, whether we see it as good news or bad news, is that Jesus gives All for all. He gives us infinite truth, goodness, and beauty—eternal, divine life. He gives us himself, All that he is. But in return, he requires us to give all that we are. Our little for his much, but our little is still everything we have.
We have to be willing to lose, leave, or give up, not only “all our possessions,”
but “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself” to be his disciples. Jesus warns us that anyone intending to build a relationship with him should “first sit down and estimate the cost.” If we aren’t willing to give all for All, including our lives and the lives of our loved ones, we don’t know what we are getting into (Luke 14:26).
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
This is the third way Jesus calls us into crisis. It is the crisis of love. Jesus came that we might “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Life to the full is “the perfection of love.”
(See Why Jesus?, chapter ten: “Jesus Is The Total Gift Of Self,” available free by clicking o the book cover to the left. Or order the hard copy.)
Question: Do you agree that the only way to find ourselves completely is to lose ourselves completely in love? If Jesus will make it possible by giving you his divine life, will you accept to do this?